Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone (RAKFTZ) is one of the fastest-growing free zones in the region and has a reputation as one of the most cost-effective zones as well. Its management attributes its success to its ability to provide a trouble-free and customer-friendly environment. Oussama El Omari, CEO of RAKFTZ, spoke to Emirates Business about the zone's plans for the future.
How much growth has RAK Free Zone seen in the past three years? What do you attribute it to?
Between 2005 and end of 2007, the number of companies registered in the zone increased from 1,362 to 4,300. So the growth was more than 300 per cent and it looks as if we will see even higher growth in the next three years. This is the result of our determination to provide top-quality and personalised services to our clients. As we say in our advertisements: 'While others keep you waiting, we make you our priority". We have also developed a range of options for our clients: they can start with a virtual office and move to a permanent one, a warehouse or their own manufacturing facility. Our four business parks will allow them to grow with us.
What was the trade conducted in RAK Free Zone in 2007 compared to 2006?
We do not really collect this data from our clients. Apart from the stone and cement suppliers and a few other mayor players, most of the trading companies based in RAK are based in the zone. So we play a major role in RAK' s trade balance.
What sectors have outperformed the others in terms of growth? What are some of the new sectors that have come up at the free zone?
Trading, IT services and consulting companies make up the largest part of our clients but we have seen a growing number of interesting projects in the manufacturing sector. Knauf, the famous German producer of building materials, recently started the construction of its first manufacturing facility in the Middle East in our Industrial Park. This will be a major facility, producing 40 million square metres of gypsum boards for the market.
What is the total space in the zone?
We have about five million square meters of land. This includes plots that are already occupied as well as those that are being prepared for future clients. We also have some 7,000sq mt of offices, almost fully occupied and about 15,000 sq mt under construction. The number of tenants is fast approaching the 5,000 mark.
How much growth are you expecting this year and in the coming years in terms of revenues?
This year, revenue-wise, we estimate 75 per cent growth. The same applies for the next few years if everything goes according to our well-laid out plans.
Do you foresee a shortage of space as more investors come into the zone?
We have planned in advance, so while we are now booking the last plots in Phase One of the Industrial Park, we have Phase Two under way and are preparing the Al Ghayl Industrial Park. We have the same situation with our offices. Our new state-of-the art office building in the downtown Business Park is nearly completed and we are starting to take reservations.
What is the current total investment in RAKFTZ?
The total investment in the zone has exceeded Dh350 million and investments totaling Dh200m are under way or being planned. This does not include the investment of the German company Knauf – which is going to spend some Dh500m to build a gypsum board manufacturing facility in the Industrial Park.
What acquisitions or mergers are you planning this year outside UAE?
This is not our role. We concentrate on bringing quality job opportunities and value to the RAK community. We do have a number of partnerships abroad to promote the zone and RAK abroad, but we can not call these mergers and acquisitions really.
What are some of the structural changes that you have implemented to attract more investors?
We must continuously improve our services to remain competitive. To achieve this goal, we have recently introduced a new organisational structure. This will help us to streamline the flow of inquiries and projects in the organisation. We have also opened a representative office in Germany and have tested some new markets such as France. Furthermore, we are strengthening our services and support to existing clients. But I would say even more important is our commitment to invest in our employees, providing training and encouragement.