UAE SMEs report triple-digit growth

09 July 2017

Total of 103 small and medium-sized enterprises compete for honours at 2017 Gulf Capital SME Awards

Small businesses in the UAE continue to defy the economic odds, as 103 of the best performing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the country reported an average growth rate of just over 150 per cent in 2016.

These businesses were recently shortlisted as finalists of the 2017 Gulf Capital SME Awards – a programme launched five years ago by MEED - which celebrates the success, growth and innovation of SMEs as well as entrepreneurs and business leaders in the UAE.

More SMEs

This year, there are 56 more finalists than in the 2016 edition, when 47 were shortlisted in various categories. “This means more and more SMEs are reporting growth and are getting on the radar for their business accomplishments and growth,” 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. “The current crop of finalists has a combined turnover of AED2.1bn [$572m], higher than the AED1.9bn total of the previous batch of finalists. These figures show us the continued resilience of the SME sector in the UAE, and offer confidence that this inspiring performance of small businesses will have a ripple effect on the economy of the country as a whole.”

With 12 finalists, there are five more SMEs competing this year for the award programme’s highest honour –Gulf Capital Business of the Year. These include Arabian Child, Bin Touq Fire & Safety, Emitech Technical Services, Hira Industries, Linkviva, Phanes Group, Q Communications, Raw Coffee Company, RSA Logistics, SamTech Middle East, The Blossom Nursery/Blossom Early Learning Centre and The Box Self Storage Services.

Women business leaders are continuing to make their mark in the SME landscape in the UAE, with four competing for the Business Leader of the Year award, against six men who qualified for the category. The finalists are Aziz Abbas (A.F. Husain), Arif Akhtar (Emirates Pearl General Trading), Nadeer Ali (Himatrix Middle East), Fadi Jean Baaklini (MEPCO Gulf Company), Manoj Shroff (Niti Group), Paula Bellamy (Ocean Wide Logistics), Abhishek Ajay Shah (RSA Logistics), Zaida Van Der Byl (Senses Salon), Nathalie Haddad (The Right Bite Nutrition and Catering Services) and Zahra Hamirani (The Blossom Nursery/Blossom Early Learning Centre).

The competition is equally tough in the Entrepreneur of the Year category, in partnership with Ccerebrate Business Consulting, with familiar names such as Dhirendra Gupta (4C Mortgages Consultancy), Shane Curran (Interact Group), Amiri Gandhi (Kidz Factory), Sanuj Kohli (LEME Group), Anilesh Kumar (Levtech Consulting), Furqan Athar (McArthur+Company), Rahul Sajnani (Moshi-Momo & Sushi), Nicolas Standaert (nearbuy), Stuart Curtis (Synergy Group) and Stevi Lowmass (The Camel Soap Factory) aiming to win one of this year’s highest individual honours.

Innovation focus

Innovation continues to be one of the biggest buzzwords in this part of the world. Some of the SMEs competing for the Business Innovation of the Year award include Health Gate, nearbuy, Orion Systems, PROTRAINING, Savant Data System, Shawarma Time, TagStone Technologies and Taqado Restaurants.

“With the government’s unrelenting drive to encourage entrepreneurship among its citizens, the Emirati Business of the Year category received a higher number of entrants this year,” says Becky Crayman, programme director, awards and managed events at MEED. “A total of nine finalists are competing for the award, up from five in 2016.” The shortlist includes 3Dimension Engineering Services, Ayjaal Media, Bait al-Kandora Gents Tailoring, Bin Touq Transport, Forceis Integrated Security Systems, Jalila Chocolates, Khalid Alghaith General Trading, Mashal al-Zarooni Chartered Accountants and MASSAED Installation of Elevators & Escalators.

First-time entrepreneurs who have taken the bold step to owning a business will be recognised through the Start-up Business of the Year award, with the following businesses qualifying as finalists: Caramel & Sun, Deborah Henning, Fruitful Day, Hale Education Group, SMART Shelter, insydo, Liquorice Productions, New Shifts, Nomadic Capital Limited, Richmond Works, Seez and Smart Navigation Systems.

A total of eight SMEs, such as Bait al-Kandora Gents Tailoring, ISS Middle East, LivingBrands (Lemongrass Thai Restaurant/Asian5 Restaurant), Momentum Dubai, Mosaic Live Communications, Rapid Cool Trading, Time House Company Trading and Time Lapse Middle East, have been shortlisted for the Small Business of the Year category.

The Online Business of the Year award has three finalists – Holidayme, Beehive Group, and; while the RSA Customer Focus of the Year category has eight, including Brave, Carlease Rent A Car, E Walls Studio, Innovative HR Solutions, Kazema Portable Toilets, PROTRAINING, The Box Self Storage Services and Urbanbuz.

SMEs with outstanding initiatives that help improve performance and inspire employees will be honoured with the People & Culture of the Year award. The shortlisted companies for this category are Bodysmart, GPK Businessmen Services, Innovative HR Solutions, Linkviva, MASSAED Installation of Elevators and Escalators, Matrix Public Relations, Savant Data System, SPF Realty, The Blossom Nursery/Blossom Early Learning Centre, TIME Hotels, Unique Group and younoh Media.

Sustainable practices are critical to an SME’s long-term success and the company that has the most initiatives in this business aspect will take home the Sustainable Business of the Year trophy. Among those competing for the honour include Charicycles, Cyber Gear, Ecocoast Contracting, German Imaging Technologies (GIT), Liquid of Life, Non-Toxic Source, Place Dynamix, The Blossom Nursery/Blossom Early Learning Centre, The Camel Soap Factory, and TIME Hotels.

Micro entrepreneurs

The Gulf Capital SME Awards has two new categories this year to reflect the dynamic changes affecting the SME sector locally and internationally. The rise of micro entrepreneurs has led to the growth of the SME sector in many developing countries, as entrepreneurs create businesses that fill very niched needs or prove their ability to thrive even with the smallest and initial capital. This category recognises enterprises with a turnover value of AED40m or less.

Some of these micro-enterprises have now sprouted in the UAE, and will be recognised with the Micro Business of the Year award. The finalists are Absolute Communications Group, ActionCOACH, Carfax Education, Engage ME, Ethics Plus Public Accountants, Iconic Fitness, Intuit Management Consultancy, Jalboot Marine Network, Klug Toys, Omasi, Papabubble Caramels Artesans and The Camel Soap Factory.

Finally, the Disruption of the Year trophy will be given to an SME that has created a product or service that has dramatically changed the industry in which it operates. The shortlisted SMEs include ProTenders,,, Support Legal Limited and The Box Self Storage Services.

MEED’s SME awards programme is supported by endorsing partners Dubai SME and the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development as well as headline sponsors Gulf Capital and category sponsors RSA Insurance and Ccerebrate Business Consulting.

The full list of finalists is available online here. The shortlisted SMEs will go through another round of evaluation by our judging panel after which the final set of winners will be announced on 11 October 2017 at The Westin Mina Seyahi, Dubai.

About MEED

MEED is a senior management media brand that encompasses subscription to the MEED Business Review publication and website As well as organising the MEED Quality Awards for Projects, Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) and Innovation Live!, MEED also works with clients on bespoke content, events, broadcast and digital offerings.

MEED has two high-value content businesses: MEED Projects and MEED Insight. MEED Projects is the Middle East’s premium project tracking database and MEED Insight offers tailored research and in-depth analysis. Established in 1957, MEED has been integral to delivering business information and news, intelligence and analysis on the Middle East’s economies and activities ever since.

From small beginnings in a London flat on 8 March 1957, MEED has grown with the region, sharing the ups and downs, and always exploring and taking on new challenges. For sponsorship opportunities, please contact:

Becky Crayman

Product Director, Awards & Managed Events

P O Box 25960, 20th Floor, Al Thuraya Tower 1, Dubai Media City, Dubai

Tel: +971 (0)4 818 0314

M : +971 (0)50 559 0713


For marketing and event inquiries, please contact:

Genevieve Banks

Marketing Manager

PO Box 25960, 20th Floor, Al-Thuraya Tower 1, Dubai Media City, Dubai

Tel: +971 (0)4 818 0289

M : +971 (0)50 553 5272


For media inquiries and assistance, please contact:

Anthon Garcia

PR Consultant, Gulf Capital SME Awards 2017

M: +971 (0)52 887 6559


About Gulf Capital

Gulf Capital is one of the Middle East’s leading alternative asset management firms, investing across several asset classes including private equity, credit and mezzanine and real estate. The firm currently manages more than $4bn of assets across 10 funds and investment vehicles.

Gulf Capital’s mission is to grow capital and build value with world-class expertise and best practices to generate a sustainable superior performance for all stakeholders. It invests its own capital alongside its fund investors’ capital in all of the funds it launches.

In private equity, Gulf Capital is focused on acquiring strategic stakes in highly profitable and rapidly growing companies within a select number of fast-growing industries in the GCC and Egypt, and through deep operational and financial improvements, on accelerating and enhancing their profitability and size.

Gulf Capital was awarded the ’Best Private Equity Firm in the Middle East’ award by Banker Middle East Magazine in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, and the ’Best Private Equity Firm’ in the Middle East and North Africa by Private Equity International, as well as ’Best SMEs Credit Fund in the Middle East’ in 2015.

The firm is actively involved in real estate development through Gulf Related, its joint venture with Related Companies, a leading US private real estate developer. Gulf Related is focused on pursuing marquee large-scale mixed-use and residential real estate development opportunities in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Gulf Capital also has a credit and mezzanine business, Gulf Credit Partners, to meet the financing needs of fast-growing companies and to provide acquisition finance across the Middle East. With its private equity, real estate and credit initiatives, Gulf Capital is today one of the largest and most diversified alternative asset managers in the Middle East.

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