TWO STEPS AHEAD

Ras Al Khaimah 2018 | ECONOMY & FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ramy Jallad, Group CEO of the Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ), on the importance of eliminating red tape, offering investors the right package, and anticipating the right trends.

 Ramy Jallad
BIOGRAPHY
As CEO of RAKEZ, Ramy Jallad’s role is to develop and drive strategic growth to create a thriving commercial and industrial business hub that attracts and welcomes investors from all around the world. With over 25 years of professional experience, he has developed and led various commercial and industrial free zones, business parks, and mixed-use real estate developments. Previously, Jallad held various key leadership positions in both government and private enterprises, including: Vice President of Free Zone & Properties for the Abu Dhabi Airports Company, Executive Director of Business Development at TECOM, and General Manager of Caltex Oil Company. Fluent in English and Arabic, he holds a BS in mechanical engineering.

What measures are being set up through RAKEZ to cut red tape for international investors?

We pride ourselves on customer focus and service, transparency, and the lack of red tape. Everything we do is customized for each customer. RAKEZ was established to be a regulator and improve the services of the previous entities we had, which were the RAK Free Trade Zone (RAK FTZ) and RAK Investment Authority (RAKIA). When we merged them under RAKEZ, one of our main objectives was to re-engineer all our processes to be customer-centric, remove bottlenecks and unnecessary transactional activities, and empower our frontline staff who deal with our clients so they can do away with red tape and make decisions on the spot. We also act as one team. It is not only RAKEZ that is eliminating red tape; the other government entities that are our stakeholders and partners follow the same philosophy.

How challenging is it to develop the Ras Al Khaimah brand in comparison to other Emirates?

Investing in a brand is a long-term strategy, and we have created a strong brand in a short period of time. Ras Al Khaimah has historically been a strong brand for industry and SMEs; however, now it is also known for its value proposition: customization and customer-centricity. At the end of the day, it is how we deliver that brand. The Emirates all complement each other, and we are all focused on the type of industries we can attract, our enablers, and the services we can provide. Some choose to go to Abu Dhabi or Dubai for the amenities and livability of those Emirates. Others choose to go for heavy industry that requires more power demands, which are available in different areas. We know and attract investors and customers that fit within our capability and complement each other. It is not competition but offering the right package for the right investor. Today, investors look at the total package; they not only look at RAKEZ' fees, but also the standard of living.

What value proposition does RAKEZ offer?

We are moving toward clean energy and focus on industries that have a higher contribution in terms of manpower expenditure. The industry itself is shifting toward automation and robotics, and we offer a value proposition and services to these clusters. One of our main value propositions is the cost-effectiveness of running a business in Ras Al Khaimah, not to mention our high standard of living and seaports, airports, and highway network that are second to none.

How do you balance industrial development while increasing economic diversification?

Ras Al Khaimah has been strong in the tourism industry and historically strong in logistics due to our ports. We are actually home to the largest bulk port in the Middle East. In addition, we have a great deal of industry that not many people know about. Many of the top manufacturers that supply construction materials are located here. We have over 600 manufacturers from small, medium, and large industries. As part of Vision 2030, we want to enhance the GDP contribution of manufacturing and other industrial sectors. It is our strength, and we should continue to have that strength because of the value proposition and services we give.

What role can Ras Al Khaimah play to move the GCC away from oil-based economies?

The great thing is that we were never truly reliant on the oil or carbon industry in the first place. We have always had to rely on being innovative and attracting a healthy balance between SMEs and industrialists. We are ready to adapt to the industry that we attract, as they are changing as well. We have to look at targeting different types of evolving industries. Everyone today is talking about Bitcoin and blockchain, for example; therefore, we have to understand the trends in the market and be ready for them two or three years in advance.