Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is home to the federal government and the country’s financial centre. The wealthiest of the seven Emirates, Abu Dhabi offers an attractive, secure environment for business. Like doing business anywhere, it is prudent to be prepared.
1) Market Research
Due diligence and business plans are a must. It is essential to know the opportunities, as well as understand the potential risks involved when setting up / expanding overseas. Does your business have the resources? Will your product/service need to be adapted for the local market? How will the local laws affect your business? Who will your clients be? What is the most suitable structure for your needs, i.e. a joint venture, Branch of a Foreign Company or a Limited Liability Company (LLC)? Seek support and advice from your local embassy and identify experienced, reputable organisations to assist you, where necessary.
2) Develop a Network of Contacts
Abu Dhabi is renowned for networking – its very much a case of who you know – and there is a sense that it is a small community where everyone knows each other. Your contacts will not only be good for developing your business in Abu Dhabi, they will also help you to adapt to the lifestyle too.
3) Select Your Local Partner Wisely
Determine what you want from your local partner – a commercial investor or a partner granting the control of the business for you to manage? Do you want to pay a fixed annual fee or are you happy to share a percentage of your profits? Understand precisely the role your local partner will play, the costs involved, and what security measures are put in place to protect both parties. Seek professional advice and ensure you have a structured agreement.
4) Identify Your Clients
Who will your clients be and where will they be located? This answer will help to determine the most suitable structure for your business. Abu Dhabi attracts companies wanting to deal directly with the National oil & gas companies – to do this they must first be approved by the Supreme Petroleum Council (SPC) which has stringent criteria relating to the structure of the company. If there is potential for you to work with ADNOC or GASCO, ensure you plan for this from the start.
5) Respect the Culture
Emiratis are proud of their culture and business can be very relationship-oriented in Abu Dhabi. Take time to research business etiquette, such as women not shaking hands with Muslim men; learn the basic greetings in Arabic; ensure you are dressed appropriately so as not to offend; and, always arrive on time for meetings, even if you are not received in the same manner.