Dubai has become a top global business hub and popular destination for Indian entrepreneurs looking to set up companies abroad. Its strategic location, business-friendly regulations, tax incentives, and world-class infrastructure provide an attractive environment for international business.
This guide covers key factors for Indians seeking business opportunities in Dubai:
- Dubai allows 100% foreign business ownership in mainland and free zones
- Over 50 free zones catering to various industries with customized license types
- Straightforward registration procedures and minimal red tape
- Strong legal framework protects investor rights
- No personal income tax or corporate tax in mainland or free zones
- Low import duties and absence of VAT or GST
- Full repatriation of profits and capital allowed
Infrastructure and Connectivity
- Extensive transport network including largest airport, shipping ports, metro line
- State-of-the-art commercial and residential properties
- High-quality utilities, communications networks, schools, and healthcare
Finding the Right Location
Choosing a location depends on your industry and specific requirements:
- Mainland: Ideal for service-based businesses catering to local market
- Free Zones: For export/import companies with 100% ownership and tax exemptions
- Offshore: Allows foreign companies register a branch/subsidiary in Dubai
Popular free zones:
- JAFZA: Focusing on general trading and logistics
- DMCC: Specialized for commodity trade
- DIFC: Dubai International Financial Center for financial services
- Meydan: Caters to horseracing and hospitality sectors
Access to Financing
Dubai offers multiple financing options:
- Conventional bank loans with fast processing times
- Equity financing from regional/international investors
- Government funding for SMEs meeting eligibility criteria
- Venture capital funds
- Exchange Traded Funds on DFM stock exchange
Networking Events and Organizations
Attending networking events held by Indian business councils and organizations helps connect with the large Indian expat community and relevant contacts from various industries.
Major organizations include:
- Indian Business & Professional Council (IBPC)
- Indian Professional Network (IPN)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of India - Dubai Chapter
- Strategic base: Dubai provides a strategic base to access markets in Middle East, Africa and South Asia.
- Business freedom: Company owners get full ownership and control over their operations and can fully repatriate profits.
- Competitive costs: No corporate taxes and low import duties make Dubai a cost effective base. Expenses like property rentals have eased recently.
- Supportive environment: Good infrastructure, government services, availability of skilled workforce and expat networks.
- Challenges: Main difficulties could be dealing with relative lack of transparency, complex regulations at times and gaps in dispute resolution mechanisms related to contracts, employment etc. Proper due diligence is essential.
In summary, Dubai offers the right fundamentals for Indian entrepreneurs to successfully establish and operate companies. A well-planned approach understanding regulations, assessing risks, choosing the right location and seeking expert advice on the ground can help navigate any complexities.
Dubai provides an attractive base for Indian entrepreneurs with a liberal and competitive environment to incorporate and conduct business. Its geographic location, world-class transport links and infrastructure along with government backing makes it ideal as a gateway for tapping opportunities in Middle East and African markets. Practical challenges can arise, but careful planning and preparation including seeking professional advisory services can equip Indian business owners to comply with regulations and steer clear of major risks or issues in this vibrant market.
What are the benefits for an Indian company to set up in a Dubai free zone?
Some of the benefits are:
- 100% ownership of the company
- Full exemption from corporate taxes and import/export duties
- Fast and straightforward registration process
- Ability to have a corporate bank account in UAE Dirham or US Dollar
- No currency restrictions on capital/profit repatriation
What types of business licenses can Indians get in Dubai free zones?
Indians can set up companies in a Dubai free zone with various licenses such as:
- Trading license
- Industrial license
- Service license
- National Industrial license (for manufacturing)
What are the steps to register a company in Dubai mainland?
The key steps for Indian investors to set up a company in Dubai mainland are:
- Identify a unique company name
- Arrange for a local service agent
- Obtain initial approvals from Department of Economic Development (DED)
- Get necessary licenses based on your activity
- Complete final registration with DED to acquire trade license
Can an Indian resident establish a company in Dubai?
Yes, an Indian resident can fully own a company in Dubai by setting up in a free zone or having a local sponsor for mainland company. The individual needs to travel initially for licensing procedures.
What are the main laws governing companies in Dubai?
The Commercial Companies Law No. 2 of 2015 is the main governing law for all companies in Dubai covering aspects like establishment procedures, foreign ownership, investor rights and dissolution process.
How much capital is required to set up a company in Dubai?
The legal capital requirement depends on location and license type:
- For mainland LLC at least AED 300,000 is required
- For free zone, capital varies from zero (RAK free zone) to AED 1 million (DMCC free zone).
What taxation rules apply to expatriate investors in Dubai?
There is no personal income tax in Dubai for expatriate individual investors. For companies, no corporate taxes are levied in free zones or mainland (except oil/gas/petrochemical sectors).
What are the main challenges faced by Indian companies in Dubai?
Some key challenges faced are:
- Understanding complex regulatory procedures
- Navigating lack of transparency in some sectors
- Handling employment issues and disputes
- Managing regional turmoil and economic uncertainties
Proper planning and risk assessment is vital before establishing business.
What options do entrepreneurs have for financing in Dubai?
Main options for financing include:
- Venture capital funds like Wami Capital, BECO etc.
- Crowdfunding platforms such as Eureeca and Durise
- Bank lending from leading local and international banks
- Private funding from angel investors or high-networth individuals from Indian diaspora
Which Dubai free zone is best suited IT companies?
Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) is specifically designed for IT, digital and high-tech companies with an ecosystem of incubators, funding channels and incentives to attract entrepreneurs and investors in advanced technologies.
Are there any restrictions on foreign skilled employees in Dubai?
Companies in Dubai can employ skilled expatriates without restrictions. To hire foreign employees in Dubai mainland, approvals from General Directorate of Residency & Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) are required.
Can a Dubai company be publicly listed?
Yes, Dubai Financial Market (DFM) and Nasdaq Dubai allow private companies in Dubai meeting eligibility criteria to get publicly listed and raise funds through IPOs.
Can an Indian with a Dubai investor visa work or undertake business activities?
UAE investor visa holders cannot undertake any directly income-generating work. But they can invest capital in running a business, manage investments and hold board/ownership roles in companies.