Photo: Romain Gerardin-Fresse, founder of GFK Strategies, is bringing a major part of his group’s activities to the UAE
Romain Gerardin-Fresse, a renowned French lawyer and founder of the alliance “GFK Strategies”, is bringing a major part of his group’s activities back to the United Arab Emirates in a move driven by the country’s burgeoning entrepreneurial landscape.
Leading a distinguished strategic consortium that advises major groups, wealthy individuals, public and political figures, and several governments, Romain Gerardin-Fresse has established GFK, particularly GFK Middle East, as a leading player in the vertical and horizontal concentrations of consultancy.
Discussing his decision to relocate a significant part of his services to Dubai, Romain Gerardin-Fresse says, “The economic policy pursued by the UAE is certainly conducive to entrepreneurship. The appliance of liberal concepts, the visionary approach implemented, and the simplicity of the procedures offered to investors make Dubai an oasis for tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. The UAE also remains one of the region’s most politically stable and secure countries, making it considerably more attractive economically.”
He continued, “Our customers in Europe are often confronted with red tape, the omnipresence of the administration, the notion of controls and the lack of flexibility, which have discouraged many start-ups or individuals with an appetite for creative entrepreneurship. These dynamic young people have bright ideas but come up against the harshness of an ill-adapted system.
This technocratic aspect does not exist here in the UAE. On the contrary, everything is designed so entrepreneurs can concentrate on their primary mission: developing, managing and growing their business. I have always been fascinated by the intellectual quality of Emirati decision-makers and by their ability to think ahead.”
Dubai was, therefore, a logical choice for the strategist who set up his first branch here in 2019. “We decided to use the many advantages offered by the UAE system to relocate a large part of our consultancy business, which has historically been based in France and the UK. Demand from a section of our customer base interested in penetrating the local market, and more broadly from GCCs, was also growing. At the same time, it’s an opportunity for us to introduce this land of opportunity to people with only a superficial view of the Emirate.” Romain Gerardin-Fresse explains.
Establishing in Dubai has proved a winning bet for the firm, which has already seen its sales increase by almost 28% over 2023. “We’ve witnessed remarkable advancement in the Emirates. In 2022, when many European countries were in recession, the GDP grew by 3.1%, having already grown by 2.5% in 2021. Dubai, in particular, has made considerable efforts to diversify its economy away from oil, with increased attractiveness in key sectors such as tourism, aviation, technology, real estate and financial services,” continues the lawyer.
“The inflow of FDI into the UAE has been on an upward trajectory, underlining its role as a hub for companies and investors from the Middle East.
In 2019, the UAE attracted more than $13.8 billion in FDI, a 32.8% increase from the previous year. Dubai is experiencing a steady rise in global creative FDI capital attraction, reaching AED 20.87 billion ($5.68 billion) in 2023. According to the Financial Times Markets Data, Dubai has risen from eighth in the first half of 2022 to sixth in the world in the first half of 2023. The government is pursuing its objective of making the country a leading global centre for innovation and technology, creating zones such as Dubai Internet City and initiatives such as the artificial intelligence strategy.”
Romain Gerardin-Fresse also cites the future ambitions of the Emirate as a motivation for the move. “The Vice President, Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has defined the key objective of the Dubai Economic Agenda (D33). The aim is to double the size of Dubai’s economy over the next decade and consolidate its position as one of the world’s top three cities. Dubai’s D33 economic agenda includes 100 transformation projects.”
Acknowledging that the GFK business model was ambitious, Romain Gerardin-Fresse says that it has now become something that many managers expect: a global response at every project stage and support across all the geographical sectors involved. “Since 2017, the response has continued to improve and spread, to reinforce the notion of the ‘turnkey’ solution that has made the group’s reputation,” recalls the founder.
Now firmly established on the UAE scene, Romain Gerardin-Fresse was recently named ‘Middle East Outstanding Leader of the Year’ at the Burj CEO Awards by the CEO Clubs Network in Dubai and has just been awarded the title of ‘Mentor of the Year’ at the Titan Business Awards. To conclude a landmark year, Romain Gerardin-Fresse has also been nominated in the ‘Highly Successful CEO’ category by the Golden Tree Awards for the ceremony in Dubai on 8 December.