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Tue 6 Jan 2015 01:44 PM

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How free zones can help your start-up

Ahmad Numan, director of marketing at Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone explains how free zones can benefit new businesses, and the importance of choosing the right one for you

How free zones can help your start-up

Entrepreneurship has always been part of the UAE culture, with smart business ‘adventurers’ carving out their own niche and collectively helping to shape an increasingly diversified economy.

According to World Bank statistics, SMEs represent around 60 percent of MENA GDP and are essential to employment creation and the delivery of consistent economic growth.

The booming UAE economy has given rise to an increasing number of individuals and companies eager to set up operations in the country. With more than 35 free zones offering an endless array of set-up options it can be a challenge to know where to start.

For start-ups new to the region and unfamiliar with the requirements of setting up a business, free zone support is invaluable when it comes to procedural assistance, and a partner with a credible track record in supporting new business is a basic necessity.

At Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone (RAK FTZ), we reduce bureaucratic requirements and give clients the help they need to start profitable companies.

Undoubtedly, the main reasos for choosing to set up within a free zone is that no local partner is required, meaning you have full ownership of your businesses and assets.

Add to this the fact that free zone-registered companies are not required to pay any corporate, income or other government-levied taxes, and it is a compelling argument.

When it comes to choosing a specific free zone, however, the first thing to consider is the type of economic activity.

RAK FTZ licenses almost every kind of business enterprise, including light industrial, heavy industrial, value-added distribution and trading, logistics, services and educational institutions. Also on the list are vehicle assembly and customisation, food and beverage processing, oil and gas equipment manufacturing, electronics and industrial products assembly, marketing and management consulting, universities and branch campuses, and more.

RAK FTZ matches the quality of business facilities at other free zones in the UAE, yet our primary advantage lies in the fact that establishing a business in Ras Al Khaimah, which is less than one hour’s drive from Dubai, can be achieved at a significantly lower cost, thus allowing clients to maximise return on their investment.

What many start-ups also forget is that it is imperative to check the types of activities allowed by a specific free zone authority. RAK FTZ offers a multi-purpose free zone environment spread across four distinct free zone parks with a tailored choice of Business, Industrial or Technology Park as well as an Academic Zone.

Customisation is also key, with set-up package flexibility often swinging the vote. Again, there is a lot of variety among the different free zones, but to give you an idea we have a strong focus on helping SMEs from all industry sectors to launch operation.

We offer 360-degree support from a cost-effective flexi-desk set-up option, as well as expansion into offices and warehouses, plus land for lease with the freedom to choose the investment field and legal formula of projects.

Location and market accessibility are also important factors for businesses choosing the UAE as a hub location. One of the things that attracts a lot of people to RAK FTZ is that we are a gateway to the emerging markets of South-East Asia as well as Africa and the Middle East supported by its world-class seaport and international airport facilities.

Another thing that makes the UAE a great business base is that it is extremely active in promoting economic development. So much so that it was ranked 23rd out of 189 economies for ease-of-doing-business in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2014 report.

When deciding which free zone to opt for, SMEs might wish to consider how aligned each free zone is with the UAE’s progressive approach. At RAK FTZ, for example, we aim to be equally forward-thinking, with fast-track licensing and registrations, speedy processing of investor and worker visas, guaranteed 100 percent capital and profit repatriation and the freedom to source labour and materials from around the world.

Post set-up, companies are often left to fend for themselves, so selecting a free zone that actively markets and supports your business is a clear advantage. Each free zone’s service will be different to the next, so research carefully according to your needs and wants.

As an example, RAK FTZ provides value-added services such as advertising, procurement, event management, recruitment and training assistance.

This is further buoyed by our overseas presence on three continents with liaison offices in Turkey, India and Germany as well as an active calendar of delegation visits and international seminars designed to showcase our facilities and clients.

Another way to learn about your prospective free zone is to hear from those already using it.

Currently, SMEs account for more than seven percent of the RAK FTZ portfolio,f which includes more than 8,000 companies, representing over 100 countries.t And it is our partners who are our biggest advocates.

Guerman Goutorov, chairman of Streit Group, is just one business leader who can give a first-hand opinion of our service.

He said: “Since we registered in RAK FTZ in 2006, we have seen rapid growth in the free zone, which has helped us to grow. RAK FTZ’s support has played a part in our success and we are very proud to say that we are now the world’s largest privately-owned armoured vehicle manufacturer.”

Overall, selecting the right free zone for you is a personal choice.

Your decision should be based on the services on offer, research specific to your business, as well as talking to representatives from the free zone itself, plus taking the opinion of those already under its wing.