From Dh900 to Dh30,000 salary: How UAE blue-collar workers built businesses

From starting as blue-collar workers to becoming successful entrepreneurs, three inspiring expats share their rags-to-riches stories with Khaleej Times

By Usman Malik

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Published: Sat 11 May 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sat 11 May 2024, 8:51 PM

The third top global hub to launch businesses, the UAE is a land of opportunities for citizens and expats alike. Many have come to the country and worked to transform their lives in inspiring rags-to-riches stories which are a testament to the UAE's strong and stable economy.

Khaleej Times spoke to some expatriates who started their careers as blue-collar workers and went on to establish successful businesses, thanks to the government's business-friendly policies.


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From tea boy to employer

Muhammad Idrees Alam came to the UAE from Bangladesh to work as a tea boy at an office canteen his uncle ran in 2005. His first salary was Dh900.


After working for three years as a tea boy, he obtained a driving licence with his savings and switched jobs to become a driver in the same company, earning a monthly salary of Dh1,500. Later, he was promoted to supervisor with a monthly stipend of Dh3,000.

He worked as a supervisor for almost eight years, but the night shifts began taking a toll on his health. He started exploring business options, having saved enough money by that time.

“After carefully exploring the business options, I opened a parking car wash company in Dubai and hired six people initially. As the business grew, I began adding more employees. Today, that company has 30 employees. In the meantime, I opened an AC repair shop in Sharjah which currently employs 12 people. Altogether, my companies employ 42 people,” Alam said.

Alam mentioned that his monthly profit from both companies ranges between Dh30,000 and Dh40,000, depending on the seasonal nature of his AC repair shop. He pays over Dh60,000 in monthly salaries to his employees, along with other benefits such as accommodation and air tickets.

The entrepreneur has now built two houses and acquired other properties back home. He owns two cars in the UAE and has enrolled his children in good schools in Bangladesh.

“My life has completely changed now. I enjoy the freedom of being a business owner. My family visits whenever I want, I've built two houses back home, bought two cars here, and enrolled my children in good schools in Bangladesh — all thanks to this business. I couldn’t have imagined such luxuries with a labour job,” he added.

Alam emphasised that honesty, hard work, and consistency are the keys to success.

“The UAE offers ample growth opportunities. It all depends on how you seize the chances that come your way. Learning the Arabic language can be an added advantage for success in this country,” he remarked.

Alam revealed that he plans to expand his AC repairing business to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the coming years.

Construction worker who did not quit

When Faisal Hussain, known as Madi Khan among friends and in his business circle, arrived in Dubai as a labourer in 2014, owning a business in the 'City of Gold' was the furthest thing on his mind.

His primary concern was providing for his family back home. Earning less than Dh1,000-a-month was not enough, hence, he had no choice but to continue with labour work.

"I started working for a construction equipment company, earning less than Dh1,000 per month. The scorching heat made the job tough, but quitting was not an option; I had to support my family," Khan shared.

Despite the hardships, Khan remained motivated by the business opportunities in the UAE.

"After two years, I gained valuable industry knowledge and began facilitating customers for construction materials on a commission basis, earning a significant income," he added.

In 2016, Khan returned to Pakistan to import construction machinery from the UAE. Although the business showed promise, unforeseen challenges led him to return to Dubai in 2020, leaving his family behind.

"That period was challenging. I had to sell some assets to return to Dubai and even had to pull my children out of school due to financial constraints. This time, I ventured into online business, starting to sell on Amazon.ae.

Despite initial difficulties, the business eventually thrived, especially with the surge in online shopping during the Covid pandemic. Over four years, I launched approximately 250 products on Amazon, generating substantial profits," Khan revealed.

Starting with minimal funds, Khan is now a registered Amazon seller, earning a monthly profit exceeding Dh30,000.

"From earning Dh1,000 a month to making Dh1,000 daily, my journey has been challenging yet inspiring. Thanks to the UAE's business-friendly policies, I now own a company, warehouses, a car, and manage a team of 11 people," he proudly stated.

Khan became emotional discussing his family, whom he hadn't seen during his four-year struggle. "Reuniting with my wife and children after four years was an indescribable feeling. I am grateful for all the success and businesses I own today," he concluded.

Barber before, salon owner now

Saleem, now a salon owner in Sharjah, started his career as a barber with a monthly salary of Dh600 in 2006.

Soon after coming to the UAE, he managed to find a job as a waiter for his brother in a hotel. He intended to generate some extra income and collect enough funds to start his salon.

"It was my dream to start my salon in the UAE. The plan was simple: I would support my family back home, while my brother saved his earnings to launch a new business. This plan worked well, and we opened our salon in 2008. Initially, I managed alone, but as the business grew, I hired staff, and our profits started to increase."

Saleem, who now earns over Dh6,000 in monthly profits, said the business impacted his life positively. He made property worth half a million dirhams back home, got a driving licence, brought his wife and kids here in the UAE and helped his siblings build their houses in his native country.

"Before the Covid pandemic, our business was generating over Dh10,000 in monthly profits. However, due to increasing competition, our profit margins have narrowed,” he added.

Saleem also shared tips for those who want to try their luck in the salon business.

"The business registration process in the UAE is straightforward. I advise against using middlemen, as handling it yourself can save a lot of money. Additionally, I recommend learning Arabic and English for anyone looking to start a salon business in the UAE. It significantly increases your chances of success," he concluded.

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