A new MEED survey of 75 of the UAE’s top small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) conducted recently shows more than 60 per cent are confident of achieving as much as 20 per cent growth compared with their performance last year.

For 13 per cent of the respondents, an even more robust growth of more than 50 per cent is expected by the end of the year. The remaining survey participants indicated business prospects are likely to increase by anywhere from 20-40 per cent.

The survey was conducted by MEED, organiser of the Gulf Capital SME Awards, to gain insights from business owners ahead of the launch of this year’s edition. The awards aim to celebrate the success and growth of SMEs and business leaders in the UAE.

“The results of the survey show a promising outlook not just for the SME sector but also for the entire UAE economy,” says Karim el-Solh, co-founder and CEO of Gulf Capital, one of the largest alternative asset management firms in the Middle East and the headline sponsor of the awards.

“Small businesses comprise the majority of registered business in the UAE and contribute a substantial 40 per cent to the country’s GDP. The strong growth prospects for SMEs over the coming year, and their increasing confidence and optimism should augur well for the business community in general and for aspiring entrepreneurs in particular,” he says.

When asked how they hope to achieve their growth targets, 28 per cent said they will increase investment in sales and marketing initiatives, while 21 per cent will focus their efforts on product development and innovation. About 11 per cent of respondents, meanwhile, will look at enhancing strategic partnerships to help grow their business.

Close to half of the respondents, at 47 per cent, found the business environment in the UAE to be nurturing of SMEs. However, 37 per cent of the polled business owners mentioned that securing bank financing for small businesses is still a big challenge and proving to be a burden for their operations.

Encouraging entrepreneurs

“The UAE has done well globally and is ranked 21st among all nations in terms of ease of doing business, according to the latest World Bank report,” commented His Excellency Abdul Baset al-Janahi, CEO of Dubai SME, the Dubai Department of Economic Development agency mandated to develop the SME sector.

“The government has established many initiatives to encourage the growth of the entrepreneurial sector and is constantly introducing innovations to help SMEs thrive and grow,” he says. “Obtaining a new licence, for instance, can be done easily online and within minutes, provided all the necessary documents are prepared. The private sector has also launched many programmes to support start-ups through various incubation programmes and providing alternative investment opportunities. We welcome the results of the survey and will use them to further improve our services and programmes at Dubai SME.”

Gulf Capital SME Awards

With many SMEs expecting a strong year, competition is set to be tough for the 2018 Gulf Capital SME Awards, which will recognise outstanding small businesses, entrepreneurs and business leaders in various categories, including Gulf Capital Business of the Year, Business Innovation of the Year, Online Business of the Year, Customer Focus of the Year, Start-up Business of the Year, Sustainable Business of the Year, People & Culture of the Year, Small Business of the Year, Micro-Business of the Year and Disruption of the Year.

There are also three individual awards for Business Leader of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year and New Entrepreneur of the Year. Supporting the UAE’s aggressive push for entrepreneurship among its citizens, the programme also recognises locally owned SMEs with the Emirati Business of the Year award.

“Year-on-year we receive a record number of entrants, which we believe is a testimony to the continuing growth of the SME sector, as well as a case for the award programme’s benefits for not just putting the spotlight on the success of various stakeholders involved, but also inspiring a new set of entrepreneurs that keep the industry thriving with new business ideas,” says Becky Crayman, programme director of awards and managed events at MEED.

Click here to submit your entry online (on or before 6 June 2018)