JOURNEY TO THE TOP

Dubai 2020 | TRADE | INTERVIEW

DMCC started as an underdog in 2002 but it has put in work for years on end to become one of the world's leading free zones and rough diamond centers.

Ahmed Bin Sulayem
BIOGRAPHY

Ahmed Bin Sulayem is the Executive Chairman and CEO of DMCC. Sulayem has driven DMCC's growth from a start-up of 28 member companies in 2003 to the world's leading free zone in 2019 with over 17,000 member companies from 170 countries. DMCC has introduced a number of value-added products and services under Sulayem's leadership. In 2019, DMCC was named the Global Free Zone of the Year by The Financial Times fDi Magazine for a record fifth consecutive year. He is also overseeing the development of DMCC's latest real estate project, the much-anticipated Uptown Dubai district. He currently serves as the chairman of the DDE and the DGCX.

What does your new auction facility mean for the growth of diamonds and gemstones as a commodity in Dubai?
This coincides with The Financial Times fDi Magazine naming DMCC as the Global Free Zone of the Year for the fifth consecutive year. We never expect these awards, but we do work to make sure that we set expectations and standards for such a title extremely high. The World Federation of Diamond Bourses also has high standards to protect their image and the diamond industry. The business case and reputation of a location are major considerations for approving a diamond exchange in any given city. No one expected us to attract merchants and become one of the top rough diamond centers in the world. In many ways, this underdog perception worked to our advantage. All the major associations were friendly because they did not expect us to be so influential. Our other main advantages are access to the Gulf and the international composition of Dubai. We became a member of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses in 2003, and now we have the largest trading floor in the world. We receive 80-90% of Angolan rough diamonds. With our upgraded and redesigned auction facility and investment in technology, Dubai could become the largest diamond center in the world in three to five years.

How do you maintain trust and consistency in the market to become the number-one diamond center in the world?
What we have done took 19 years of hard work. Businesses have made decisions to work with us based on years of trust. At the end of 2017, I pushed against the VAT. I am not against taxing, but I am against taxing some things. Because of the tax, we lost some business in 2018. Many people, however, do not take these issues personally. I am working with banks and ministers to create the necessary environment for DMCC and the diamond exchange to thrive. Dubai is a market to be reckoned with because it is agile; if there is an issue, it is resolved quickly and in an innovative manner. In a way, it is a reminder to the world of Dubai's responsiveness, giving people more reasons to come to the Emirate. Even after 17 years, we are bringing in new businesses. Our plan is to attract major players operating in the diamond industry across Africa.

What are DMCC's expansion plans?
Our Uptown Dubai District will increase the appeal of Dubai. At the heart of this new district is the Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT), particularly the Uptown Tower, an exciting, tall addition to Dubai's skyline. Important features of this world-class business hub include a LEED Gold Certification and vibrant community atmosphere with multi-use event areas and lifestyle amenities. We are looking at unique ways of developing it and bringing in strategic partners. The majority of JLT is ready, except for the area dedicated to this expansion. And we have an exceptional opportunity to develop this space with the Expo coming up. People from around the world will bring companies and services to the Expo to impress the world, so this will be the best opportunity for us to introduce our services. We want to enhance collaborations between ourselves and other businesses, much like we do during our travels. We are known for gold and diamonds and increasingly for tea and coffee, and we are the number-one exchange in terms of the number of oil and gas companies. There are over 2,000 companies here, and more are joining on a regular basis. The way we do business is changing fast because of disruptions and technologies, and I want to make sure DMCC is moving faster to integrate these changes and evolve.