Published: Tuesday, August 01, 2017   English | العربية  

By Emma Procter

Boosted by a progressive government and inspired by the upcoming Expo 2020, UAE start-ups are thriving. Are we gearing up to witnessing a homegrown Amazon or Apple?

The UAE isn’t necessarily known globally for being a hotbed of new business, it has been more recognised for thriving due to well established corporations and strong traditional sectors. But things are beginning to change.

In recent years, the government has invested time and effort into encouraging people with big ideas to get their business off the ground and the start-up scene is now looking very vibrant indeed.

Are we at the stage of anticipating our very own Facebook, Uber, or Amazon? – maybe not quite – but then again you simply never know, in this country anything is possible. If you have ever dreamed about making your business idea a reality, now could be the time as Oasis Living discovered after meeting some exciting up-andcomers


A great example is interactive social app, Play:Date, founded by Kiwi-Sudanese entrepreneur Shamim. The platform helps to connect like-minded parents and their children with similar aged kids in the neighbourhood and across the globe, along with providing cool rewards and offers for parents.

It was launched on UAE Mother’s Day in March and is currently available globally for download on iOS devices.


“All parents have to do is download the app, create a profle for their child and they’re ready to fnd new friends,” explained Kassibawi. “With the popular swipe feature, the app is user-friendly and easy to navigate through.”

The app is relatively new but already has more than 500 members in and around the region. Kassibawi says its bourgeoning success lies in the steady growth of downloads and members, and strong collaborations with big brands.

“With brand collaborations for exclusive membership offers, we hope to begin our frst round of funding where brands will pay to be featured on the app, hopefully by January 2018. We are consistently working towards building a strong database of members in the GCC,” she said.

“Expo 2020 is an exciting time for business in the region – the market is on its toes, moving towards innovation, especially digital innovation and digitalisation. Investments have also increased, leading to opportunities and this has created a lot more room for development in the entrepreneurial and business front.”

The company is looking to venture into Android as the app is currently only available on iOS.


Apps seem to be where it’s at right now, as evidenced by Moonshine, a funky new service for party-loving people.

It’s a simple but effective concept – the app requires users to subscribe to the service after which they can redeem free beverages at some of Dubai’s most popular venues.

The monthly fee of the subscription is Dh49, which means the subscriber can avail several free beverages all through the week at different locations and pay less than they usually would for one.

There is no limit on how many times subscribers can redeem at the same venue. If the venue has an offer every week, subscribers can redeem every week, and so on.

The app is currently free to subscribe to and is available on iOS and Android. The subscription fee will be activated by the end of this year. Australian-Egyptian expat Sylvia Youssef, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Moonshine, says things are looking good for this new concept.

We launched in February and have seen a healthy growth, with new subscribers signing up every day” she said. “We” have more than ffty venues offering redemption, and that number is increasing as new venues are seeing the beneft of the partnership. As for the subscribers, once they begin to use the app, they quickly experience the ease of redemption and see the savings.”

And they have very ambitious plans for the app. “Our expansion geographically plays a very vital role in our vision. We plan to expand to several new destinations in Far East Asia over the next year; it’s a very exciting time for us, especially entering into different markets.

“We are also looking at rolling out some technological product enhancements that are designed to make the app easier to use for both the venue and user. It’s an everevolving process, however, we are dedicated to ensuring that the customer experience is a simple and seamless process.”


If tech isn’t your thing, but glamorous events are, you may have toyed with the idea of becoming a wedding planner.

The time could be ripe thanks to the innovative Arabian Academy of Wedding & Event Planning – a company which offers a variety of courses for those aspiring to be wedding planners, while also providing experienced professionals an opportunity to gain a certifcation or diploma.


The UK-based institute, which opened its regional offce in Dubai last year, is seeing great success and its CEO, Kylie Carlson, says the key to this has been making the training easily accessible.

“All courses are provided online and can be completed as per your convenience, with flexible payment plans,” she said. “Our Arabian campus is now just over a year old and has had a fantastic start. We have had nearly 100 students enroll and start their new career in the wedding and event industry, which is hugely exciting for us.

“The UAE is now one of the top regions for destination weddings so the opportunities for those wishing to enter the wedding industry as planners and stylists are growing at a rapid rate. The sector here is still developing and hasn’t reached saturation point in the way places like the US has, so there are plenty of chances to shine and create your own niche.”


The UAE is well known for excelling at glamour, and that doesn’t just extend to fairytale weddings. The male grooming scene is flourishing as dapper, image-conscious gents demand products and services tailored to them.

And so, in stepped Kaizen Box, founded by Indian expats Parth Parekh and Vinit Sadhwani. This clever online concept caters to men who enjoy looking sharp throughout the day, or those who need help looking their best on any occasion.

With a focus on outft enhancers, the subscription box guarantees a minimum of fve tastefully selected, colour-coded items delivered to doorsteps each month. Ranging from Dh119 to Dh159 per month (depending on the duration of the subscription), all the items included in the box complement each other and create an element of surprise each month.

As pioneers of this niche concept in the region, we are extremely happy about the positive response we continue to receive from everyone in general, and more importantly from our first customers who believed in the service and tried our products and helped us improve and bring us to where we are,” Parekh said. “In the past few months there has been a tremendous growth of interest in the concept and our offerings and we're just working hard to ensure it continues ahead. Our aim is to expand to other GCC countries within early next year and we also intend to offer subscription to those interested in our services within India.

“For now, we want to focus on the UAE and doing it well and focus on exceptional quality and end service – as it’s an e-commerce platform and customer service is key.”

The team at Kaizen Box say they are very optimistic about the impact of Expo 2020 on Dubai’s creative business scene. “It will prove to be monumental to growth,” said Sadhwani. “We can see Dubai excelling from where it is now to a super city; entrepreneurs will jump on to this opportunity and businesses will hire more talent.

“Dubai has the potential to reach at least the top three cities to work and live in.”

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