Up to 90 per cent of small and medium enterprises in the UAE have no online presence, severely hampering their growth prospects, according to a top Google official.
Most SMEs in Emirates fail to make their presence felt on internet
A basic online presence is increasingly important even for small businesses, said Mohamed Mourad, Google's regional manager for the Gulf.
The rate of internet penetration in the UAE is among the highest in the world, and as a result 71 per cent of all purchases made in the country are researched online first, he said.
Mr Mourad was speaking at the announcement of a partnership, announced yesterday, between Google's Adwords online advertising business and the telecoms provider du, aimed at providing a greater depth of online advertising to SMEs.
"The UAE currently has approximately 200,000 SMEs, with 12,000 being added annually," said Fahad Al Hassawi, du's chief commercial officer. "They are true drivers of the economy, making up almost 80 per cent of the companies in the UAE, and responsible for 40 per cent of GDP."
As part of the partnership, du has announced the launch of its Business Super 600-G Plan, which will enable SME customers to use Google's Adwords platform to increase their online presence.
An SME's online presence can be as simple as an office location and a contact telephone number readily available online, said Vikram Chadha, the vice president of SME marketing for du.
Location-based services account for one in five desktop searches and one in three mobile searches, Mr Chadha noted. About 66 per cent of SMEs' new customers find their business via search engines, he said.
Du is targeting 600 subscribers for the service within the next two years, Mr Chadha said.
Google's partnership with du is similar to one that it signed in April with Etisalat Information Services, the operator's directory services unit, to assist businesses with their online advertising campaigns.
Mr Mourad said that the Etisalat partnership was progressing "in line with expectations", declining to give further details.
Authorities in the UAE are increasingly focused on developing the SME sector to diversify the economy.
Dubai SME, an agency of the Dubai's Department for Economic Development, announced the opening of registration for the third batch of its Entrepreneurship Diploma, designed to further equip entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses.
In the capital, the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development will host the Abu Dhabi Enterprise Forum at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre next month, providing SMEs with the opportunity to meet investors, clients and industry agencies.