DIGITAL FRONTIER

Sharjah 2019 | ICT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Dr. Khalid Omar Al Midfa, Chairman of Sharjah Media City (SHAMS), on developments in the past year, creativity, and establishing partnerships.

How would you assess 2018 in terms of your growth and the development of Sharjah?

For SHAMS, 2018 was a good year. In 2017, when we started we saw that there is good potential for business to come through SHAMS as a free zone authority. Although it was obvious from the market around us that industries are a little bit affected by the slowdown of the economy. However, for SHAMS we did not feel or see that, maybe because we are new and do not have a long history to compare against. We continued to work on preparing the infrastructure and buildings, in response to all the interest in SHAMS. We are working on arranging and serving that interest even further, but what we have achieved in 2018 is satisfying. We have exceeded expectations.

Why does SHAMS actively support entrepreneurs and SME's here in Sharjah?

We thought about entrepreneurs from different aspects. They aren't just looking for funding. They are looking for easy setup and a community to work within. They want to increase their knowledge through specific courses, with good instructors. We thought about establishing the community, trying to have them participate in events that we worked on through the team, training courses, start-up meetings, and moving some of their products to show them the best way to market those. We are also working on preparing financial support. We are not only concentrating on their soft skills through courses, we are also trying to give them the chance to meet their peers and interact with them by creating a community around SHAMS. We are also looking at establishing a program to support these companies and start-ups to continue and further their successes.

How would you describe the strength of regulations and how they help start-ups to establish something new and exciting in Sharjah?

We have good knowledge about how it is done within other free zones and inside the Emirate itself. We thought that we could be supporting the start-ups and entrepreneurs to make it easy to start up their companies and get them licensed, have them meet their clients and anticipate their markets. We have not reached the stage where we can certainly say this is the way forward, but we are partnering with other initiatives within the Emirate of Sharjah, such as Sheraa. We are trying to see what is missing for the entrepreneurs and start-ups, and then fill those gaps. Therefore, it took longer than just one year, 2018, to get into that business. It needs to be mastered really well. One third of our building is going to be dedicated to the start-ups and entrepreneurs. We will be trying to have a program specifically for that sector.

What kind of licenses do you offer in SHAMS?

We have lots of different licenses but are concentrating on media and creativity. We have a good response from the market for companies and individuals who want to embark on working in media or creative businesses. Anything related to that sector we license. We have a list of activities where we can license companies. It is on our website, shams.ae.

What kind of machine learning and AI implementations do you see here in Sharjah?

At SHAMS, we want to be at the forefront of digitalization. Many of our projects made use of technology and advancements in this field. A lot of our interaction with the clients already licensed by SHAMS happens online.

Do you have any international partnerships?

We believe in partnerships. We welcome that and a lot of our business travel is done to establish those contacts and communication channels. We have travelled to many parts of the world during 2018. We will keep doing that in 2019, too.

What are your main goals and objectives for 2019?

Starting work from the new headquarters will allow us to show the business community and media and creativity sector that there is a new place for them. This first building is never going to be the only one, because we are already planning for other buildings and the plan is to even further showcase SHAMS as a master development project for interested companies, specifically for the media sector to establish their presence in the Emirate. We will be building this plan on partnerships and getting the right partners in place at different levels. There are companies more into infrastructure development and construction and companies offering technology, serving a smart development or smart city. I think 2019 will be an active year for us.