Single-activity limit for home business acts as 'stumbling block' Jan 11, 2017 0 681 12345 Malek HelaliDohaThe Ministry of Economy and Commerce's (MEC) recent decision to legalise household businesses has elicited much enthusiasm among residents, who have taken to social media to welcome the move.However, reservations have been expressed regarding the necessity to install indicative signs at the residence as well as the limitation of only one business activity per house.The MEC on its official Twitter account recently announced the procedure for getting licence for home-based businesses.The owner of"Alrazza" virtual shop, who started the business of renting plates for weddings, advertises about the business through friends and acquaintances as well as paid advertisements on blogs and popular Instagram accounts. When asked about her plans about opening a commercial shop, she expressed her unwillingness to do so mainly because of the high rents. "I support the ministry's recent regulations and I think it will protect our rights," she said.However, she herself against the requirement of installing indicative signs at residences since"home businesses are still viewed as below dignity within the Qatari society."She said limiting the household to a single activity might lead to disagreements among family members sharing the same house and owning separate home businesses."I have been awaiting such a regulatory procedure, especially to regulate businesses offering food in order to ensure the quality of their products but I hope the conditions and restrictions for obtaining the licence would be reviewed for convenience," she said.Another Qatari entrepreneur, who owns a shop"Regal" specialising in making gifts expressed similar views. She is a university student who started the shop as a hobby and aspires to own a commercial shop in the future."I have not heard of the licensing procedure but from what I read I think that the main difficulty would be installing the indicative sign," she said. Similarly, owner of a cooking business 'Nagwa' say the license would be beneficial if the restrictions were more lenient.Another shop owner suggested that it would have been beneficial if the government was to facilitate the procedures of starting a small business with a traditional commercial licence and provide the entrepreneurs with adequate funding. Thirty-three-year-old owner of previously home-based business who expanded her project by obtaining a commercial licence and renting an office came up with the idea of a mobile application 'Fwalah' that would help provide materials such as boxes, wrapping papers, bags and so on for the owners of home-based businesses. "The procedures for obtaining a commercial license are long and confusing and that is the reason why entrepreneurs prefer home businesses. In neighbouring countries like Kuwait where small businesses are flourishing, the procedures are simplified and the costs of starting a project are much lower than those in Qatar. Moreover, business licences are obtainable electronically," she said.In its announcement, the MEC defined home businesses as"home-based activities that do not require extensive financial resources and that are based primarily on personal skills without the need for inconvenient equipment or dangerous substances in order to generate profit and provide for the licence owner."The law aims to encourage and regulate these investments within a legal and monitored environment in an effort to diversify the local economy.The activities qualified for the yearly renewable licence are said to include: tailoring, events photography, gift making and wrapping, natural and artificial flower organising, computed electronic designing excluding architecture, cooking, book wrapping, making perfumes and cosmetics, making coffee and spices and printing.Numerous general restrictions were set by the MEC for obtaining the licence such as an age limit of 18 years old for the practitioner along with the necessity of receiving the required approval from the authorities concerned depending on the activity to be licenced. In addition, certain procedures must be followed like committing not to sell directly from the residence but rather through delivery and installing an indicative sign stating the name and licence number of the business. Interestingly, the entrepreneurs interviewed were not familiar with Qatar Business Incubation Center (QBIC) founded in 2013. It offers support services, a work space, entrepreneurial financing opportunities and coaching by experts and mentors to entrepreneurs looking to start a business or grow an existing one. Moreover, submitting an application to be considered for incubation can be done electronically through their user-friendly website. Among many others, QBIC is a valuable opportunity for young businesses to grow and expand. 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