Laura Kam: Slow and Steady with UAE? Not so Sure
By LAURA KAM
“Slow and steady”, “Have patience”, “Don’t rush”, “Tone down the chutzpah.” “Meet my mother first…”
Everyone who has been learning about doing business in the UAE has been told, over and over again, in the media mostly via Israeli communications experts and pundits, to move very gradually as you develop relationships or else you are doomed to failure.
So, imagine my surprise when in Dubai recently I was approached by numerous UAE-based businesses wanting to move into the Israeli space NOW. Like, this minute.
My LinkedIn page has been filled with UAE-based companies reaching out requesting the type of PR services my company provides. Different types of non-governmental organizations that wish to develop ties with Israel have reached out about the possibility of bringing groups to Israel. Investment deals are happening now with companies are looking for Israelis to move to Dubai to help with business development. Travel companies have already made deals to provide services for tourists in both directions.
Literally planes full of Israeli businesspeople have landed in UAE and UAE-based business leaders have visited Israel, albeit in quieter fashion.
It may well be that some of my experience has to do with the fact that many of the people who are reaching out in an assertive way are expats living in the UAE. Almost ninety percent, 9 out of about 10 million people living in UAE are not Emiratis, nor will they likely ever be. Home to over 200 nationalities, expats make up the business and management class. These non-Emiratis residents run many of the companies that play a key role in public and private sectors.
Take it slow? Those I met seem to want to move full speed ahead.
Very recently, in a move that many Israeli business leaders hail, UAE abolished the clause on local partnerships. No longer will onshore companies need to have at least 51% of its capital owned by a UAE national or company that is wholly owned by UAE nationals. Non-Emirati nationals can now own 100% of their businesses.
Not only are Israeli businesspeople happy with this turn of events. South Asians, mostly Indians, make up the majority of expats in UAE and they are involved in many high-tech industries of interest to Israelis including e-Commerce, tech start-ups, online media companies, banking, construction and finance. UAE is the UK’s largest export market in the Middle East and there are is a large expat community of 120,000 Brits here working in major industries including in the energy sector and industries needing skilled science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM, specialties). Over 1 million Brits visit UAE annually.
While in Dubai, I heard many high-level Emiratis speak at the conferences I attended, but the people I actually met with face-to-face to discuss business were indeed Indian and British, as well as Kuwaiti, Syrian and Jordanian. To be sure trust needs to develop, and of course we need to understand and deal with cultural differences, but take it slow? Those I met seem to want to move full speed ahead.
Laura Kam is President of Kam Global Strategies, a public relations and communications company based in Jerusalem, Israel.
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