MasterCard: Ro’Ya Empowering UAE’s Women Entrepreneurs

SMEs are a major business focus for MasterCard in the UAE. The company has developed a dedicated portfolio of payment cards that bring more convenience to SMEs operations. Since SMEs have limited access to resources, features like cost control, payroll management, overdrafts and spend alerts that MasterCard’s SME cards offer have proven to be very beneficial for entrepreneurs.

SMEs are gradually growing in the UAE and the local government is actively encouraging entrepreneurs to set up new enterprises. MasterCard’s intention was to:

  • Be seen as the global corporation that is supporting the growth of SMEs in the UAE, which is also a key government priority.
  • Enhance knowledge amongst entrepreneurs about MasterCard’s SME solutions.


A Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report indicated that although the UAE ranks high in entrepreneurial motivation, it ranked amongst the lowest in intention rates to start a new business, as over half of the adults had a fear that their venture would fail.

Another report by Carnegie Endowment Centre suggested that only 2.5% of the SMEs across the Middle East were owned by women.

We learnt that the main reason that stopped entrepreneurs from implementing their ideas wasn’t the lack of funds as much as it was the lack of Knowledge. We also realized that while women comprised 40% of UAE’s workforce, women entrepreneurs were a rare find.


We launched Ro’Ya (means vision in Arabic), a first of its kind initiative in the UAE, through which women entrepreneurs would not just be coached and mentored on the various aspects of successfully managing a small enterprise, but they would also stand a chance to win the startup cost of their business.


Local Partner: We secured a partnership for MasterCard with Dubai Business Women Council, a Government entity that encourages women to play an active role in the private sector.


Submission: We created an electronic submission form and asked women entrepreneurs to share details of their business ideas through this template that was featured on a dedicated Ro’Ya microsite.

Mentoring and Coaching: After the submission timeline lapsed, we organized nine training sessions on a host of topics that help entrepreneurs manage their business. These included:

Business plan fundamentals  – Creating a unique value proposition – Creating an operating model – Doing business in the UAE – Human resources –Marketing – Securing finances – Future proofing your business – Pitching a new idea

Knowledge Sharing and engagement: Imparting training was our opportunity to directly engage with entrepreneurs, which was a key priority for MasterCard. We thus identified subject matter experts from within MasterCard to conduct these sessions and share their knowledge.

Judging: In order to engage more members of the society with Ro’Ya and create a wider appeal, we created a judging panel that featured experts from diverse backgrounds. These included:

  • Founder of INNOVEST ME, a prominent business startup firm
  • Partner at Bain & Company, a global management consulting firm
  • CEO of Emirates Foundation, a philanthropic organization set up by Abu Dhabi Government to facilitate public-private funded initiatives for youth welfare.

Awards: An awards event was organized on 20 October 2014, where the three winners of the Ro’Ya initiative were announced. Heads of financial institutions, Government leaders and Media attended the event.



  • With zero marketing and advertisement outreach, we managed to raise a lot of awareness about the launch of Ro’Ya through a series of media engagement initiatives. During the submission period of one month, Ro’Ya received nearly 200 entries from women entrepreneurs in the UAE.
  • More than 300 women from diverse nationalities attended the training sessions that were organized. We also welcomed women who could not submit an entry but were still keen on enhancing their knowledge.
  • More than 350 print and broadcast media impressions (in UAE alone) that potentially reached nearly 2.5 million people, were generated within the first six months of the campaign.
  • Since the launch of Ro’Ya, the financial institutions in UAE that issue MasterCard payment solutions have reported a substantial increase in the number of enquiries for SME payment solutions.
  • MasterCard has received several queries from across the Middle East about the 2015 edition of Ro’Ya and if this initiative will now be launched across the region.

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