In the UAE, small and medium-sized enterprises remain the fastest-growing sector. The government is doing everything possible to diversify, support SMEs, and rely less on oil production. According to the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report for 2020, the UAE ranks 16th worldwide and has become an ideal place for SMEs to thrive.
Despite the impact of the pandemic on SMEs, the following have become the fastest-growing SMEs, based on the healthy business climate in the UAE.
Property Finder is a leading real estate marketplace in Dubai. The Property Finder Group launched the website in 2007 for agents to list available properties online. The mobile app is used across the GCC and Middle East by everyone interested to rent or own a home.
Launched in 2012, Careem is the leading ride-hailing startup in the Middle East. It still operates in over 120 cities across 15 countries, even after it was sold to Uber for $3.1 billion. The platform is becoming a one-stop app for online payments, delivery, and transit. It is not only a pioneer of the ride-hailing economy but has also created over one million jobs in the Middle East.
Souq, the Emirati term for the market, is the largest e-commerce platform in the Middle East. It was launched in 2005 and acquired by Amazon for $580 million in 2017. Souq records more than 40 million monthly visits to its over 8.5 million catalogue of several products listed under 35 unique categories. These include books, electronics, gadgets, toiletries, consumables, toys, fashion items, and household items. Souq is now an award-winning online marketplace for merchants and other SMEs to advertise and sell their products to a wider audience.
Wahed Invest is the first Shari’ah-compliant investment platform in the Middle East and North Africa. This means that all the companies listed on Wahed do not trade alcohol, impure livestock, tobacco, guns, gamble, or do anything that contradicts the Shari’ah laws.
Sarwa is an online financial advisor that offers low-cost passive investment opportunities. In early 2020, the company secured $8.4 million funding round, having grown ten times in 2019. Sarwa is also famous for being the first participant to receive a full innovation license and graduate Dubai Financial Services Authority’s regulator sandbox. Given the exponential growth reported last year, it is positioned to break previous records and expand worldwide.
Xpence is a new generation bank that wants to be the go-to for startup banking, bookkeeping, and expenditure management. It is the first business bank that focuses on entrepreneurs in the GCC and provides them with the essential business tools needed to scale their ventures.
The UAE has a long-term strategy aimed at promoting investment in small and medium-sized enterprises. The reason why these SMEs still thrive despite a pandemic that shook the world is that they already operate flexible economic models that are reliant on technology. Their success stories prove that the UAE is a booming entrepreneurial scene in the Middle East.
Written by Joy Ejere Uche