Tuesday 21, November 2017 by Jessica Combes

Majority employed UAE Residents considering or have started own businesses


The UAE is making a conscious effort to promote and support small and medium-sized enterprises as they are believed to be one of the main drivers for innovation and employment.

A new survey conducted by career site Bayt.com and global online market research company, YouGov, entitled Entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa 2017, has revealed that 55 per cent of UAE residents prefer to ‘be self-employed / have their own business’, if given the choice. In fact, even among those who are currently employed, 78 per cent of respondents said that they are either ‘thinking of starting their own business’ or have already ‘attempted do so in the past’.

When it comes to reasons for being self-employed, 49 per cent of UAE respondents want to do it for ‘personal fulfilment’; 43 per cent believe it affords them the ‘freedom to choose what to work on’, and 42 per cent believe it gives them the ‘freedom to choose work-life balance’.

Those who have already started their own business seem to have similar reasoning. When asked about the reasons MENA professionals have started their own business in the first instance, the top three reasons were: ‘greater independence in what they want to achieve’ (32 per cent), ‘more income’ (29 per cent) and a ‘better work-life balance’ (28 per cent).

But, in fact, the survey shows even greater benefits of entrepreneurship for societies and the economy. The perceived image of entrepreneurs in the UAE is very positive, with 86 per cent of respondents strongly agreeing or somewhat agreeing that entrepreneurs ‘help in creating jobs’, 79 per cent strongly agreeing or somewhat agreeing that entrepreneurs are a ‘source of innovation in society’, and 75 per cent saying that entrepreneurs ‘create new products and services for the benefit of society’. Furthermore, 69 per cent said that entrepreneurs ‘mentor young people and promote the entrepreneurial spirit’ among others.

On the other hand, 36 per cent of the workforce in the UAE want to work for pay or seek employment in a company. For 50 per cent, the most important factor to work for a company is ‘regular income’. Moreover, 47 per cent of respondents think that working for a company gives them the opportunity to ‘learn new skills’ and techniques, while 46 per cent of respondents value the ‘stability of employment and job security’ offered by a company.

Current Entrepreneurial Scene

Out of those who are self-employed in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, 68 per cent have started their own business in the last five years, 17 per cent have started their business in the last 10 years, while 15 per cent have started more than 15 years ago.

That said, 36 per cent of MENA respondents who are self-employed are at the ‘start-up stage’ of their business; 22 per cent said they have a ‘well-established’ business that is underperforming, while 22 per cent have a well-established that is performing well.

At the same time, many entrepreneurs are looking to grow their startups and established businesses: 36 per cent of respondents have personal ambitions to ‘obtain more growth and profitability in their country of residence’, followed by 22 per cent who aim to become a ‘major international group’. In fact, with growth in mind, 66 per cent of surveyed entrepreneurs are planning to hire for their businesses within the next year.

“Many countries across the Middle East and North Africa have realised that entrepreneurship is a huge factor that drives growth and innovation in the economy. As the survey showed, many entrepreneurs are seen as a source of value, innovation, and creating employment opportunities. Many startups are looking to hire and grow their businesses very soon. At Bayt.com we, we work with all organisations and businesses, irrespective of size, to help them secure their talent needs that can take their operations and growth to the next level. In fact, we have many dedicated solutions for startups and small businesses to give them more exposure and access to millions of professionals and job seekers,” said Suhail Masri, Vice President of Sales, Bayt.com.

Ease of Starting up a Business

A total of 43 per cent of UAE respondents believe that any time is a good time to start a business, while 36 per cent believe the best time is mid-career. Only 11 per cent think that the best time to start a business is after a ‘lengthy career’ and seven per cent recommend doing so ‘right after college or university’.

Respondents were also asked what they consider to be the most appealing industry for entrepreneurs in their country, almost 10 per cent of UAE respondents think that real estate and construction are the most appealing, followed by 10 per cent who said hospitality and entertainment, eight per cent said commerce, trade or retail; and eight per cent said consumer goods/ FMCG.

Indeed, setting up a business comes with some challenges, irrespective of location or industry. In fact, nearly 60 per cent of those surveyed claimed that it is ‘difficult to start a business in their country of residence’.

When asked about the main difficulties that prevent one from starting their own business, 53 per cent of those who tried to start a business in the past but could not do so cited the inability to ‘obtain financial support’, 52 per cent cited the inability to ‘self-finance the start-up of the business’, while 37 per cent cited their concerns regarding ‘economic uncertainty’.

When respondents were asked what could best support entrepreneurs, 52 per cent in the UAE said ‘easing the laws and regulations of setting up a business’, followed by 16 per cent who said ‘reducing taxation’, 13 per cent said ‘regulating competition among businesses’, and another 13 per cent said ‘facilitating access to skilled labour’.

The best pieces of advice offered to budding entrepreneurs by respondents in the MENA region, including the UAE, according to 44 per cent of respondents, is to not be ‘afraid of failure’; 12 per cent said to ‘have a great business plan’, and 10 per cent said to have a ‘great and well-researched business idea’ as well as ‘marketing plan’. Furthermore, of the respondents in the MENA region, 27 per cent said that the key to success as an entrepreneur is ‘innovation’ and 25 per cent attributed success to ‘employing the right people’.

“Entrepreneurship continues to be a growing trend in the Middle East and North Africa, and despite the given challenges of setting up a business, our research indicates that entrepreneurship has become more popular than ever before. Entrepreneurs greatly contribute to a country’s GDP and help create job opportunities, so encouraging them within the region is highly beneficial for all,” said Anjali Chhabra, YouGov Associate Research Director.

Data for the Bayt.com ‘Entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa’ 2017 survey was collected online from October 1 to October 22, 2017, with 4,570 respondents from the UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Lebanon, Jordan, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, Sudan and Pakistan.

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