In its fifth year, the Gulf Capital SME Awards is leading the recognition of success, growth and innovation in businesses across the UAE.

In shortlisting 47 companies to compete for the 2016 Gulf Capital SME Awards, judges were looking for customer focus, outstanding leaders and entrepreneurs and strong financial performance.

The shortlisted SMEs represent a wide range of sectors, in particular construction, real estate, retail and education. Other finalists are involved in the information technology, renewable energy, finance and consultancy sectors, reflecting the diversity of the UAE economy.

Seven finalists will compete for the prestigious Gulf Capital Business of the Year award, including ATS Travel, Bull&Roo Hospitality and Investments, Enviromena Power Systems, Souqalmal.com, STME and Unique Group.

‘‘The SME sector has been a strong contributor to the UAE’s economy, accounting for 60 per cent of the country’s GDP, with the government giving it a big priority with the aim to boost its share in the national economy to 70 per cent. It is also a key provider of thousands of employment opportunities,” said Dr. Karim El-Solh, CEO, Gulf Capital, one of the leading alternative investment firms in the Middle East and headline sponsor of the annual Gulf Capital SME Awards.

“The 2016 finalists for the Gulf Capital SME Awards represent a combined turnover of more than AED1.9bn ($522m). We are delighted to see that the growth of the combined turnover of finalists averaged 199 per cent between 2013 and 2015, with at least seven businesses founded since 2013 seeing growth rates of 200 per cent or more. Gulf Capital is proud to be sponsoring these SME Awards given how important the SMEs’ contribution is to the overall UAE economy.”

Five finalists made the shortlist for the RSA Customer Focus of the Year Award. The diverse range of contestants includes Time Hotels, UrbanBuz’ customer engagement services, Carlease Rent A Car, Innovative HR Solutions, and Q2 General Cleaning Services.

“We have been really impressed with the growth rates presented by entrants despite the economic downturn. A strong theme from this year’s finalists is the best practice their business leaders have shown”, said Becky Crayman, programme director, MEED.

The Business Leader of the Year award has the most finalists, with 11 dynamic and inspiring business leaders vying for the accolade. These include Bin Touq Fire and Safety, Binghatti Developers, Dimara International, Massaed Installation of Elevators and Escalators, Pure Logic Group, Q2 General Cleaning Services, Souqalmal.com, SPF Realty, Ted Computer Systems and Unique Group.

A total of eight SMEs are competing in the Small Business of the Year category. The shortlisted SMEs are Beauty Connection Spa, Beehive, Bull&Roo, Carlease Rent A Car, Place Dynamix, Platinum Heritage, Early Years Educational Services, The Accounts Dept. TAD Accounting & Bookkeeping.

Each year,  the awards programme organised by MEED also recognises outstanding Emirati-owned businesses in support of the UAE government’s development of the SME sector in the country. The finalists in Emirati Business of the Year category are: Ajyaal Media, ATS Travel, Beauty Connection Spa, Dimara International.

Among newly started businesses, Amazeballs General Trading, BOXknocks, Children’s Lane, Kidz Factory, Marhababy, Ta’leem Training & Skills Development Centre, The Animal Agency have been selected in the Start-up Business of the Year category.

Web-based ventures will also be recognised with the Online Business of the Year award, with the following shortlist of SMEs: AEserver, Beehive, Mini Exchange, Pure Logic Group, and XpertLearning.

Small businesses which have shown evidence of how they have positively impacted the society and the environment have also been shortlisted for the Sustainable Business of the Year award. These include 4 Corner General Trading, Home Grown Children’s Eco Nursery, My Ex Wardrobe, Q2 General Cleaning Services and Platinum Heritage.