Maryam Al Murshedi knows all about hard work. The deputy director general of RAK Free Trade Zone (FTZ) has seen it become one of the fastest growing and most successful free trade zones in the UAE, since it was formed twelve years ago.
But it wasn’t always this way. At international conferences in the early days, the team was mistaken for promoters of Iraq, and regularly asked if they had forgotten the “I” in front of “RAK”. She explains, “Even some people inside the UAE did not know we existed at the time”.
That sparked a change in the marketing strategy. “We then decided to capitalise on the success of the other emirates,” says Al Murshedi. “Our advertisements highlighted the fact that we were 45 minutes away from Dubai airport.”
And so with government support, clever marketing and cost-effective solutions on offer — the cost of registering a business in the free zone starts at $5,000 — the RAK FTZ grew in stature. Currently the industrial complex has more than 6,000 companies based there from 106 different countries. In 2011, 2,000 companies joined RAK FTZ, a rise of sixteen percent on the previous year.
However, when asked to pinpoint the reason for RAK FTZ’s impressive growth, Al Murshedi focuses on the one thing that she says the bigger zones can’t offer: making its new tenants feel part of a community.
“The first thing that we’re capitalising on is our personal reach,” she says. “You can call me at any time; I can call and see you at any time. We deal with our companies like families. We adopt them. We go and visit them, listen to their problems,” she pauses, and then with a grin adds: “Even be their shrink”.
“And you don’t find this in the bigger free zones; they don’t have this personal touch any more. Although we’re growing, we try and keep that.
Article continued on next page