Dubai is exploring the possibility of exporting its “unique” and “highly successful” model of the Dubai Media City, according to Dr Amina Al Rustamani, Executive Director Media at Dubai Media City (DMC).
Speaking to Emirates Business, she also admitted the rate of growth of DMC and its offsite locations such as Studio City and International Media Production Free Zone (IMPZ) have been so spectacular, that it is possible a new media free zone may be created in the future.
With DMC at saturated levels, how will you accommodate new demand?
Surprisingly, we are planning to build more offices as we still have a few plots left to build on. It is unbelievable how the city has grown over the past seven years. It is spread over a three million square feet site and has a total built-up area of 22 million sqft under DMC management. All are booked solid. We also have buildings constructed by investors.
Your response to claims by DMC residents that rentals are too high?
Not really when you compare it to other parts of Dubai such as Jebel Ali Free Zone or Dubai International Financial Centre or the rates for commercial space along Sheikh Zayed Road.
What are the prevailing rentals at DMC, Studio City and IMPZ?
At DMC, the rates are about Dh145 per sq ft; at Dubai Studio City they average Dh140 a sq ft and at IMPZ, pre-built units are given out at about Dh55 per sq ft.
Is DMC focused on maximising profit?
Unfortunately, people have an idea we are only commercially driven. But we are very careful in selecting our business partners. If we see a high-risk operation, we immediately point it out and give advice and guide investors.
We not only have big ones, we also have a lot of small entrepreneurs and freelancers. Firms are always approaching us for we are helping grow business in a real way. We tell our partners to worry about their business and we will do the rest for them. We have less than 1.5 per cent churn, which is very good.
Where is the growth coming from?
We are attracting major broadcasters. We are seeing growth in commercial shoots, TV production, reality shows, films and documentaries. A lot is coming from India. We have done some 30 films this year – most from India and Egypt.
There is also interest from Hollywood. We are talking about some projects for next year. We cannot say who yet but there is a lot of interest in our sound stages.
The expansion has been phenomenal as you say, but it needs to be fed by talent. Where are they or will you develop them yourself?
We see a pool of talent in India and Jordan. And there are institutions such as Michigan University at Academic City and Knowledge Village, which cover some media programmes. However, professional training in our sector is very specific. We are in talks with some institutions to see if they are interested in setting up a centre here. Or we could lead the initiative.
Will you export the model of the Dubai Media City to other countries?
We are in talks with other countries. It is not necessary that it is the same model as the DMC. It could be a specific area like the Dubai Studio City or the IMPZ or it could be part of the SmartCities that Tecom is setting up overseas. There could be strong opportunities, for example, in Jordan or Egypt where we are in talks.
If the opportunity is there to create some unique model, then why not?
What is the progress at Dubai Studio City?
Frankly, we did not foresee the huge demand for production facilities. To meet that we set up the Dubai Studio City across 27 million sq ft, where we created different offerings to suit various needs. We have great solutions for broadcasters with studios, offices, large sound stages for television and films, warehouses and workshops. We have opportunities for all – big or small – to set up their main operations. We have Rahbani, MTV Arabia, Blink Studios, EVS, SpaceToon, Arabian Travel and more to come.
Even though the plots and infrastructure was not yet fully ready, we started operations in May 2005. In 2005, we had 110 applications. In 2007, we had 700, which is a very healthy indication.
And the IMPZ?
The IMPZ covers 44 million sq ft. It has specialised infrastructure developed for printing and packaging industry. We have pre-built structures, which are almost ready, for smaller companies. Our business partners will be moving in in a few weeks time. For larger operations we can also offer land, which they can take and build. We have some 70 plots, all of which have been taken on a 50-year lease.
We have offices similar to those in the DMC. We have residential areas, where developers like Damac and ETA are building and exhibition areas and hospitality segments.
Dr Amina Al Rustamani, Executive Director of Dubai Media City
Prior to becoming Executive Director, Dr Al Rustamani developed some of Dubai Media City’s key services for the media industry, especially the broadcasting sector. As director of broadcasting, she managed services provided to the organisation’s broadcast business partners.
Dr Al Rustamani received her BS, MS and DSc degrees in electrical engineering from The George Washington University, Washington DC. Her doctoral work has been published in several leading journals. She is an acknowledged authority on wireless technologies.
Dr Al Rustamani joined the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone in April 2001 as project engineer for Samacom, the satellite communication services provider of the Dubai Holding Group, then steadily rose up the ranks to her current posting.
Dubai may export Media City model, says Rustamani