There has been some buzz around the Acuity office over the past few months so, in light of some very exciting developments for Acuity Consultants, I sat down with our CEO, Lindsay Cowan, to talk about his experience starting a recruitment company in booming Dubai!
As a CEO of a company, after a few years of steady, successful growth, a question will always arise, “To expand or to NOT expand?”. This is not to say you MUST open up a new branch or knock down a wall to make space for more people in order for your company to be successful. However, if you have the opportunity to do so with minimal risk, then why not? Once you’ve deliberated on expanding your company, your research into the process to make that happen will require your full attention! Hear what Lindsay Cowan had to say on his experience opening up a new branch – Acuity Consultants DXB
What made you decide to open another branch in the UAE?
Answer: The short answer is an Ironman race in Portugal last year. One of our colleagues (Ashleigh) and I were competing there in September and we went across with our respective families. At the end of the stay as we went our separate ways and my wife, two kids and I jumped back on an Emirates plane, destination Dubai. Instead of the usual in and out, we had arranged to have four days downtime before returning to Cape Town. I honestly thought it would be nothing more than a holiday of waterparks, dancing fountains and huge shopping malls but it became so much more. On the one side, you’ve got the epitome of everybody’s perception of Dubai, i.e. opulence. On the other, you have this commercial heartbeat that pumps twenty-four seven, breeding an efficiency that I have not seen for such a long time. It was at this point that I realised we could do something here and as soon as I returned to Cape Town, I booked myself another ticket to assess if Dubai really was a viable option for Acuity.
Were there any other locations you considered?
Answer: No – since mid-2018, Gary (my business partner) and I had been discussing the possibility of opening another branch, but we had never discussed locations. Whilst we were certain that it would be the right move for Acuity, we didn’t actively search for our second home and strongly believed that an opportunity would present itself when ready. Personally, the Middle East has always had a place in my heart. I grew up in Oman and Bahrain and have very fond memories of my childhood there. However, Oman in the 80s is certainly nothing like Dubai in the 00s!
What makes the UAE such an attractive location to work?
Answer: It isn’t until you’ve been here that you start to understand why people really want to work here. The appeal of perfect beaches, warm water, bright sunny days is fantastic but there is so much more to it. Beyond this, there is opportunity. The UAE, particularly Dubai, prides itself on being the technological hub of the Middle East and because of this, you have the greatest minds from the greatest nations all in one place. You have the opportunity to learn from the best and work for the best companies. As an example, if you walk around any business district of Dubai, whether it be the Financial Centre or Internet City, you will see global, household names in front of you. Companies are here because it is the place to be. Candidates are here because it is the place to be.
What is the process of opening a new branch in Dubai?
Answer: The process is relatively smooth but don’t, for one minute, think it’s an overnight process. You have to be very patient; you need to make sure you’ve done enough research, that you have all of your documents ready and you also have to be on top of your sums. Whatever you think it is going to cost, always factor in a bit more.
What were the challenges you faced?
Answer: It would have certainly made life a little easier if I had been permanently based in Dubai during the setup process. I was working between Cape Town and Dubai and there would always be something needed (in person) after I had just returned to Cape Town. It’s impossible to predict and frustrating at the same time because it would add on further delays. There is one bit of advice I can offer to people going through this process: make sure you are not wearing shorts when going to get your fingerprints done for the Emirates ID. You will not be allowed in the building. I learned this the hard way, and good luck trying to find a new pair of trousers.
What’s your view of the IT Recruitment industry in the UAE?
Answer: Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are on the verge of seeing a technological boom in my opinion. More companies are investing into the area, adding to the big corporates that already exist. Moreover, with the Dubai Expo 2020 fast approaching, it promises to be an exciting time for the UAE as a whole. The difficulty, though, will be finding the talent. Much like every country, there is a global shortage of skilled resources which is exactly why there has to be more on offer than just the job.
How do you see the current state of recruitment in Dubai expanding in the future?
Answer: Dubai has been going through an economic slowdown in recent years, but it is coming out the other side now. Dubai Expo 2020 will be the global destination for millions of people to showcase innovation and it is going to be a huge boost for the economy. I believe that the amount of people wanting to work in Dubai is going to go through the roof and many more opportunities will become available.
How do you aim to stand out amongst your competitors?
Answer: The biggest issue for any IT recruitment agency is sourcing candidates, particularly when there is a global shortage. However, since 2009, we have been building a database of top South African IT talent and many of these are now looking to spread their wings and experience new environments not just locally but internationally. I believe that we are well positioned to help them as we have a physical presence in both the UAE and South Africa.
Are you looking to expand further to different countries in the future?
Answer: Would it surprise you to know that as a recruitment company we are NOT trying to take over the world or become the BIGGEST like other recruitment agencies!? We want to help people find jobs and provide opportunity. If I believe a market exists where we can help skilled South Africans further their careers, then we will definitely look further into it. As it happens, I have started looking at another country, but we are in the very early stages. I’ll have to keep you posted, but it’s exciting!
Opening a new branch will always bring a new set of challenges and experiences but is definitely worth it when looking to expand your brand in new territory. You need to make sure you (and your business partners) have discussed the possibility of opening a new branch, once you are in agreement, make sure you have done your research. A few slip-ups can be costly but once all your ducks are in a row, the process will be a smooth one!