Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: UAE National Day through the Business Lens
Mita Srinivasan
10x Industry

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: UAE National Day through the Business Lens

The UAE stands as a testament to visionary entrepreneurship and economic resilience. We explore insights from women entrepreneurs who have chosen the UAE as their business ground, unravelling why this vibrant nation is not just a place to celebrate a rich cultural heritage, but also a thriving landscape for ambitious business ventures.

As the United Arab Emirates commemorates its 52nd National Day on December 2nd, it's not only a celebration of national identity but also a reflection of the country's remarkable journey in the world of business and innovation. In the heart of the Middle East, the UAE stands as a testament to visionary entrepreneurship and economic resilience. From the dynamic trade hubs of Dubai to the innovative financial centres of Abu Dhabi, the UAE has become a beacon for business leaders and entrepreneurs globally.

This National Day, we explore insights from four women entrepreneurs who have chosen the UAE as their business ground, unravelling why this vibrant nation is not just a place to celebrate a rich cultural heritage, but also a thriving landscape for ambitious business ventures.

Arva Saleem Ahmed: Redefining Dubai's Culinary Scene

Arva Saleem Ahmed, alongside her sister, saw a different side of Dubai - one brimming with diverse food cultures. In 2013, they founded Frying Pan Adventures, Dubai's first licensed food and culture tourism company. Arva's venture celebrates the city's culinary diversity, showing the world that Dubai's charm extends beyond its luxury, into the realm of authentic, varied cuisines.

Lina Hariri: Championing Human Resources and Labour Law

With over 25 years of experience in the UAE, Lina Hariri founded ASKHR Consultancy Services in 2019. Her firm provides vital HR and Labour Law solutions, helping businesses and employees navigate the unique mix of cultures and regulations in the UAE. Her work plays a crucial role in simplifying complex legal landscapes for companies.

Rita Jivani: Crafting Natural Beauty with a Purpose

Rita Jivani has spent over seven years establishing her indie beauty brand. Emphasizing natural skincare, her brand not only contributes to the UAE's beauty sector but aligns with the country's focus on sustainable and innovative practices.

Ritu Matthew: Marketing Maestro Fuelling Brand Growth

Ritu Matthew's entrepreneurial journey led her to establish a brand and marketing agency in 2021, specializing in a range of industries. Her firm's focus on strategy and communications has been pivotal in developing and growing brands. Ritu's commitment extends to mentoring, particularly for women-led businesses, underscoring her dedication to nurturing entrepreneurial talent in the UAE.

What inspired you to start your business in the UAE?

Arva: Dubai has been our home since childhood. My sister and I saw a different Dubai, one rich in food cultures, not just skyscrapers. With Frying Pan Adventures, we've tapped into this diversity. It's our way of showing the world that Dubai is more than just luxury, it's where countless cuisines thrive. We're here to celebrate that.

Lina: I have lived in the UAE on and off for over 25 years. I consider it my home. I started my business in 2019 because I saw that there was an opportunity to support business and employees with HR and Labour Law issues. The UAE has this amazing mix of cultures, and that creates an environment for all sorts of ideas and businesses but can also create confusion around the laws. I am bridging that gap by assisting businesses and employees in navigating the complexities of labour laws.

Ritu: I’m born and raised in Dubai. As a young schoolgirl, I don’t think I ever dreamt of running a business of my own in this country – especially because I don’t hail from a family of entrepreneurs. I left Dubai and lived in Singapore for a few years to pursue an MBA degree and experience working in the field of marketing in the APAC region. When I returned to Dubai, I realised I wanted to do something impactful in the UAE, in the area of marketing. However, being early-on in my career, I didn’t have the wherewithal to take the plunge just then, and so I opted for a corporate career. The pandemic gave me the opportunity to reflect on my career choices, which when combined with the improving ecosystem for entrepreneurs in the UAE, reignited my desire to run my own marketing venture.

How did you tackle challenges?

Arva: Initially, I didn't aspire to be an entrepreneur; I simply wanted to share my love for eateries and their food stories. However, there was no one in the industry doing anything remotely similar who I could partner with, so I ended up having to jump through all the licensing hoops myself. It was daunting; I hadn't planned on dealing with the bureaucracy or expense of setting up a company. But I just knew this was what I was meant to do, so I kept at it with the support of a network that picked me up every time I fell.

Ritu: I’ve learnt a lot from my fellow entrepreneurs. Being a part of local business communities has helped me realise that being an entrepreneur is not a lonely journey, and there’s always help around the corner for those who asks or looks for it. Additionally, there are a number of resourceful and informative conferences that take place in the UAE throughout the year, which has made it possible for businesses like mine to put ourselves on the global map and work with (as well as learn from) people around the world.

In what ways has your business contributed to the growth and development of the UAE's economy or the B2B industry?

Rita: Over the past seven years, my indie beauty brand has actively contributed to the growth and development of the UAE’s economy. Through our commitment to crafting natural skincare products, we’ve fostered a niche market within the B2B industry. By promoting locally sourced ingredients and sustainable practices, we’ve not only elevated the region’s beauty sector but also contributed to the broader economic landscape, aligning with the UAE’s emphasis on innovation and sustainability.

Ritu: My business focuses on empowering entrepreneurs (especially women) to be fully equipped to own and run powerful brands. As a brand and marketing mentor for women-led businesses with UN Women, and a brand mentor for first-time women founders with 60 Day Startups, we aim to ensure that businesses have the thinking and strategy in place, when it comes to branding, marketing, and communications. We help our partners realise that without the right strategy, all the money channelled towards tactical marketing is futile.

How do you see the UAE's business landscape evolving in the coming years, and what opportunities do you anticipate for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Lina: The government in the UAE is like the ultimate cheerleader for businesses. They're really getting in there and making sure the whole setup is just right for businesses to thrive. It's a big reason why there's such a buzzing community of go-getters and entrepreneurs making things happen in the UAE.

Rita: Anticipating dynamic growth, the UAE’s business landscape is poised for continued diversification and innovation. Aspiring entrepreneurs can tap into emerging sectors like renewable energy, technology, and sustainable practices. With the government’s focus on fostering a business-friendly environment, there are abundant opportunities for those who align their ventures with the country’s vision, particularly in areas emphasising innovation, sustainability, and cutting-edge technologies. Engaging with local networks, and participating in industry events have provided valuable support. Additionally, tapping into sustainable business practices aligns with the country’s vision, opening avenues for collaboration and growth in the vibrant business ecosystem of the UAE.

Ritu: There is tremendous potential for entrepreneurs in the UAE. There are clear advantages in comparison with other countries, in terms of ease of doing business. In the years ahead, the UAE is going to increasingly attract quality talent and entrepreneurs from around the world. The UAE is constantly encouraging innovation, and the most recent instance of this being the set-up of the world’s first independent regulator for virtual assets.

Lastly, what message would you like to convey to fellow entrepreneurs?

Arva: Running your own business is tough. There are so many times when I feel like quitting, and that's okay. We all hit those lows. It's important to have people around you for support. Being open about not having all the answers can actually help. It lets others be part of your journey, and sometimes, that leads to better results in the end.

Lina: The UAE is like a meeting point for people from all over, making it perfect for entrepreneurs who dream big about going global. So, if you're looking to spread your wings internationally or team up on a global level, the UAE is the place to be. People from all over the globe are drawn to the UAE because it has this amazing quality of life and top amenities. It's not just about business; it's about making sure folks who kickstart their ventures here feel good, satisfied, and living their best lives.

Rita: Embrace your journey with passion and perseverance. In the tapestry of entrepreneurship, each challenge is a thread weaving the story of success. Stay true to your vision, adapt to change, and foster meaningful connections. The UAE’s dynamic landscape offers ample opportunities—seize them with innovation and resilience. Your entrepreneurial spirit can contribute to the vibrant tapestry of success in this thriving business environment.

Ritu: if you have an idea or a vision, but aren’t sure how to bring it to fruition, do not hesitate to ask and approach entrepreneurs for their guidance or mentorship. The only aspect I would really emphasise on, is to ensure you have done the necessary groundwork in terms of market research, competitor, and target audience analysis, and developed a robust strategy for your business, along with a well-thought-out marketing plan.