What have been some of the company's major accomplishments?
Mohamed Al Musharrkh One of our major accomplishments has been participating in prestigious international events and drawing the world's attention towards the Invest in Sharjah brand. We are active in both local and international circles, where we host events involving major business councils and undertake diplomatic missions and roundtables to promote new projects coming into Sharjah. Such activities are not only aimed at promoting Invest in Sharjah; they try to put the entire Emirate under the global business spotlight and engage our stakeholders everywhere. Sharjah today has five free zones, including Hamriyah Free Zone, Sharjah International Airport Free Zone, the newly established Research, Technology and Innovation Park, the Media Free Zone (Shams), and the Sharjah Publishing City (SPC). Moreover, we promote the environment and energy sectors, as well as healthcare—the sectors Sharjah has identified for economic diversification—through our participation in exhibitions and conferences. We have also held what we call "Sharjah Day" in London and Milan, which is an international platform for local business owners to promote Sharjah's investment sectors and free zones to potential foreign investors. Along with our counterparts in the government, we represent Sharjah in most events that the UAE Ministry of Economy participates in internationally.
Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal A main facet of Shurooq's operations is to enhance Sharjah as a key destination for global investment. In this respect, it has recently ramped up its scope of activities designed to attract capital to the Emirate. Over the past year, Shurooq has hosted business roundtables with business delegations from around the world and has traveled to destinations on six continents to expound on Sharjah's host of business advantages and to forge bilateral trade relationships with global economies. Shurooq also develops and manages a number of Sharjah's key lifestyle and leisure destinations and has seen a number of its heritage projects become fully established in the last year. Launched in January 2016, the authority's Mleiha Archaeological Centre is defining itself as a preeminent landmark for tourists and visitors, as well as for event organizers, who have used the site for business and entertainment activities. Our activities throughout 2016 focused on increasing investment in the four key sectors of tourism and leisure, healthcare, transport and logistics, and real estate and the environment.
How do you differentiate strategies to attract investment from different markets?
MAM We customize our market strategies to fit the requirements of the country we aim to target. In some cases, our strategy is to promote the emirate itself—about Sharjah, what it has to offer, and more—and in other countries where Sharjah is well established we pitch specific projects and investment opportunities. Continuing the India-China example, while the former knows where and who Sharjah is, the understanding of the opportunities is still in its nascent stages in many parts of China. Our strategies largely depend on what market we are in. We have different incentives, and we might promote the free zones in some countries, and some specific projects in others. In essence, our marketing strategies are born out of careful research and study of a country's competitive advantage and investment opportunities to be able to effectively facilitate their entry into our markets as quickly and cost-efficiently as possible.
How does Shurooq actively support and encourage SME growth in Sharjah?
MBJAS Sharjah is considered one of the top SME-friendly destinations in the MENA region and is currently home to more than 55,000 SMEs, with the growth of this sector influenced by easy and cost-effective market access, growing confidence, sustainable profitability, and the Emirate's SME-friendly services and facilities. Sharjah hosts a number of organizations dedicated to promoting and facilitating entrepreneurship across sectors, including Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (Sheraa), Sharjah Business Women Council, NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council, and Ruwaad Establishment, which work to provide new startups with everything they need to become established and profitable ventures. Future opportunities that Shurooq seeks to capitalize on to promote new SME opportunities are the upcoming free zones Sharjah Healthcare City, Sharjah Publishing Free Zone, and Sharjah Media City. We have strong hopes for this sector. It is worth noting that the Sharjah Economic Development Department issued 35% more new trade licenses during the first two months of 2016 than over the same period in 2015, indicating its underlying importance for Sharjah's investment landscape.