Business owners of small- and medium-sized enterprises in the UAE remain optimistic about their growth prospects this year, according to a survey.
Of the 138 SMEs that participated in the survey conducted by Meed, a leading business intelligence service provider in the Middle East, 74 said they expect to grow their business in 2017 by 10-50 per cent compared with last year. Of this number, 23 business owners said they forecast their business to grow by at least 20 per cent compared to last year; while 15 entrepreneurs see a more robust 50 per cent increase in business against their performance in 2016.
The survey was conducted to determine sentiment among business owners in the UAE, ahead of the Gulf Capital SME Awards, which Meed organises annually to celebrate innovation, success and growth in the SME sector in the emirates.
“The optimism shown by entrepreneurs is a good sign of the dynamism and strong fundamentals in the UAE economy. SMEs largely drive the growth in the country as they account for over 90 per cent of registered businesses in the UAE. By creating jobs, growth and income, entrepreneurs are transforming lives and the communities they live in,” said Dr 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.
“SMEs are the backbone of a growing economy and their strong performance this year will no doubt have a positive impact on the economy,” he said.
In anticipation of business growth, close to 70 per cent of those surveyed said they will be hiring additional staff this year, with around 77 per cent saying they will recruit anywhere from 1-10 new employees.
A smaller percentage, about 6 per cent, intend to hire in excess of 50 staff, further contributing to job creation, which is critical to service-driven economies and international employment hubs such as the UAEs.
Despite the standstill in some business sectors in the emirates, many SMEs are planning to make significant investment in marketing and sales (54 per cent) as well as product development and innovation (38 per cent) to sustain their business growth this year.
The Gulf Capital SME Awards will again recognise outstanding SMEs, business leaders and entrepreneurs in 13 different categories, including Gulf Capital Business of the Year, Business Innovation of the Year, Online Business of the Year, RSA 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 and Marketing Campaign of the Year; as well as two individual awards for Business Leader of the Year and 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.
A new category, Disruption of the Year Award, has been included in this year’s edition of the programme. It aims to recognise an SME that has created an innovative disruption, with demonstrable results, that has impacted a new or existing market.
“Many of those who received awards in the past have attested to the business benefits of the awards programme. In addition to gaining recognition for their hard work, some entrepreneurs have reported getting more business and new customers because of the exposure they get from the programme,” says Becky Crayman, programme director, Meed, which is celebrating 60 years since its launch in 1957.