A staggering 85% of the population of the United Arab Emirates was born outside of the country’s borders, meaning that the demand for expatriate-friendly services and amenities is perhaps higher on the social agenda than anywhere else in the world. Ravi Bhusari, a Canadian-Indian who moved to Dubai in 2006, understood this demand better than most and particularly the demand for a fun and engaging place that expatriates could gather outside of working hours.
The result was Duplays, a nationwide sports club that can now boast of a membership of nearly 40,000 and an annual turnover of five million dirhams, around £1m. Although not made up exclusively of expatriates, like the nation as a whole the club consists predominately of this social group. Members can search by sport (tennis, cricket and basketball are the three most popular) and find fellow expatriates in their local area looking to take part.
"We figured that lots of people like to play sport, so the secret was to meet that need and build a website and a business that helped people discover what was out there,” says founder Bhusari.
Being a club that demands physical exertion from its participants, Duplays stipulates that all members have good international medical insurance cover. Standards of healthcare in the UAE are generally considered to be high, the result of substantial government investment after a strong economic performance over the past twenty years. ‘Accidents and injuries’ accounts for a large number of medical complaints every year in the region, so expatriate insurance is clearly a priority, especially for those undertaking sporting activities such as those organised by Duplays.
There are several prominent providers of medical insurance cover for expatriates with a strong presence in the Middle East such as Aetna International. UK expats living in the UAE can find more information on this topic at http://www.aetnainternational.com/ai/eu/gb.