EVERY SHAPE AND SIZE

UAE 2018 | UMM AL QUWAIN | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Sheikh Khalid bin Rashid Al Mua'lla, Chairman of UAQ FTZ, on enacting the most investor-friendly set up processes, providing the right world-class amenities for long-term growth, and serving as a great impetus for industrial diversification.

 Sheikh Khalid bin Rashid Al Mua’lla
BIOGRAPHY
Sheikh Khalid bin Rashid Al Mua’lla is the Chairman of the Ports Customs and Free Zone Corporation of Umm Al Quwain and Chairman of the Amiri Diwan in Umm Al Quwain. He holds a degree in political science and economics.

The free zone has been targeting industrial businesses as it attempts to forge its place in the UAE market, which is already home to over 40 special economic zones. What has attracted businesses to Umm Al Quwain?

Our success stems from our promise of easy-access, one-on-one interactions with investors, whom we see as our partners and help set up their business every step of the way. Since our inception, our modus operandi has been to facilitate quick company setup through minimal documentation and procedures for our partners, without compromising on compliance. Once word spread about our investor-friendly system, the numbers picked up, and we developed our services ever further. Micro-businesses and freelancers have also come to us in good numbers because of Umm Al Quwain's reasonable cost of living and solid business opportunities.

How is the free trade zone developing its physical and digital infrastructure?

Warehouses of various sizes are readily available to clients in the existing free zone area. In our 2sqkm area, we want to open our doors to clean industries such as renewable energy, IT, call centers, back offices, R&D centers, and so forth. On the amenities front, our clients will be backed by residential complexes, labor accommodation, a hospital, school, shopping centers, an exhibition and convention center, and a hotel. These facilities can satisfy businesses' everyday requirements and also mitigate travel time and expenditure. The IT policies in the free zone have been implemented with a particular focus on data security. In addition to having installed security devices and peripherals according to UAE standards, we have also put in place a centralized ERP/CRM system, which streamlines activities like sales entry and lead generation.

In 2015, the free zone welcomed 850 new companies. From which sectors did the majority of this demand come?

In keeping with the UAE decreasing its reliance on the oil and gas sector, we have welcomed manufacturing industries, IT companies, and specialized consultancies. FMCGs, foodstuff-related companies, gems, precious metals, jewelry, and automotive spare parts sellers also constitute a large portion of the investment portfolio chart. In the wake of the UAE's FDI boom in 2012, investors from the Asian subcontinent, the UK, France, and many other countries established business hubs in the UAQ FTZ.

A micro-business license is available for those without large start-up capital or a physical presence in the UAE. How will this develop the Emirate's economy?

Micro-businesses are essentially start-ups driven by people who are ambitious, but usually new to the UAE. It provides employment opportunities to individuals who may not profile well or want to work for large corporations. Through servicing other medium and large businesses in terms of IT or accounting, for example, these businesses can contribute to the local economy. We have observed that such businesses are customer-centric and tend to customize their products and services better than large companies. Micro-businesses are the stepping-stones for SMEs, and in a small Emirate like UAQ, can find their footing quickly and adapt effectively to economic climate changes, thereby adding strength to UAQ's current sustainable growth.

How do you assess the free zone as an enabler for the rest of the Emirate's economy?

We want to keep stride with the UAE's vision of sustainable economic development. By stimulating more non-oil exporting businesses, pulling in more FDI, and encouraging more ancillary industries, the UAQ FTZ is making a positive impact on the country's economy. The free zone has also been a great impetus for industrial diversification, as many innovative verticals like 3D printing and big data analysis have been established here. We wish to continue on this path. With the advent of the Dubai Expo 2020 and other ambitious events in the region, we look forward to opening our doors to many more businesses—large, small, and micro.