| 8 December 2023, Friday |

Indian startups eye North Africa entry through UAE trade pact platform

The UAE-India free trade agreement that was reached last year has allowed Indian enterprises access to the Emirati market, but they claim that this is only the first step in their expansion into the Middle East and North Africa.

The historic Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, which went into effect in May, slashed tariffs on approximately 80% of all commodities and gave 90% of Indian exports duty-free access.

Bilateral trade has touched historic highs since the signing of the agreement, registering a year-on-year increase of 16 percent to reach $85 billion in the April 2022-March 2023 period, according to Indian Ministry of Commerce data.


It will continue to increase further in the coming years, according to the UAE India Business Council, the official joint business chamber for promoting economic synergy between the two countries.

“The economic graph between UAE and India is going north,” Mukesh Kalra, the council’s head of business development, told Arab News in a recent interview. “Free economic zones, aggressive policies of attracting companies from India and other (regions) have been really pushed by the UAE in the last few years.”

It also offers access to the Middle East and North Africa, which are largely emerging destinations for Indians.

“The reason why the companies are moving to UAE is access to the MENA region,” Kalra said. “North Africa is still not a saturated market.”


Klug Klug, an Indian tech platform for influencer marketing, told Arab News that its recently opened office in Dubai aimed at helping it access the broader region.

“We know that the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, is growing very quickly,” said Kalyan Kumar, the company’s co-founder and CEO.

“We have already got India covered, Southeast Asia covered, and it was a logical step to also cover the Middle East with Dubai as a base of operations. That would also allow us access to Western Europe and North Africa.”


Rajeev Punj, director of Interlude Global Business, a company specializing in merger and acquisition finance, said that having a UAE branch has been helpful in expanding business.

But while Dubai was for him currently the main hub and a “gateway to Gulf Cooperation Council and African countries,” he saw the future in Saudi Arabia.

“I would say the next generation would be doing more business with Saudi Arabia,” Puni said. “Lots of opportunities are coming up.”


  • Arab News