The World’s #1 Free Zone

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DMCC director Krysta Fox recounts Dubai’s DMCC ongoing success story.

What do you think sets Dubai’s Free Zone apart from the rest and why do you think it has experienced such impressive expansion since its inception in 2002?

What makes DMCC unique is our ability to continuously evolve and integrate the products and services we offer our members. The UAE sits at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia. DMCC offers its members a seamless digital and physical marketplace that provides direct access to these continents, along with a vast network of over 11,700 members from shipping to trade, recruitment, to IT and advertising industries, through to restaurants, retail stores, gyms, nurseries, luxury brands, universities and more.

Your new One JLT building opened in September of 2015, what has been the response from clients?

One JLT is ideal for companies seeking to house their entire operations in efficient, single-owner commercial space with large floor plates.
So far feedback has been encouraging ranging from the aesthetics of the building to the location – and it is also great to have MODUL University Vienna on board which also reflects the all-encompassing environment our Free Zone has become – a place where people live, work and learn.

What is the DMCC’s next step in terms of meeting client needs and preparing for future growth?
Earlier this year, for instance, we conducted a survey asking our members to share their feedback. We were elated to receive an 85 per cent satisfaction rate.

This kind of interaction has contributed significantly to our collective success. In brief the better we know our customers the better Physical, Financial and Digital infrastructure we can offer to enhance efficiencies, performance and growth. Every month we welcome new Free Zone members to Dubai and DMCC through our networking lunch to ensure we connect with the companies setting up here and that they connect with each other. Today we license over 11,700 companies from startups to conglomerates in comparison to approx. 3,000 in 2011 and approx. 28 in 2003 – a key focus is to underpin this rate of growth by continuing to enable our businesses to succeed by providing an environment that fosters innovation and creates opportunities to connect and share.

Which countries are participating in the DMCC and which countries would you rank in the top five in terms of their concentration in the Free Zone?

At DMCC Free Zone our member companies come from over 170 different countries and the top 5 countries represented are India, UK, Egypt, US and Lebanon.

Of the more than 11,000 companies registered and operating in the Free Zone, what percentage are Italian?

There are over 300 companies with Italian shareholder(s) which makes up nearly 3% of all DMCC member companies including Fila, Unifrutti, Bcube, Climaveneta, maat International, SIAE MICROELETTRONICA, and Prysmian Group.

What special advantages does the DMCC offer for Italian companies and what are the types of business activities in which they are able to engage?Are there any particular tax or regulatory benefits for European businesses interested in operating in the Free Zone?

Investment incentives generally available in Dubai’s Free Zones include 100% foreign ownership, no restrictions on repatriation of capital and profits, no income tax and option to own freehold property.

The most successful markets create conditions that enable producers, traders and consumers to thrive. DMCC is a Dubai Government Authority (established in 2002) committed to developing these ideal conditions and has a strong track record in commodity trade facilitation where we encourage and support business through the platforms we provide. These include our Free Zone, commodity exchanges, legal and regulatory frameworks and our strong real estate offering.
Industry participants and Free Zone member companies enjoy access to market infrastructure and physical facilities such as gold and diamond vaults, trading platforms like the Dubai Gold & Commodities Exchange, Dubai Diamond Exchange, the Dubai Pearl Exchange and DMCC Tradeflow, the dedicated online platform for registering possession and ownership of commodities stored in UAE-based storage facilities; the DMCC Tea Centre and a range of commodities backed financial investment tools.

DMCC was recently voted the World’s no 1 Free Zone out of the 76 Free Zones across the globe that took part in Financial Times’ fDi Global Free Zones of the Year Awards 2015. The judges said DMCC ranked number 1 as the Free Zone “has established itself as the most proactive, dynamic Free Zone in the UAE, broader region and now indeed the world. Through its rapid growth, superb facilities, and attractive incentives and services for investors, the Free Zone is positioning itself as a go-to place for companies seeking a platform for doing business in the Middle East and beyond.” – Courtney Fingar, Editor-in-Chief, fDi Magazine.

Does the process of opening a business in the DMCC pose any specific challenges and what advice would you give to Italian firms regarding the best strategies for making a smooth entry into the market?

Setting up a company can be a daunting process. From securing licenses, visas, and financing to ensuring employment contracts are compliant with local laws, there are a multitude of details that need to be negotiated before beginning operations in Dubai.

That is why we launched the DMCC Free Zone Member Portal which means that 100 per cent of all paperwork that can be available online now is – which means that members can now set up a company or branch and access DMCC services anytime on any device.

Since launching the DMCC Free Zone Member Portal, we have more than halved the amount of time it takes to establish a company. Companies use the Member Portal to request and receive hundreds of thousands of services from DMCC every year. The introduction of digital letters and contracts helped DMCC reduce its paper usage by 40 percent, saving more than 120 trees in just one year.

Today, DMCC provides over 11,700 companies and growing—ranging from startups to large corporations—the platform they need to succeed in a high-growth market.

What kinds of networking opportunities are made available through the DMCC community?

DMCC has quickly become a hub of learning and expertise. By bringing similar industries closer together, we encourage collaboration and help connect our members through our monthly Knowledge Series events, workshops and clubs such as the Energy Club. More than 4,500 members of our business community attended one or more of our programs last year.

A great deal has been said regarding the challenges for women in the workplace, what advantages, if any, has being a woman brought to your role as Director of the DMCC?

Gender is just one aspect of a person. When I look at the successful people around me, they have achieved a balance between caring, humour, hard work and confidence. But I believe that gender equality comes from the top down. And what better role model to the rest of the world than the Dubai government. There are many examples of women holding senior roles throughout Dubai government, and they have been appointed based on merit. Similarly, I am interested in talent, potential and a great attitude from everyone in my team. I have had the opportunity to promote some incredibly talented women and men, and that is satisfying.

You and your family have been living in Dubai for more than 10 years, what do you value the most about living in the UAE?

Dubai is my home. My children have grown up here and we feel completely connected to the Emirate. I feel privileged to be able to contribute to the economic growth of the UAE. Diversity has always interested me, and Dubai is truly diverse. The thrill of connecting at a professional and personal level with members and business partners from every type of background, never diminishes for me. Culture has an enormous influence on how a person behaves and thinks, and I make it a personal mission to embrace those differences.

As director of the UAE’s largest and most dynamic Free Zone, what will be your primary goals over the next 2 years?

I believe in putting our members at the heart of every decision. In doing so, we have become the largest and fastest growing Free Zone in the UAE and are currently ranking as the world’s top Global Free Zone as voted by Financial Times’ fDI magazine.

We are very pleased that DMCC is poised for growth. The southern gateway to Dubai is fast becoming its new growth corridor with a number of key infrastructure, transport and real estate developments underway. Over the coming years, we are going to focus on strengthening and supporting our growth drivers, from enhancing our customer service through to addressing businesses’ need for quality commercial space and efficient, flexible floor plates. There is real demand from well-known international businesses and our aim is to offer local and international businesses premium space within an amazing and unique location.

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