INDUSTRY OF THE FUTURE

Sharjah 2020 | IT & MEDIA | INTERVIEW

Shams seeks to support start-ups beyond funding and incentives to include further education and creating a community around the media city.

Khalid Al Midfa
BIOGRAPHY
Khalid Al Midfa has been Chairman of Shams since 2017. He was the Director General of Sharjah Media Corporation from 2012-2017 and worked as the Sharjah Radio and TV Manager in 2011. Al Midfa holds a PhD in telecommunication engineering and a master’s degree in telecommunication engineering from the Centre of Telecommunications Research, Bristol University. Al Midfa plays an active and influential role within the local community, having been a member of the Sharjah Emirate Consultative Council.

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

For Shams, 2018 was a great year. In 2017, we saw great potential for business to come through Shams as a free zone authority. 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 SMEs in Sharjah?

We thought about entrepreneurs from different aspects. They are not just looking for funding, but also 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 excellent knowledge about how it is done within other free zones and inside the Emirate itself. We thought that we could support start-ups and entrepreneurs to make it easy to start 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, though we are partnering with other initiatives within the Emirate of Sharjah, such as Sheraa. We are looking at what is missing for entrepreneurs and start-ups and trying to fill those gaps. It thus took longer than just one year, 2018, to get into that business. It needs to be mastered really well. One-third of our building will be dedicated to start-ups and entrepreneurs. We will be trying to start a program specifically for that sector.

What kind of licenses do you offer in Shams?

We have many different licenses but are concentrating on media and creativity. We have excellent 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 on our website, shams.ae.

What kind of machine learning and AI implementations do you see 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 great deal of our interaction with the clients already licensed by Shams happens online.

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 build 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. 2019 will be an active year for us.