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Retail is a booming trade in Dubai, not only for its constant funnel of tourists but for its diverse national and international population who live, work and play in the city year-round. While many retailers attach themselves to popular professional areas such as Business Bay, Downtown Dubai and Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) for the passing weekday trade, commercial retail property is in high demand in the leisure hotspots throughout Dubai. These include Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) & Dubai Marina where restaurants, hotels, malls, shops and stalls form a large part of the infrastructure. However, these locations due to their footfall come at a price. Other areas to consider are residential communities like Arabian Ranches, Motor City and the super-community development Dubai Hills Estate. Jumeirah Lakes Towers is also easily accessible with strong Metro links, as well as welcoming a demographic of both professionals, residents and tourists due to its close proximity to Dubai Marina.
Free zones are geographically determined areas within the UAE permitting 100% foreign ownership. They are essentially economic areas where goods and services can be traded, often at preferential tax and customs rates and in most cases, are dedicated to a specific industry. Dubai Media City for instance is reserved for firms in the media sector, while Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) is home to a collective of banks and insurance, financial services and investment companies. Free zones were introduced to support strategic transformation in key industries and many are built with public finance, boasting state-of-the-art facilities. With more than 50 different free zones across the UAE, a number that will increase with more under development, free zones have made the UAE a favourable option for foreign businesses interested in relocating or expanding their global footprint. The top benefits of doing business in a UAE free zone include:
Set your business up in a free zone and retain 100% foreign ownership of the enterprise
100% repatriation of capital and profits
100% import and export tax exemption
Corporate and income tax exemptions for up to 50 years
World-class logistic facilities on your doorstep
Support and assistance as part of the free zone community, such as shareholder visa application, growth initiatives and business advice
Excellent networking potential and access to a large pool of multicultural, skilled workers
As the zones are dedicated to industries, economies of concentration boost business
Ease of recruiting international employees, with all free zones providing one-stop-shop services for work visas
Tax holidays – usually guaranteed for 15 or 50 years
Open to apply for the UAE Tax Residency Certificate
Protection of private information – privacy conscious business owners need not worry about their company ownership details being disclosed publicly
Investors or business owners should explore the following business districts when it comes to renting office spaces in Dubai:
Sheikh Zayed Road – the major road link
Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT)
Dubai Silicon Oasis
Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)
Barsha Heights (Tecom)
Without professional guidance, setting up any business can be a lengthy and confusing process, but it can be broken down into simpler chunks to help. The UAE has tried to make it as easy as possible to encourage businesses to consider it as their gateway to the Middle East and as a result, Dubai in particular has become a thriving powerhouse.
These are the steps you should undertake to go about setting up shop in the Emirates:
Identify a business activity
Select the jurisdiction and business location
Decide upon the appropriate company structure/legal form (Sole Proprietorship, Civil Company, Limited Liability Company (LLC), Foreign Company Branch or Free Zone Company)
Get initial approval for your company name and activity
Apply for your trade license
Register your company’s trade name
Find a local partner/sponsor (if required)
Draft a Memorandum of Association and local service agent agreement
Submit your documents and pay fees
Check for additional government approvals required
Finding a commercial space to suit your business can be an exhaustive task and it may be tempting to jump straight to the first one that appears to meet your criteria. Your office is an essential part of the business function, playing host to your employees, providing first impressions to your clients or customers and requiring a large investment as a company asset. To secure the perfect office or retail unit to rent when setting up your business, here are some steps to take earlier on in your set-up journey for a smoother transition:
Location, location, location – identify the area where you want your business to be based
Check your eligibility to rent a commercial unit – do you hold a valid trade licence?
Are you looking for a fitted or shell & core office, open-plan or partitioned, furnished or unfurnished? Use houza’s filters to help narrow your search
Make a list of amenities you need – obligatory and desirable – to shortlist areas, towers or buildings
Consider access routes, travel links and on-site parking according to your needs
If you plan to expand within the contract term, does it have growth potential?
Seek professional advice and hire an agent who can handle the paperwork, assess the payment terms and ensure you are getting a good deal
Free zones allow free economic trade and are designed to stimulate business in dedicated sectors throughout the region. They encourage and promote international investment to ensure Dubai maintains its reputation as a global hub for businesses. Free zones prove to be popular for business owners who are conscious of publicising their business activity. There is no open directory of company ownership, or release of shareholder or investor details, so operating within a free zone means you can uphold a high level of privacy often sought.
While there are over 50 free zones currently, the following are the most popular areas of choice in Dubai:
Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority
Dubai Airport Free Zone Authority
Dubai Technology, Media and Electronic Commerce Free Zone
Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) in Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT)
Dubai Design District
Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)
Dubai Media City
Creative City Fujairah
Umm Al-Quwain FTZ
Sharjah Media City (SHAMS)