How a Village of Opportunity is Empowering the UAE’s SME Ecosystem


They say it takes a village to raise a child. In the United Arab Emirates, one village in particular is bringing this phrase to life, albeit with a contemporary twist.

As a world-leading festival park, Global Village has grown from a quaint set of stalls perched on the edge of the Dubai Creek to become a bustling entertainment destination attracting over 7 million annual visitors. It has everything visitors crave, including exotic shopping, exquisite dining, and a bounty of leisure-laden activities to keep people of all ages entertained for days.

However, first looks can be deceiving.

Behind the awe-inspiring facades, which represent 78 countries and cultures, Global Village has established itself as an influential hub for nurturing budding Emirati talents and propagating the thought-provoking ideas that will shape the UAE’s social and economic future.

‘Back to the future’

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of the UAE’s economy. In Dubai, they represent a majority of all establishments and contribute significantly towards the total value generated in the emirate’s economy. Backed by the pioneering visions of the nation’s leadership, the SME sector is forecast to contribute to 53% of the UAE’s GDP in 2019.

So, how did a village nestled on the outskirts of Dubai’s bustling metropolis become a hub for empowering the SME sphere of tomorrow?

To understand Global Village’s spirit of community and entrepreneurship, we first have to wind back the clock to 1997.

“When the seed for Global Village was planted, it began as a proud Emirati brand that stemmed from creative and visionary Emirati minds. This has been the nexus for the transformative decades that brought us to where we are now – we remain a family and community-centric business with a commitment towards always caring,” says Bader Anwahi, CEO of Global Village.

“If it takes a village to raise a child, then I believe it takes a ‘Global Village’ to raise and nurture the burgeoning business futures of a nation and its wider region,” Anwahi adds.

‘Enabling emerging businesses to thrive’

At its inception, the collective ambition of the minds behind Global Village believed in the value of cultivating key ingredients that would ensure long-lasting success. Today, this is why Global Village has grown into an ideal platform for SMEs to start, grow, and transform business ideas.

As Anwahi will tell you, the recipe for SME success is present throughout the robust framework of Global Village’s ethos to empower.

“SME growth in the UAE can be attributed to several factors, the most important of which is supplying ambitious businesses with the tools to succeed and unrelenting supporting,” Anwahi said.

“Every season we receive more than 1,000 requests from SMEs who would like to participate at Global Village, and we shortlist more than 110 of them to operate in the season. From these, many manage to return each year, while a great deal also enjoy continued growth success elsewhere after launching within Global Village’s engaging community environment.”

By creating a rich community for ideation, business development, and creativity, Global Village has amassed a huge platform to give aspiring SMEs access to over seven million customers. This enables them to test the market across various segments due to Global Village’s guests representing a diverse mix of age groups and over 115 nationalities. The wide-reaching network also allows SMEs access to work alongside foreign businesses and share experiences with them in order to gain international exposure.

On top of all this, Global Village acts as a caregiver to SMEs by providing them with trainings and advisory on how to successfully run their businesses. From facilitating the legal documentation required to run business, as well as other key services, through the Partners Happiness Centre, the sky’s the limit for Global Village’s strong business ecosystem.

“Global Village exists as a one-stop-shop for all the business requirements of our partners. From SMEs to exhibitors, we are proud to be playing a vital role in redefining the paradigm for SME growth and success in the UAE,” says Anwahi.

‘Robust partner ecosystem’

The formation of several robust partnerships has fortified Global Village’s future-facing intent for the SME sphere. The most recent of these can be seen through Global Village building a proud relationship with Dubai SME to provide spaces for numerous SMEs to launch their products and bring their unique ideas to market. Paired with highly affordable fixed rent and best practice business workshops, Global Village’s collaborative efforts with Dubai SME have taken SME empowerment to a new level.

Similar relationships with government entities have also emerged, with Global Village forging a connection with the Ministry of Community Development, who operates the Al Sanaa pavilion every season. In a similar vein, Global Village also collaborates with the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Humanitarian Foundation to run and operate a pavilion. Both of these initiatives provide the chance for small, locally-run Emirati businesses and families to operate in Global Village and bring their unique ideas to life.
‘Success speak volumes’

From the outside looking in, Global Village’s devout commitment towards stimulating the economic potential of the SME space appears widely successful. However, the view from the inside looking out is even brighter, according to Emirati entrepreneur Jassim Al Yassi. Al Yassi’s success story began at Global Village; and it continues to thrive up until the present day.

“Entering the business world is a daunting proposition, especially for young entrepreneurs. When I first embarked on my business journey, I had the ideas to succeed but lacked the support, and guidance to put these into action,” says Al Yassi.

Now with four seasons to his name, Al Yassi has been growing his business in Global Village to new innovative and creative levels. From starting with a kiosk under the umbrella of Dubai SME in his first season, he has expanded his businesses to new heights over four years, building upon creative and unique concepts.

“Thanks to the insights and community support from Dubai SME and Global Village, this provided me with the ticket to success in the business world.” adds Al Yassi.

In addition to success stories such as Al Yassi’s, Global Village has been instrumental in providing support for other innovative eatery concepts, from assisting with logistics and licensing, to advisory and business consultation. Last year alone, this support was given to five of these eateries, offering everything from Indian fusion to rustic Italian cuisine. This support resulted in over 10 million dirhams of total sales in the course of the season for these concepts, appealing to the palates of over 100,000 hungry guests. These eateries were so successful, in fact, that Global Village invested in them as full business partners.

In the space of 23 years, Global Village has upheld a growth trajectory that remains connected to its foundational roots. Navigating numerous challenges and opportunities along the way, Global Village has laid the blueprint for what SMEs can do in the UAE and in the MENA region. Now it’s propelling other aspiring SMEs towards capturing their own dreams and making these a reality.

“It all comes back to community. Instilling a spirit of entrepreneurship and acting as a hub for innovation and thought-leadership,” concludes Anwahi.
“We provide a community for budding thinkers, an environment for creative execution, but most importantly, we are a village for opportunity. It’s as simple as that.”

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