05/12/2018 08:22 AST

Dubai is a renowned financial and business hub, but its rise to global prominence is in many ways rooted in the entrepreneurial spirit of pioneering businessmen and traders who took the leap into the unknown during the city’s early days. Today’s high-rises and gleaming skyscrapers are a far cry from the small desert community where far-sighted entrepreneurs believed in the city’s economic fortunes and invested in small-scale trading firms, which today have grown into successful global businesses, largely through sheer determination and hard work.

One family that has been at the heart of the financial and economic transformation of the Emirate for several decades are the Al Ghurairs, who have built a conglomerate that spans business sectors from cement and bottled water to banking and food manufacturing. In 1967, Mashreq, the oldest bank in the country, started operations to support small businesses at the souq on the Deira side of the city’s creek.

Today, it is a world-class financial services institution under the leadership of Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, who has overseen the growth of the bank over the past five decades. In this interview, Al Ghurair talks on why entrepreneurs are essential to the UAE’s economy and shares tips on how start-ups can scale up their business successfully:

Why are entrepreneurs crucial to future of economies in the region, including the UAE? In today’s fast-changing world, a single idea can overturn an industry. When entrepreneurs are able to innovate, they drive economic growth and create jobs. These small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) also help create opportunities for related industries. In the UAE, small businesses are an engine of growth, creativity, and innovation. According to the Ministry of Economy, SMEs represent more than 94 per cent of the total number of companies operating in the country and provide jobs for more than 86 per cent of the private sector’s workforce. In Dubai alone, SMEs make up nearly 95 per cent of all companies, employing 42 per cent of the workforce and contributing around 40 per cent to Dubai’s GDP.

As the region seeks a more diversified and sustainable economy, entrepreneurs have to be supported as the main driver of innovation for a sustainable and prosperous future. Furthermore, entrepreneurs can elevate the standard of living of the people by providing new solutions, which in turn enhance the general happiness and well-being of their communities. Most importantly, entrepreneurs can be agents of social change. With their innovations, they allow for us to break away from traditional solutions, thereby improving the quality of life and morale of the communities they operate in.

I feel the UAE government is already doing a spectacular job of fostering a culture of innovation in the country.

A testament to this is that the UAE is ranked 11th in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business out of 190 global economies. This achievement is the result of the various reforms put in place by the government. Private institutions can do more to back entrepreneurship and innovation by supporting local businesses. At Mashreq, we recognise the need of SMEs for trade and working capital finance and we support business growth and development in the UAE. However, what’s equally important as financial support is knowledge sharing. We work with SMEs to ensure they find the right solution for their business, which is delivered in the most effective and efficient manner. Through our flexible working capital and financing, we provide overdrafts and short-term loans. However, it is critical for private institutions to extend support that goes beyond just funding.


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