Expat guide to setting up a business in Kuwait
Looking at countries around the world
you can freely assume that Kuwait is one of the most welcoming countries for ex-pats. The numbers don’t lie, and according to them, almost two-thirds of residents are foreigners. Its economical position in the global market is attracting even more people each year. The strong economy combined with high income provides plenty of opportunities to set up a business. Also, low corporate income taxes, the absence of personal income tax, and a healthy entrepreneurship environment are just some of the benefits you can expect. However, there are many details you need to be familiar with when setting up a business in Kuwait.
Setting up a business in Kuwait
One of the first things to consider before setting up a business is laws and regulations. Before you move into your brand new office space and develop a business dealing with import and export, consulting or advisory, or a locally established shop, bear in mind that it can take time. Corporate laws in Kuwait are fairly complex but necessary like anywhere else. Explore them, explore your options, pay attention to details, and you will increase your chances of success.
Know the area well
Carefully research the area you are planning to invest in. Not only the surroundings but the market situation as well. If it’ll take too much time, consider hiring the advisor. Develop a solid business plan and try to forecast any future obstacles and ways to overcome them. If you are just arriving, spend some time there and get to know the competition first. For some types of business, you will need a local partner and a solid capital for investing. You might also need additional services from other companies. For example, for any type of import or export, consider companies specialized to help you arrange shipping goods as freight with ease. You can easily get in touch and start the negotiations in advance. Overall, gather as much information and experience upfront.
Business structures to consider
Before setting up a business in Kuwait you will need to decide about its structure. In Kuwait, you will have several legal entity options to choose from:
- Limited liability company – one of the options for setting up a business in Kuwait
- Joint-stock company
- Limited liability partnership
- Branch office
- Commercial agent agreement
Limited liability company
Usually referred to as LLC, or WLL (“With Limited Liability”), is the most common and the easiest to set up in Kuwait. LLCs can protect you from personal liability in most cases, but there are few conditions though. With WLL you will need a local partner and you can own only 49% of the company. Also, you can conduct anything but banking or insurance business.
Often referred to as a KSC (“Kuwait Shareholding Company”), similar to LLC, and also limited to 49% shareholding. It’s either public or closed and at least five shareholders should compose it. Great for startups and the initial attracting of local investors since you can freely trade the shares.
Limited liability partnership
Referred to as LLP, is a legal entity where you can have general partners and limited liability partners that has to be a Kuwaiti national. As insurance, each partner’s liabilities are limited to a certain degree by the amount they put into the business. This type of partnership is common for law firms, accounting firms, and wealth managers.
To set up a branch office as a foreign entity you will need permission from the KDIPA. Otherwise, only nationals of member states of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf can set up this type.
Commercial agent agreement
With this type, you can find a registered agent to represent you within the country. On your behalf, he can then promote and conduct the business, and handle any import and export. Usually, they are paid with a fixed amount or with a percent of profit.
Because of one of the largest oil reserves in the world, Kuwait is one of the richest countries per resident. Being a highly industrial country, it has a limited capacity for agriculture and is mostly dependent on food imports. Thanks to the harsh and hot climate, the coastal parts are orienting to tourism and trading to mitigate dependence on oil. Mostly involved in exporting oil, construction, shipping, logistic, and financial services, Kuwait imports industrial parts, machines, clothing, and construction materials. Overall, it’s a highly advanced country where society is quite welcoming to newcomers.
Several notes about business hours
- The working week starts with Saturday and ends on Thursday (except for Ramadan month).
- 40-48 working hours per week is regular full time.
- There is no minimum wage.
- The number of days off per year is depending on the number of years in service.
Business culture and practices in Kuwait you should know
Kuwait has a specific business culture ex-pats have to know closely. It’s nothing drastic, it’s just a way how professionals are conducting their business regarding their tradition.
- The relationship between business partners and associates is important. People in Kuwait take time to get to know each other even when conducting business. They highly value reputation and credibility.
- Family is deeply incorporated in Kuwait society, and business people highly value and respect the trustworthiness and family spirit.
- Prayer time is part of daily life in Kuwait, so consider it when scheduling meetings.
- The Arabic language is an official and legally binding language used for contracts and documents. Even though English is common in business, all binding and important documents are in Arabic. If as an ex-pat, you didn’t master the language, you should find a local counselor or lawyer.
- Patience is a virtue when one needs to make an important decision.
- Someone can interpret anger as a sign of disrespect, or weakness. So keep your calm.
- Business cards are ordinary and you should offer them with the right hand.
- Dress code is strict, which means men are usually wearing suits. For women, nothing too tight or too revealing.
- Going straight to the business some might consider rude since most of the associates in business like to start meetings with small talk.
Setting up a business in Kuwait is a complex and time-demanding yet rewarding experience. By following these tips and information, it will be much easier to know how and where to acquire information. Don’t hesitate to reach out to legal advisors for more detailed information since it can greatly help you set and develop your business