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The five trends defining Dubai’s business landscape

This year presents an opportunity for employers to explore an untapped talent pool

There is a trend among Dubai small businesses in particular to demand better working relationships with clients and sever ties when behaviour is poor Pexels/Edmond Dantès
There is a trend among Dubai small businesses in particular to demand better working relationships with clients and sever ties when behaviour is poor

The British Chamber of Commerce Dubai – formerly known as British Business Group Dubai and Northern Emirates – began the new year with a fresh moniker. 

However, the BCCD’s network will remain as staunchly supportive of the British business community in Dubai as ever, guiding members through the unprecedented pace of business change. 

These are the five trends we have noticed that we expect to affect Dubai businesses in the year ahead.

Supply chain challenges

The ongoing geopolitical tensions around the region and beyond have already had an impact on supply chain management.

As products and materials are caught up in the resulting logistical turmoil, organisations will face growing challenges in securing the supplies they need to do business. We will see escalating costs in the movement of goods, which will have a knock-on effect for consumers already grappling with an increasing cost of living. 

Now is the time to explore alternative solutions and short-term pivots that can help your business sustain through this period of uncertainty.

Saying goodbye to toxic clients

We have seen a growing trend across the BCCD membership of companies calling out the toxic traits of their clients and taking positive action to move away from unacceptable behaviours.

Small businesses in particular are exiting relationships where clients disregard the principles of good business practice: not paying on time, issuing excessive and conflicting demands, or neglecting the basic foundations of an agreement. 

Serving Dubai’s redistributed communities

Dubai’s population grew by more than 100,000 in 2023, while the Emirate attracted 8.55 million visitors in the first half of last year alone.

As the city’s infrastructure works to keep pace with the increasing demands for accommodation, transport and services, we are seeing the gradual redistribution of traditional residential districts. Occupants of neighbourhoods on the Dubai coastline and other longstanding housing communities are giving way to the tourist market, to avoid crowds and ease their commute. 

With the restructuring and relocation of long-term expat communities, associated housing, schools and transport hubs are moving further out of the city.

This presents an opportunity for businesses serving these communities – food and beverage outlets, for example – to expand their operations into these new districts as residents become less likely to venture too far from home.

Responding to new recruitment opportunities 

Emiratisation has presented the opportunity for international companies in the UAE to diversify their workforce by bringing in a new, young and dynamic population.

The extension of this initiative to small businesses across the UAE will be at the forefront of human resource planning for 2024, as managers compete for top local talent. 

The year ahead also presents an opportunity for employers to explore an as yet untapped talent pool that brings a new dimension to the workforce. There is a growing body of candidates, predominantly stay-at-home-parents, who have strategic knowledge and industry experience, and yet are overlooked because they cannot commit to a full-time, “presentee” work culture.

With a fresh outlook to working practices and a new approach to hiring, this “experienced but limited hours” demographic can prove more cost-effective than a full-time employee, while adding significantly more value to the business.

Entrepreneurs going back to corporate life

Another growing trend is the increasing number of entrepreneurs and consultants who are now opting or being tempted back to return to corporate roles.

It appears that the attractions of entrepreneurship, freedom and consultancy that caused these individuals to seek independence is making way now for the familiar stability and security of corporate environments.

Having spoken to a number of members who are in this position, it seems that the shift can be attributed to various factors, including the unpredictable nature and heavy responsibility of running a business, challenges associated with sustaining steady income streams, and a desire for a more structured work-life balance. 

Katy Holmes is general manager at the British Chamber of Commerce Dubai (formerly known as British Business Group Dubai and Northern Emirates).

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