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4 Essential Things You Need to Figure Out When Setting Up a Business in Dubai

4 Essential Things You Need to Figure Out When Setting Up a Business in Dubai

Dubai has become one of the global centres for entrepreneurship, knowledge transfer and innovation with nearly 50% of all companies registered in Dubai being early-age startups. With many factors such as international exposure and an investor-friendly government facilitating this influx of small businesses into Dubai, if you are looking to start an international business, Dubai may very well be your best pick. While Dubai is very open towards foreigners, there still are a few differences when compared to modern western cities. With that being said, let’s take a look at a few essential things you need to figure out when setting up a business in Dubai.

1. Deciding on your business activity

There are certain limitations to business activities in Dubai and therefore not all activities are permitted. Because of this, it’s crucial to figure out what your business will be doing beforehand. Firstly, this will allow you to know if you can actually fulfil your ideas in Dubai. Secondly, you will require a lot of permits and consents when opening a business there, so knowing what you want to do will help orient you in everything you need to do in order to open your business. Lastly, this will give you the ability to research your potential competition and get a general grasp of what you can expect.

2. Understanding the different zones

Business activities in Dubai are divided into three different zones, each one having different rules and regulations.

4 Essential Things You Need to Figure Out When Setting Up a Business in Dubai

First off, there’s the Mainland zone which has the benefits of being located within the commercial centre of the city itself, which makes it ideal if your business is service-based. However, it has a few downsides, the main one being that it requires 51% of the business you set up to be in the hands of a UAE local. So, if you are looking to start a business in the Mainland, make sure you find a suitable and trustworthy local partner.

Next up, there are the Free zones which are mainly located a bit further from the city centres. However, the advantages they have is that, first off, you don’t need a local partner in order to run a business, and there are also fewer restrictions when it comes to the types of business you can conduct with each zone being for specific business activities. On top of this, renting facilities is also a lot cheaper when compared to the Mainland.

Lastly, there’s the Offshore zone, located the farthest from the city centre. The major benefits of setting up a company in the Offshore zone is that it’s by far the easiest to set up and, if properly structured, can be exempt from paying corporate tax.

4 Essential Things You Need to Figure Out When Setting Up a Business in Dubai

The zone you choose will ultimately depend on the type of business you want to set up, bringing us back to the first item on this list.

3. Figuring out the business setup costs

Apart from the initial investment, if you plan to get your business going, there are a few other costs associated with setting up a business in Dubai. These will include government fees such as business licence and trade name registration. On top of this, don’t forget the costs associated with acquiring a visa for you and any other people you plan on bringing to your business venture. Knowing these costs in advance will help you prepare your financial records, significantly shortening the entire setup process.

4. Acknowledging the cultural differences

While figuring out the logistics of your business is crucial, the success of your business is also highly dependent on your ability to acknowledge and appreciate the unique culture found in Dubai. Understanding and respecting these differences will help you in your everyday interaction as well as in your business ones.


Setting up a business in Dubai can be a very demanding process but if done correctly, a very rewarding one as well. So, in order to make sure everything is done appropriately, it may be useful to look for outside assistance, especially if you have no prior experience.

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