How would you assess 2018 in terms of publishing prosperity and cultural output?
In 1982, His Highness envisioned having an event to support publishers and started the Sharjah Book Fair mainly for locals and Arab publishers. In the first year, there were around 100 publishers; it was extremely small with a limited number of visitors. His Highness went out and purchased all the books from the publishers and donated them to public libraries and others. The event eventually went from being a local exhibition for books to being the third-largest international book fair. We are currently working on Phase I of SPCFZ with 600 offices over a total area of 100,000sqm and 40,000sqm of buildings. We provide a center for publishers to do business locally and internationally.
What are the current achievements of SPCFZ?
We did the operation of the city itself over the past 14 months and have been putting in place the policies, alliances, and partnerships with companies and organizations that interact with customers. Our mission is to support the businesses to grow and in Sharjah and internationally. As retaining them is ultimately should happen after fulfilling the main mission of the city. One of our key successes in the past year was receiving companies from 17 countries from around the world. For these companies, we are not only a location to open an office in but also a hub from where they will branch out. From Sharjah, it is easier for them to reach markets around the world due to our central location. One of the options we provide is for a trade license, and we have several options available.
What is your strategy to utilize and attract FDI?
This is something we have been doing for a long time not only for SPCFZ but also for Sharjah Book Authority and the Sharjah International Book Fair. When we travel and interact with international companies, we acquire their knowledge and experience in the publishing industry, because some companies have been in the industry for 100 years. We have been able to attract many companies that did not plan to come to this region, and they are amazed with what we are able to provide. I tell them they will come as a businessman but definitely will leave as a friend, and this has spread throughout the publishing market. We want to get several companies to serve the community here, as we plan to have a printing company based here to make it easier for publishers, rather than them having to print in China or India. We want to compete in this market and ship publications in 15 days or less rather than 30 days from India and the same with other countries.
What are your goals and priorities for the coming year?
The Sharjah World Book Capital celebrations started in April, and there is a committee to manage the activities for the following year. We are 100% a part of that and support it through the publishers in terms of excellent rates and services. We have five- and 10-year plans where we want to fill the place here with publishers and companies and develop them in a way that we give them all the opportunities in other markets such as Africa, India, Europe, and the Arab world. We are in talks with other countries to understand how to get businesses for our clients. We do not do anything other than serving the vision of Sharjah being a hub of culture and publishers. Since starting here a year ago, one of our clients has published over 300 books, with most of these in Arabic, as Arabic-language publications are growing in popularity. We want to provide a supportive environment and ecosystem for publishers to succeed, and we benefit from all that surrounds us in the area. We hope people understand the vision of the place. We are a place for business and the community.