UAE Market Entry
You really need to treat the UAE as a specific country, within the context of a regional business strategy. Despite the common language, religion, culture, and ethnic background of the population of the various Gulf states, it is important to remember that the UAE in the Gulf is a distinct market, with its own political structure, and commercial laws and regulations. It is wise to avoid making critical comparisons, as there is a degree of rivalry between the different nations of the different Gulf states, who are proud of their own countries. Another mistake made by some companies new to the region is to ignore the inter-Arab sensitivities, particularly the ongoing tension in the Middle East. Gulf Nationals will not take kindly to being asked to deal with international firms through representative offices or agents in Egypt, as they will consider this to be lowering their status in comparison to their neighbours. Although this problem is less acute within the Gulf, especially between members of the GCC, there is some hostility to Dubai due to its success in having attracted more of its fair share of trade and investment flowing into the region. It is also worth noting there is a long standing enmity between the Gulf Nations and Iran (ethnic Persians) and it is best not to allow your business dealings in the different sides of the Gulf to become too closely entangled. Dealing with both directly from your home country is usually the best option, in this type of situation.
In terms of business development strategy for the region, it is best to treat each country as a separate market, and make separate agency or commercial agreements in each country. Research the laws on engaging agents in advance in order to comply with local rules. You should also maintain comprehensive records of any agreements and other transactions, as local laws will often favour the local agent of Dubai or Abu Dhabi for example. It is also best to avoid being taken in by agents in one country who promise that they can cover the Gulf on your behalf.
Many look at Dubai or Abu Dhabi as the first market to crack in the Gulf, but beware of competition, as the market is getting more and more competitive. Some venture to Qatar as an opening to test the water before looking at the UAE. However you intend to formulate your market strategy for the Gulf, there is a high probability that once you have successfully tackled the UAE, you will most likely be able to take the learning messages from this and apply them to more stringent markets such as Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. However you intend to do it, expect it to be a hard struggle. Although the region welcomes such investment and product offerings, it is completely different to the West. Some say that once they have cracked the Middle East, they are ready for China. In any case, China, India, and the Middle East are all boom economies going forward, but all need to be looked at in very different ways.