78% of UAE's employed are thinking of starting their own business or have already attempted to do so
November 21st, 2017, Antonia Stockwell

78% of UAE's employed are thinking of starting their own business or have already attempted to do so

Two thirds of the MENA region’s entrepreneurs are planning to hire for their businesses within the next year

The UAE is making a conscious effort to promote and support small and medium-sized enterprises as they are believed to be one of the main drivers for innovation and employment. A new survey conducted by Bayt.com, the number one career site in the Middle East, and YouGov, entitled ‘Entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa 2017’ has revealed that over half (55%) of UAE residents prefer to ‘be self-employed / have their own business’, if given the choice. In fact, even among those who are currently employed, 78% of respondents said that they are either ‘thinking of starting their own business’ or have already ‘attempted do so in the past’.

When it comes to reasons for being self-employed, nearly half (49%) of UAE respondents want to do it for ‘personal fulfilment’; 43% believe it affords them the ‘freedom to choose what to work on’, and 42% believe it gives them the ‘freedom to choose work-life balance’.

For those who have already started their own business, the reasons for doing so are very similar, the top three reasons being: ‘greater independence in what they want to achieve’ (32%), ‘more income’ (29%) and a ‘better work-life balance’ (28%).

The findings reveal entrepreneurship provides great benefits for societies and the economy. The perceived image of entrepreneurs in the UAE is very positive, with 86% of respondents strongly agreeing or somewhat agreeing that entrepreneurs ‘help in creating jobs’, 79% strongly agreeing or somewhat agreeing that entrepreneurs are a ‘source of innovation in society’, and 75% saying that entrepreneurs ‘create new products and services for the benefit of society’. Furthermore, 69% said that entrepreneurs ‘mentor young people and promote the entrepreneurial spirit’ among others.

That said, 36% of the UAE workforce claim they want to work for pay/ seek employment in a company. For them, the most important factor to work for a company is ‘regular income’ (50%). Moreover, 47% of respondents think it gives them the opportunity to ‘learn new skills’ and techniques, while 46% of respondents value the ‘stability of employment / job security’ offered by a company.

The current MENA entrepreneurial scene

Out of those who are self-employed in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, 68% of respondents have started their own business in the last five years, 17% have started their business in the last 10 years, while 15% started over 15 years ago.

That said, more than a third of MENA respondents (36%) who are self-employed are at the ‘start-up stage’ of their business; 22% said they have a ‘well-established’ business that is underperforming, while 22% have a well-established that is performing well.

At the same time, many entrepreneurs are looking to grow their startups and established businesses. 36% of respondents have personal ambitions to ‘obtain more growth and profitability in their country of residence’, followed by 22% who aim to become a ‘major international group’. In fact, with growth in mind, 66% of surveyed entrepreneurs are planning to hire for their businesses within the next year.

“Many countries across the Middle East and North Africa have realized that entrepreneurship is a huge factor that drives growth and innovation in the economy,” said Suhail Masri, Vice President of Sales, Bayt.com. “As the survey showed, many entrepreneurs are seen as a source of value, innovation, and creating employment opportunities. Many startups are looking to hire and grow their businesses very soon. At Bayt.com we, we work with all organizations and businesses, irrespective of size, to help them secure their talent needs that can take their operations and growth to the next level. In fact, we have many dedicated solutions for startups and small businesses to give them more exposure and access to millions of professionals and job seekers.”

The benefits and challenges of setting up your own business

43% of UAE respondents believe that any time is a good time to start a business, while 36% believe the best time is mid-career. Only 11% think that the best time to start a business is after a ‘lengthy career’ and only 7% recommend doing so ‘right after college / university’.

Respondents were also asked what they consider to be the most appealing industry for entrepreneurs in their country, almost one in ten UAE respondents (10%) think that Real Estate/ Construction is the most appealing, followed by Hospitality/ Entertainment (10%); Commerce/ Trade/ Retail (8%); and Consumer Goods/ FMCG (8%).

Indeed, setting up a business comes with some challenges, irrespective of location or industry. Nearly three fifths of those surveyed claimed that it is ‘difficult to start a business in their country of residence’.

When asked about the main difficulties that prevent people from starting their own business, 53% of those who tried to start a business in the past but could not do so cited the inability to ‘obtain financial support’, 52% cited the inability to ‘self-finance the start-up of the business’, while 37% cited their concerns regarding ‘economic uncertainty’ (37%).

When respondents were asked what could best support entrepreneurs, over half (52%) in the UAE said ‘easing the laws and regulations of setting up a business’, followed by 16% who said ‘reducing taxation’, 13% said ‘regulating competition among businesses’, and another 13% said ‘facilitating access to skilled labor’.

The best pieces of advice offered to budding entrepreneurs by respondents in the MENA region, including the UAE, is to not be ‘afraid of failure’ (44%); to ‘have a great business plan’ (12%), and to have a ‘great and well-researched business idea’ and ‘marketing plan’ (both 10%). Furthermore, respondents in the MENA region said the key to success as an entrepreneur is ‘innovation’ (27%) and ‘employing the right people’ (25%).

“Entrepreneurship continues to be a growing trend in the Middle East and North Africa, and despite the given challenges of setting up a business, our research indicates that entrepreneurship has become more popular than ever before,” said Anjali Chhabra, YouGov Associate Research Director. “Entrepreneurs greatly contribute to a country’s GDP and help create job opportunities, so encouraging them within the region is highly beneficial for all.”

Data for the Bayt.com ‘Entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa’ 2017 survey was collected online from October 1 to October 22, 2017, with 4,570 respondents from the UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Lebanon, Jordan, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, Sudan and Pakistan.