The rise of UAE small businesses
Source: Design Unlimited Partners for MEED , Author: Posted by BI-ME staff
Posted: Sun September 30, 2018 5:33 pm

UAE. UAE-based businesses with a global footprint won the top awards at this year’s edition of the Gulf Capital SME Awards.

Dubai-based Phanes Group and RAK-headquartered Spatial Composite were both honoured as the Gulf Capital Business of the Year in the annual recognition programme organised by MEED to celebrate the success, growth and innovation of the SME sector in the UAE.

“One thinks of an SME as a small-scale operation, and while that may be true, there is certainly no limit as to what it can achieve. We are delighted to have two winners of the Gulf Capital Business of the Year whose operations span far and beyond the Emirates, a testament of their success and world-class capabilities. We are proud to support and celebrate entrepreneurs with global ambitions and aspirations,” said Dr Karim El Solh, co-founder and CEO of Gulf Capital, one of the largest alternative asset management firms in the Middle East, and ardent supporter of the awards programme since its inception.

Phanes Group is an international solar energy developer, investment manager and asset manager, strategically headquartered in Dubai, UAE. Established in 2012, Phanes Group has a growing portfolio of solar investments and developments spanning multiple geographies, with a distinct focus on emerging markets (Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia) and sub-Saharan Africa. Cumulatively, the company's clean power contribution is in excess of 70 megawatts, with a further 1.5 GW under development or at the planning stage around the world.

“It's amazing to be in the company of all the award-winning start-ups and businesses here. We are very honoured that all the hardwork that the team has put together has been acknowledged. We are proud to say we are a home-grown business; we started in Dubai and are branching out across the world and to get this award is very important,” said Andrea Haupts, COO, Phanes Group.

Founded in 2007 in Ras Al Khaimah, Spatial is an ISO 9001 certified manufacturer of all types of aircraft cabin crew training devices. Additionally, the company also provides consultancy services in relation to the design and fit-out of cabin crew training facilities. Its 50,000 sq. ft manufacturing facility is equipped with the latest CNC machinery, lamination facilities and finishing/painting workshops as well as a dedicated electronics and automation workshop that delivers cabin crew equipment worldwide. The company was also recognised as B2B Small Business of the Year (Above AED15mn category).

“We are very happy to receive the award on behalf of over a hundred people who make up our team. Getting recognised is very important and is a great message to communicate about our business,” said Marc Van Den Broucque, Managing Director, Spatial.

A forward-looking umbrella organisation of UAE professionals in various technical fields, Futurists Hub, was recognised as the Emirati Business of the Year. The group has been providing integrated services, developing the latest technologies, and creating innovative technical works projects that contribute to the innovation vision of the UAE government.

Three outstanding business owners were also honoured for their achievements - Dr. Lina Kouatly, President and CEO of Lunatus and Anilesh Kumar CEO of Levtech Consulting shared the spotlight as the Entrepreneurs of the Year; while Tanaz Dizadji, founder and CEO of insydo was recognised as this year’s Business Leader of the Year.

The other big winner was Ecocoast, which received trophies in two categories – Business Innovation of the Year and Sustainable Business of the Year. The company provides a unique portfolio of solutions that protect and support coastal development.

Another multiple awardee, Smart Fitness, won two awards – Customer Focus of the Year as well as People and Culture of the Year. The company provides personal, intelligent and comprehensive health and fitness solutions for people looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

“By recognising these SMES, we hope to put a spotlight on their achievements and success and in the process inspire others to take embark on their own entrepreneurial journey. The UAE’s success story is as much a product of the big corporates, but also the steady and outstanding growth of small businesses which comprise a majority of all registered firms in the country. We salute them for being engines of growth, generating thousands of employment opportunities, and contributing to the progress and dynamism of the Emirates,” said John Emmerson, Director, SME Awards, MEED, the leading business intelligence provider in the Middle East.

Other winners of the 2018 edition of the Gulf Capital SME Awards include Support Legal (Start-up Business of the Year), Aquaplex (B2B Small Business of the Year-Above 15mn), Beehive (B2B Small Business of the Year-Below 15mn), Sprii (B2C Small Business of the Year), Life Smoothies (People and Culture of the Year), (Digital Business of the Year), Bizx Trading (Disruption of the Year) and Sustainable Environmental Technologies (Sustainable Business of the Year).

The Gulf Capital SME Awards had a very competitive field this year, with many companies and organisations sharing honours in several categories. Two SMEs shared the Micro Business of the Year award – Leela’s Lunches and Retold; while Fahmi AlShawwa, CEO, Immensa Technology Labs; and Loredana Matei, Executive Director/Founder of Jensen Matthews were awarded the New Entrepreneur of the Year trophies.

Photo Caption: Dr Karim El Solh, co-founder and CEO of Gulf Capital (File photo)

About Gulf Capital
Gulf Capital is one of the leading alternative asset management firms in the Middle East, investing across several asset classes including Private Equity, Credit and Mezzanine and Real Estate.  The Firm currently manages over $4 billion of assets across 10 funds and investment vehicles. Gulf Capital’s mission is to grow capital and build value with world-class expertise and best practices to generate sustainable superior performance for all stakeholders. Gulf Capital invests its own capital alongside its fund investors’ capital in all of the funds it launches.

In Private Equity, Gulf Capital is focused on acquiring strategic stakes in highly profitable and rapidly growing companies within a select number of fast-growing industries in the GCC and Egypt and through deep operational and financial improvements, on accelerating and enhancing their profitability and size. Gulf Capital was awarded the “Best Private Equity Firm in the Middle East” Award by Banker Middle East Magazine in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 and the “Best Private Equity Firm” in the Middle East and North Africa by Private Equity International, as well as “Best SMEs Credit Fund in the Middle East’ in 2015.

The Firm is actively involved in real estate development through Gulf Related, its joint venture with the Related Companies, the leading private real estate developer in the United States. Gulf Related is focused on pursuing marquee large-scale mixed-use and residential real estate development opportunities in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Gulf Capital also launched a Credit and Mezzanine business, Gulf Credit Partners, to meet the financing needs of fast-growing companies and to provide acquisition finance across the Middle East. With its private equity, real estate and credit initiatives, Gulf Capital is today one of the largest and most diversified alternative asset managers in the Middle East.

For more information about Gulf Capital PJSC, please visit Gulf Capital’s website at



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