Economic ties between India and the UAE got a boost with a free trade pact signed last year. Indian startups see growth potential through Dubai free zone incubation centers and schemes
A UAE free economic zone invited Indian companies on Thursday to expand operations into the region, as the Gulf state tries to attract investors from South Asia’s largest economy with new opportunities.
Economic ties between India and the UAE received a major boost when their Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement came into force in May last year.
The landmark deal reduced tariffs on about 80 percent of all goods and provided zero-duty access to 90 percent of Indian exports.
The potential for further trade expansion under the pact’s framework was explored by businessmen on Thursday during the “Dubai — India’s Gateway to the World” session held in New Delhi by the Confederation of Indian Industry and Jebel Ali Free Zone, or Jafza.
Considered the world’s leading free zone and integrated business hub, Jafza, which hosts thousands of companies, is part of the Emirati multinational logistics company DP World.
“The purpose is basically to promote ‘Made in India’ through Dubai as a gateway for Indian exports,” Abdulla bin Damithan, CEO and managing director of DP World UAE and Jafza, told Arab News.
With the trade pact in place, Indian businesses can benefit from the UAE’s similar agreements with other countries, which could become their new markets.
“We have heard a lot of customers here in India — investors and businessmen — who want to further expand their growth into Africa and other countries, where we have a presence, our own capabilities to enable them to enter these markets,” Bin Damithan said. “Our customers can benefit from our network around the world.”
For the Confederation of Indian Industry, engagement with Dubai can have an enabler effect for businesses.
“Earlier, Dubai Port or DP World was a logistic provider, and now it is a trade enabler where logistics is one component. Besides that, you have facilitation of business providing you the land for business, they are giving you manufacturing facilities,” the confederation’s international director, Manish Mohan, told Arab News.
“They want Indians to invest in their free zones and they will facilitate and enable the expansion of trade in the Gulf and African regions and other parts of the world … The CII is actively promoting UAE as the trading, manufacturing and logistics hub for the GCC, Africa and other key markets and identifying opportunities for Indian investments.”
The free zone also hosts incubation centers and schemes, which appeal to emerging Indian business players.
“Dubai offers an opportunity for a start-up like me to incubate … for three years, and explore markets and establish ourselves,” said Rajan Moga, founder of Club TV, which offers virtual reality services in the hotel industry.
“We want to get insight into the Dubai market and understand its ecosystem.”
Shalini Singh, founder of Soul for Earth, who came to Thursday’s session to explore how her heritage craft business could enter the UAE market, said she would look into the international opportunities it offers.
“I am a startup — I will use the incubation program offered by … Dubai, and hope to have some handholding and get to explore the Dubai market,” she told Arab News. “Dubai is a confluence of so many cultures. Arabs are there, so are Americans and people from other countries … this is the one place where I will get a hand for the entire market.”