Q: What trends do you see impacting demand right now from DMCC Free Zone's potential investors?
A: There are a number of factors: five key strategic decisions that business leaders tend to look at when they are expanding. One is market opportunities and... within an eight-hour flight of Dubai we have got 65% of the world’s GDP – almost 5 billion people. The second factor is what kind of infrastructure support can an investor get once they reach this new market? Roads, rail, shipping, hospital facilities, schools, education, etc – again, I think Dubai presents a very positive platform for business.
Then you look at security, safety and the rule of law, and once again, investors are looking for this kind of business platform that gives them some level of certainty [and] less risk. DMCC, in particular, has shown itself over many years to present a very stable regulatory framework.
And you can’t ignore the personal and the lifestyle aspects. When companies such as Colgate Palmolive, for example, look at moving their headquarters from Paris to Dubai, they are not just looking at the business opportunities. They are looking at what this means for their employees and their families, and Dubai presents itself very nicely in that respect.
But the final point, of course, is always ‘what is the next growth opportunity?’ and DMCC is just down the road from Expo 2020 and many other growth opportunities – acquisition growth opportunities and merger growth opportunities – that we see companies leveraging every day, so I think the story is very positive. As of today we are registering seven new companies every week day. We continue to be the fastest growing free zone in the world.
Q: Rapid growth is one of the reasons that DMCC has been named fDi's Global Free Zone of the Year for the past two years. What is your expectation for this year in terms of expansion?
A: Our growth forecasts [for 2017] are very bullish; we anticipate adding at least 2000 new businesses to the free zone. And when you look at where we stand today, with 13,000 new businesses in the free zone, every new company or every second new company has come as a result of a referral from the existing business community.
At the same time, we are growing in terms of our infrastructure and property, so we have started working on 'what does Smart City mean to DMCC?'. And, of course, we have our Burj 2020 district, which is going to add some 40% capacity to the existing 200-hectare development, [which has] 67 towers, and a community of 90,000 people today. We are really just this year starting to break ground, after having put significant work into the schematic and detailed plans for Burj 2020.
Then the other piece is around ‘what do we do for the business community?’ And the answer to that is ‘a lot of things’. Our DMCC dispute resolution centre has been established for a number of years now. It is very successful and keeps expanding. There is a huge opportunity for us to help those businesses in a time where they might be at risk, to actually get a better solution for their business.
Electronic signatures are a great example of where we are completely disrupting the free-zone space. We are the first free zone in the world to introduce electronic signatures: it’s a way of getting services to investors much faster.
It’s also in recognition of the fact that investors are literally all over the world and they don’t have the time to spend on company administration, so we are able to provide those kinds of solutions to them that make life easy so they can get on with doing their business.