x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Emirati start-up help for foreigners

A new business aims to link expatriates who want to set up shop in the UAE with the Emiratis they need for success and to satisfy 50% ownership laws.

DUBAI // An Emirati family company is providing foreign entrepreneurs with a "fast track" to set up businesses in the UAE.

Ayman al Awadhi, his two brothers and his sister run Corporate Business Services (CBS), a company that helps start-ups by offering their services as local sponsors who can provide newcomers with regional knowledge.

Foreigners are required by law to have an Emirati sponsor or partner when setting up a business outside a free zone.

"My three siblings work in the Government so we help entrepreneurs with our work experience in the Government while they help us with knowledge on the private sector," Mr al Awadhi said.

"We offer our services as local sponsors, consultancy, public relations services and office space to give a proper structure environment for start-ups," he said.

Syed Zohaib, a 27-year-old Pakistani entrepreneur, set up his information technology company, Tech Talk, with CBS last September and he said the services were invaluable.

"I tried to meet local sponsors before, but they each had their own conditions. I felt they were not reliable enough and that I would get betrayed in the end," he said.

"Mr al Awadhi is not only my local sponsor but I also feel like he is my lawyer because he helps with so much in regards to the government."

He added that the level of support he received exceeded his expectations.

The mutual give-and-take concept has proven effective for the family; they have helped 25 companies set up since their launch in 2008.

"A local sponsor is like a marriage. If you get into a good relationship where the marriage is set on good foundations," Mr al Awadhi said, "the business will thrive at no cost. But if you start with the wrong partner, the business will fail."

The process varies depending on the needs of the start-up. The siblings, between 25 and 40 years old, each contribute in their own way: Ayman al Awadhi has a degree in management information systems, Adel al Awadhi specialises in international business, Adnan al Awadhi is a finance expert and Ebtisam al-Awadhi focuses on accounting.

"It's very important to have a proper local sponsor to set up a company, so we want to create awareness for these entrepreneurs and educate foreigners to our country," Mr al Awadhi said. "We provide the channel of communication and networking to the officials because foreigners wouldn't know the mechanisms of talking to an official here.

"We are the bridge; we make the shortcut happen because we believe in the knowledge and solutions that they will bring to the table so we tweak it and present it in a local manner under a local establishment."

All the company's clients are under one roof, making it easier for the sponsor to monitor their growth. The sponsors have monthly meetings with their partners to discuss plans and expansion. The siblings meet every Saturday to share updates.

With only 10 offices available before the company reaches capacity in its current building, CBS is planning to expand into warehouses and other office space.

Although based in Dubai, Mr al Awadhi said he plans to expand to Abu Dhabi "because there are a lot of opportunities that need to be shared there".

cmalek@thenational.ae