Interview with Preeya Malik – an Entrepreneur, U.S. licensed attorney, immigration rights advocate and Co-Founder of investment immigration firm STEP America. At STEP America, she helped expand the firm’s reach to Dubai, Qatar, Mumbai, New Delhi, and Singapore, as well as securing the building and development of several Hilton and Marriott Hotel properties across the U.S., a number of private charter schools, and cutting-edge government infrastructure and technology projects. Preeya is also an expert on navigating the entrepreneurial landscape in the UAE and the Middle East.
What can you tell us about the latest in the startup and entrepreneurial scene in Dubai/ Middle East?
Dubai and the Middle East is probably one of the best places I’ve seen thus far in terms of opportunities for both entrepreneurs and startups. Being a fairly “new” city, Dubai is a breeding ground for new, innovative concepts and ideas which entrepreneurs continue to develop as well as introduce from other parts of the world. I think the city was built on individuals coming in and starting their own businesses in manufacturing and trade. That has evolved into younger professionals in the fields of technology, consumer services, and retail adding their experiences from all over the world. We are constantly seeing more support and development for the startup scene. For example, Forbes Middle East just recently honored the top 50 most promising startups in the U.A.E, giving entrepreneurssomething to strive while demonstrating the value the Middle East is placing on encouraging and fostering startups and new businesses.
What according to you are some of the biggest misconceptions and surprises of living and working in Dubai?
I think one of the greatest misconceptions about living and working in Dubai, especially as a female entrepreneur, is that it is difficult to function as a woman in business. Most people think that women in the Middle East garner a lower level of respect in a more male dominated society – especially in industries such as business. From my experience, this just isn’t true. As a woman living and working in Dubai, I have encountered certain discriminations, such as the strong preference of some to associate with or to work with a male instead of a female. Unfortunately, these are issues females face from time to time in any business landscape and aren’t specific to the Middle East. People who have never visited the region or hold stereotypes in their mind are constantly questioning me in disbelief about my decision to move to Dubai and start a business. These misconceptions never really existed in my mind and after living here, the misconceptions people have as to how women are treated in the Middle East just seem so out of place.