Expert Advice: Where do I set up in the UAE?

Expert Advice: Where do I set up in the UAE? 

The following interaction was made possible via the Access to Experts platform.

What opportunities to consider when setting up an industrial or tech company?

Question: I am yet to get a business license – my company’s scope of business revolves around industrial products and industrial related services. Is it better to set up our base in Dubai or Abu Dhabi; Mainland or Freezone? How can I avail benefits or funds from the government?

Today, there is no single resource that you can tap to find all benefits offered by the government or the steps to follow, so you will need to conduct your own research.

For an industrial type of company, we suggest you reach out to  ZonesCorp (the largest operator of purpose-built Economic zones in the UAE) or KIZAD. You may also wish to consider Masdar, depending on the activity. As industrial hubs, they are best-suited to answer any questions you have regarding setting up a business in this sector. 

Whether you need to set up in a Free Zone or on the mainland will depend on your business plan and objectives, whether you require warehouse and/or manufacturing facilities and what other supply or trading facilities you may require.

The answer to your query also depends on where your company’s consumer base will be based. As a company focused on industrial products, odds are that your business model will be B2B; and if you want to deal with clients in Abu Dhabi, it might become necessary to incorporate in Abu Dhabi.

We recommend that you meet with a few industrial zones in the Emirates of Dubai or Abu Dhabi (if these are your preferred Emirates) and have a discussion with them on the facilities that they offer. 

In Abu Dhabi, ADDED may also be able to support: its MAAK program offers economic consulting services for investors, as well as legal consulting services and business support & development services. You can book an appointment for a consultation here: 

In Dubai, you may also wish to meet with executives at Dubai SME or HiDubai, an initiative by Dubai Economy (DED), who are very helpful in answering questions about initiatives and government-supported plans in their Emirate.


Question: As a tech startup based in Dubai, what advice would you give on how best we could leverage opportunities in Abu Dhabi, especially from a company establishment and legal structure point of view? As a bootstrapped business, our capacity to spend on incorporation in Abu Dhabi is limited at this stage, yet it seems there are serious opportunities that we are missing out on. 

Being bootstrapped can never be an excuse for not being properly licensed, and without the correct license you can risk losing out on opportunities in Abu Dhabi.

If you are planning on setting up in Abu Dhabi, do make sure to prepare a clear business plan, and set for your business a financial runway of at least 2 years to test your proof of concept or business on the market.

Abu Dhabi has a flourishing tech ecosystem, and there are many opportunities you can leverage at ADGM. You can start exploring those under the Tech Startup page or Hub71’s website. 

ADIO’s Innovation Programme also provides incentives to a wide range of businesses in high-growth areas, including Financial Services, Tourism, AgTech, ICT and Healthcare & Biopharma, among others. You can contact their Investor Care team to find out more about the programme and its eligibility requirements.

Overall, there are a myriad of support entities in Abu Dhabi that can help startups such as yours grow substantially via corporate buyers, funding, international linkages, common law jurisdiction and availability of manpower, so we advise that you look into these opportunities if you are confident about expanding to the Emirate.



Dr Bhaskar Dasgupta and Biancka Gracias both contributed to these answers as part of Access to Experts: 

Dr Bhaskar Dasgupta is responsible for market development, new product & ecosystem development, developing go-to-market strategies, managing new initiatives and delivering a significant increase in the number of firms listed in ADGM and AUM.

Why you should Connect with Dr. Bhaskar: Given his extensive experience in the financial sector, and his current role at ADGM, Dr. Bhasker can advise on fundraising options and strategies, and potentially direct you to VC firms that could be interested in your company.

You can reach out to him on the Hub, here.

Biancka Gracias is an experienced law professional with the core expertise to counsel startups in all stages of development and SMEs to help them overcome their legal challenges in the United Arab Emirates. Having resided in the UAE since 2004, Biancka has more than 15 years of experience in the corporate/commercial legal sector, and is currently heading the startups and SMEs practice at The International Consultant Law Office (ICLO).

Why you should connect with Biancka: Given her expertise and extensive experience in her sector, Biancka is well positioned to advise you on legal matters relating to doing business in Abu Dhabi. Reach out to her on the Hub, here.

Our Access to Experts initiative provides mentorship and support to prospective and existing entrepreneurs looking to grow in Abu Dhabi. Connect with other industry thought leaders here.

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