Ramy Jallad Group CEO, RAKEZ, RAK FTZ and RAKIA speaks with Aviamost about newly launched the Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ) and its upcoming development.
The government of Ras Al Khaimah has launched the Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ) this year. Please explain the role and targets of the new structure. Tell us about RAKEZ and its upcoming development.
Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone or RAKEZ has been launched to bring together two of the fastest-growing investment hubs in the UAE: RAK Free Trade Zone and RAK Investment Authority. This occurrence was actually a step towards revolutionising the investment landscape in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. It paved the way to the birth of a powerhouse economic zone. Under RAKEZ, the facilities, services, zones, and clients of RAK FTZ and RAKIA have been consolidated along with their over 13,000 clients. Plus, RAKEZ is now among the few business hubs that offer free zone and non-free zone company formation. This has opened up broader benefits and opportunities to global investors coming to set up shop in the emirate. Basically, the role of RAKEZ is to position Ras Al Khaimah as a premier investment destination not only for large enterprises and industrialists but also for the entrepreneurs and startups that have a burning passion to succeed. With RAKEZ, our mission is to develop bespoke infrastructure and smart customer-centric solutions that enables our customers to grow and attract diversified investments. To do this, we have set five strategic pillars: providing cost-effective premium solutions; ensuring efficiency in everything we do; offering customised solutions for all investors; continuously diversifying our industries, sectors and activities; and finally, equipping our front-liners with the right knowledge and tools in order for them to excellently cater to our clients. With all of these, of course, there will be a lot of changes and enhancements at RAKEZ, hence, you can expect a lot of things to unfold. We are planning to open a new zone for our business clients. We are still in the early stages on this project but this one is definitely in the cards for us in the coming years, in addition to the opening of new international offices. We will also be focusing in improving our technological infrastructure. We are in the digital age and it is a very good time to adapt to be able to serve clients better and faster. This will help simplify our processes and provide a shorter turnaround time for applications and requests.
How do you attract foreign direct investment and where is your focus?
We are just a couple of months down the road since the introduction of RAKEZ, so right now, we are focusing on spreading the word about the new entity. We are being active in sending delegations to our markets as well as receiving delegations from other countries. During these, we are conducting investment seminars, which help a lot in getting to know our investors face-to-face and having a productive discussion about what their needs are and how we can help them. Apart from that, we are launching different promotions to attract investors to come and set up their business with us as well as strengthening our relationships with our referral partners by providing them greater incentives. We have also reviewed our packages to make them even more flexible and cost-effective. But I believe, one of the best tactics that we are doing right now to catch the attention of investors is through digital transformation. We are using technology to improve RAKEZ and how we interact both with our existing and potential clients. We are currently working to innovate our processes and making them simpler by automating them. Just last June, we launched a revamped E-services website where our clients can apply for visas, pre-approvals, Chamber of Commerce membership, and many other services. This website comes with an application tracking system so clients can know the status of their application. Right now, our team of web professionals are working on developing another platform where our clients can initiate their company’s formation process. They will be able to submit documents, receive approvals and obtain a licence wherever they are in the world. Once this project is completed, our clients can enjoy a more hassle-free business experience. It will eliminate the need for investors to travel back and forth just to fulfil bureaucratic requirements.
With all of these, our goal is to attract businesses of all sizes. Ras Al Khaimah is home to hundreds of manufacturing companies and SMEs operating in over 50 sectors. As of now, manufacturing make up 25% of the emirates economy so we are targeting to trigger developments in other areas, too, such as the field of services, education, tourism, trading, to name a few. Our way to achieve this is by continuously welcoming entrepreneurs, startups and SMEs as these are what drives the development of new sectors. The coming of new investors will open up innovation, research, science and technology, and help shift the countries economy from labour intensive economy to knowledge-based.
How many Russian and CIS companies registered in RAKEZ and what facilities you provide to the investors? (Numbers of Chinese companies for the Chinese magazine)
Presently, we have exceeding 200 companies from Russia while there are over 160 from China. The biggest portion of both Russian and Chinese investors in RAKEZ are operating commercial businesses with a total of 123 and 114, respectively. This is followed by service and general trading companies. As for the industrial field, we have six Russian industrialists and one from Chinese. This year, we are targeting to increase these numbers. In fact, we just returned from our trip in China where we sponsored the 3rd Annual Free Trade and Special Economic Zone Summit. We were able to meet hundreds of corporate executives representing influential companies in China. As for the facilities we provide them, we have a broad range of facilities that are all designed to support their business journey. I have mentioned that the best of RAK FTZ and RAKIA have been brought together under RAKEZ. This enabled us to extend our selection of facilities that we offer to our existing and potential clients. For startups that are looking for a cost friendly way to test the market, we have Flexi facilities or shared workstations in a modern business centre. Then, we have offices available in various sizes for growing companies that are building a permanent presence for their business. These facilities are spread across our Business Zone, Media Zone and Academic Zone. For investors dealing with manufacturing and trading, we have ideal warehousing units that comes in wide-ranging sizes and removable hollow core walls that allow them to customise their warehouse and expand their floor space as their business grows. For large-scale projects, we offer investors with industrial land of unlimited sizes, where they can build their own facility as well as accommodation for their staff and labour. The best thing is that these facilities are located in various zones. Our warehouses and industrial land are located in our Al Ghail, Al Hamra, and Al Hulaila Industrial Zones, which are all strategically positioned in proximity to seaports and an international airport.
Other than skilled labour and manufacturing facilities, what are some of the infrastructural and operational benefits of RAKEZ?
As you have mentioned, we provide optimal industrial facilities such as warehouses and industrial land. However, what’s worth noting is that, at RAKEZ, we also offer accommodation for staff and labour, which are available in all of our industrial parks. Companies can save on transportation cost by leasing our prime units that help make their workforce feel secured and comfortable. These accommodations are connected to FEWA which ensures stable electricity and water. Groceries, cafeterias are also nearby each of our accommodations. If you have your land at RAKEZ, you can also build staff and labour accommodation within your premises. When it comes to operational benefits, one of the most important advantage that we provide is the ability to customise solutions. We are offering our clients choices and tailor-fit packages. We do not believe in the one-size-fits-all concept because businesses have varying needs so each investor must be given the power to decide what’s best for his business. In addition to that, we have an expert team of Client Relations and Business Development professionals. All of our people have been trained to have the right knowledge and tools to advise and service our clients. Plus, we have a one-stop shop for all our services. We have gathered them in one central location to relieve our clients from the hassle of going obtaining approvals and submitting applications on different places. Mazeed Services is also available, which provides ongoing administrative and business support such as advertising, procurement, event management, recruitment and training assistance for employees of companies registered with us, among other services. Our mantra at RAKEZ is “customer comes first”. We live by these words, helping us offer seamless services and fast delivery in a transparent environment that us easy to do business with.
What are Ras Al Khaimah’s advantages as an investment destination?
Ras Al Khaimah, first of all, is a beautiful emirate. It offers serenity and comfort away from home. The emirate is surrounded by majestic mountains, pristine beaches, and terracotta deserts. Plus, there’s almost no traffic. It’s unlike other major business cities wherein everything is fast moving, everything is costly. In Ras Al Khaimah, the cost of living and operating a business is 25%-50% lower than other major cities. The emirate is very cost-effective, which is a very important factor for any investor who’s looking to start or expand a business. Investors can benefit from the emirate’s economical solutions, particularly offered in RAKEZ, allowing them to can save on the company formation costs and use their capital on conducting market research, purchasing equipment, advertising and marketing, as well as sourcing labour and materials. Apart from that, the emirate is home to thousands of businesses coming from different parts of the globe. The emirate’s economy is very diverse, offering vast opportunities to investors in the field of manufacturing, services, tourism, education, logistics, real estate, trading, construction, and so much more. For manufacturers and traders, Ras Al Khaimah boasts major logistical hubs. We have four seaports, including Saqr Port, the largest bulk port in the Middle East. These ports help moving goods in and out of the country both time and cost saving. In addition to that, we have an international airport as well as multilane superhighways that connect to neighbouring emirates. Best of all, Ras Al Khaimah is a safe and stable emirate. It has been recognised by fDi Magazine a few years ago as one of the top 10 small and medium-sized global cities of the future, along with cities including Zurich, Geneva and Edinburgh.
What is the average price to open and sustain the company at RAKEZ and what are the working fields can be operated there?
To open up a company in RAKEZ, an investor will just need as low as AED 14,800. It already includes a commercial licence and a Flexi desk, which I described earlier as shared workstation – a big trend for the younger startup generation. It allows them to operate their business in a co-working environment where they can just plug and play. It is a perfect low-cost and low-risk solution, and a very flexible one, too! We have a lot of packages on offer that have been designed to help companies save on costs and fully support their stage of development. Apart from that, RAKEZ provides opportunities for different industry segments. In fact, our over 13,000 clients are operating across 50 plus sectors. We have businesses in the field of manufacturing, consultancy, trading, services, education, tourism, and so much more.
Another step after launching RAKEZ became opening of Media Zone to the media business community. What it can offer? What effect will the growing media industry having on RAK economy?
Yes, we recently opened the doors of our Media Zone to the media business community. We have created a supportive environment that is dedicated to fostering the growth of creative individuals and firms across various media segments. The zone is currently home to more than 100 creative companies. It offers not only cost-effective but also tailor-fit solutions that aim to answer the exact needs of these businesses and most importantly, to allow them to effectively bring their creative ideas to life. The Media Zone caters to companies in the field of TV and radio broadcasting, animation, music, entertainment, publishing, advertising, communications, media services, production and film support, and events management, among others. Also, just like in other zones, we encourage synergy within the Media Zone by bringing media-related businesses close to their peers, creating a neighbourhood of media suppliers and vendors that embrace B2B collaboration for the growth of their respective businesses. The launching of our Media Zone is driven towards attracting thousands of media entities to come to Ras Al Khaimah. This is a strategic move driven to further bolster the the economic diversification of the emirate, and more importantly, to present a wider-range of exciting opportunities for the sector.
What are the key advantages of RAKEZ? What encourages companies to set up in RAK at RAKEZ?
RAKEZ furnishes clients with a suite of offerings that help them in their business journey. But you know what sets us apart from other investment hubs? It’s our strong commitment to our investors. This is among the many reasons that encourages investors to set up their business with us. We treat them as family and make sure we are right beside them every step of the way. We place high value on being a client-focused entity, even placing client-centricity as one of our strategic pillars. All of us at RAKEZ believe that clients should always come before anything else as their growth is not only our and Ras Al Khaimah’s growth, but the UAE’s overall growth. With this, we are continuously striving to enhance the level of ‘ease of doing’ business in the environment that we offer to our clients. We are doing our best to simplify our processes as well as offer them quick turnaround time for results. Apart from that, we are making an ongoing effort to implement corporate governance according to global standards to allow increased transparency and reduced bureaucracy, and provide our clients a seamless experience.
Cost-effectiveness is RAKEZ’s another strength over its competitors. We are blessed to be strategically located in Ras Al Khaimah where the cost of living and operating a business is up to 50% lower. With this, we are able to come up with comprehensive solutions without putting a high price tag, especially for the startups and entrepreneurs.This quality makes RAKEZ an ideal business incubator to the SME community.
And of course, the third key benefit that we offer is the ability to customise. As I always say, customisation is key. Investors now are not after ready-made solutions. They are opting for what suits their needs and what will provide them with value for their money. Hence, we allow our existing and potential clients to explore our offerings and give them the option to adjust them in a way that would match the requirements of their business.
What is being done to brand RAK as an investment destination?
The birth of RAKEZ itself is actually a move towards solidifying the position of Ras Al Khaimah on the global economic map. RAKEZ’s comprehensive business solutions, high-quality facilities, first-class services, and overall ease of doing business are greatly enhancing Ras Al Khaimah’s reputation as an ideal place to set up and grow profitable companies. What we are doing is that we are being active in sending delegations to attend conferences and important exhibitions as well as conduct presentations tackling the advantages offered by Ras Al Khaimah to businesses of all sizes. In the coming months, we will be visiting countries in Europe, Asia and Middle East to spread the word about Ras Al Khaimah and RAKEZ.
In terms of content and new developments, what are some current projects taking place at RAKEZ?
A lot of things are actually happening right now at RAKEZ. Just an overview of the past 12 months, we focused on enhancing the infrastructure of our industrial zones. We began by levelling the Phase 2 of the formerly known Technology Park, now called Al Hamra Industrial Zone, which was previously hilly and undeveloped. Then, we upgraded our non-free zone warehouses’ power capacity from 28.4 kVA to 62.5 kVA to provide our clients enhanced operations within our zones. We also improved the electrical infrastructure at our Al Hulaila Industrial Zone to ensure that we are meeting the requirements of both our existing and potential clients. But of course, it doesn’t stop here. We have a lot of developments in the pipeline. Among our biggest projects is creating another specialised zone. As of the moment, we are in the masterplanning stage and we will reveal more about it soon, but for sure, the new zone will surely contribute to the boost of businessmen coming to set up in Ras Al Khaimah. Also, in our ongoing effort to bring ease to our customers and investors, we are developing our offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to become full service centres. We are also looking into building additional labour accommodations in our Industrial Zones. Presently, we are also doing some improvements works in our Media Zone building to ensure that creative companies who set up with us are provided with the right facilities to support their operations and also some improvements in Al Ghail Industrial Zone.