The SME sector has time and again proved its crucial role in the advancement of the economy, accounting for more than 60 percent of the emirate’s GDP.

In 2013, Dubai SME, an agency of the Department of Economic Development (DED), released the list of the top 100 SMEs that have made their mark through innovation, growth, financial prowess, employee development and several other factors.

Below we shine the spotlight on the top 10 SMEs on the list.

1. JF Street Food (formerly Just Falafel)

Co-founded by managing director Mohamad Bitar in 2007, Just Falafel brought a new twist to the Arabic delicacy as a ‘healthy’ fast food proposition. Over the years, the brand demonstrated rapid expansion through franchise agreements across the globe. It now operates around 38 outlets in eight countries. In 2013, the restaurant chain topped the Dubai SME 100 ranking and, at the same night, clinched the Gulf Capital SME Business of the Year award organized by MEED Events. The chain is now re-branding to JF Street Food with a revamped menu and fresh outlook.

2. Wavetec

Headquartered in Dubai Silicon Oasis, this customer experience management and information display solutions provider has seen notable progression since it’s inception two decades ago. The company operates in 60 plus countries with about eight regional offices and its LED display solutions are installed in more than 20 financial markets across the globe. It’s expansion track record also garnered recognition in the Dubai SME ranking, where it secured second position in the International Orientation sub-category. The company recently launched an innovation lab in Santiago, Chile to develop solutions to suit clients’ needs.

3. Index Holding

Index Holding has a diverse portfolio of trading, investments, conference and exhibition management and health management. The chairman is Dr. Abdul Salam Al Madani and the organization has been recognized among the top 10 SMEs in the Corporate Governance sub-category. It also ranks among top five SMEs driving financial growth in the AED 50 million and AED 100m range. The company has expanded its reach through various initiatives and alliances with regional and international players.

4. Dubai Desert Extreme (DDE)

Founded in 2001 by brothers Shahriar and Shahin Khojasteh, DDE has transitioned from a small skate shop to a well-known distributor of action sports equipment, apparel and footwear in the Middle East. Befitting the spirit of action sports, the company keeps the excitement alive by including in-store ramps for skateboarding activities as well as organizing and sponsoring facilities and events, such as skate parks and marathons. The company has set sights on expansion through franchising concepts. It ranks second in the Financial Growth sub-category in the AED 20m-AED 50m range.

5. Elcome International

A supplier of marine equipment, technology and solutions, Elcome International was founded in 1969 by ex-Royal Navy radio officer Bill Hardman, even before the formation of the UAE in 1971. From humble beginnings of providing repair services, the company has widened its scope to providing maritime solutions to a customer base of  2,100 plus across 43 countries. Its global reach was also credited in the Dubai SME list where it ranked third in the International Orientation sub-category. Elcome has solidified its position in the overall ranking by advancing from 35th position in 2011 to fifth in 2013.

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6. Dimara International

Spearheaded by founder Mohamed Sharif Al Zarooni, Dimara International has been catering to the hospitality industry since 2006, servicing more than 500 hotels across the MENA region. With leading hotel chains, hospitals and airlines as clients, the company deals in soft furnishings and procurement solutions, in-room accessories, health concepts and in-flight amenities. Dimara has set up its own linen manufacturing facility to adapt to changing market requirements.

7. Al Jaber Optical Centre

Part of Al Jaber Group, this optical and eye-wear company has around 35 shops across the UAE. The family business not only provides vision-care products, such as glasses, but also eye-testing services. In 2013, the company won the Best Service Performance Brand and Best Service Performing Outlet titles in the optical category at the annual Business Excellence Awards hosted by the DED. In line with e-commerce trends and developments, the company also features an online store for optical products ranging from fashionable eye-wear to lenses.

8. Merlin Digital

Launched in 1998, Merlin Digital is a manufacturer and retailer of gadgets and consumer electronics. The company features its solutions across 200 outlets in countries such as the UAE, Singapore and Ukraine. Aside from its own dedicated stores, it sells its products through major electronic retailers, such as Sharaf DG and Emax. The company ranked first in the Innovation subcategory in the Dubai SME list.

9. Biz-group

The brainchild of CEO Hazel Jackson, Biz-group is a business consulting firm that specializes in corporate training, team-building and business strategy. Over the years, it has gained recognition among corporations for its employee development programs and was even declared the best SME to work for in the UAE by the Great Place To Work Institute (GPTW), based on confidential employee feedback and an internal culture audit of SMEs that have opted for GPTW’s workplace assessment program. Biz-group also topped the Human Capital Development sub-index in the Dubai SME ranking, demonstrating the importance of valuing human resources.

10. Hira Industries

Another family business that emerged in the UAE is Hira Industries, which specializes in manufacturing products for the building and construction industry. Founded by Ramesh Hirandani in 1980s as Hira Traders, the business eventually expanded its activities to cater to industrial segments across the MENA region as well as India, and is being driven forward by his sons Manish and Girish. It ranks fourth in the Innovation sub-category in the Dubai SME ranking and seventh in terms of international orientation.