Global Free Zone of the Year: DMCC
Rushika Bhatia
Movers & Shakers

Global Free Zone of the Year: DMCC

At the heart of Dubai’s growth, DMCC continues to be a global gateway for trade and enterprise. The successful transformation of its free zone is perhaps the reason why DMCC was voted “Global Free Zone of the Year” by the financial times fdi magazine. SME Advisor had the privilege to meet the woman at the forefront of this success – Krysta Fox, Director of Free Zone, DMCC.

Global Free Zone of the Year: DMCC
Krysta Fox, Director of Free Zone, DMCC

First things first. Congratulations on the prestigious accolades you have been honoured with. What do these titles and awards mean to you? What are critical success factors leading to such recognition?

It’s always a thrill to be recognised. What’s special about this title is that it is a genuine recognition of DMCC’s core value, which is supporting its members to be as successful as possible. If you are business operating within DMCC, we not only help you create connections in the UAE but also across the wider regional and global community. We genuinely, honestly listen to what our members have to say. They are the most important individual stakeholders for us. Addressing their concerns and prioritising our projects based on their needs is essentially at the core of our overall offering. Let me explain with an example – earlier last year, we conducted a survey asking our members to share their feedback; we received an 89 per cent satisfaction rate. This exercise helped us understand not only what works for our members, but also what doesn’t. I think it is such interaction with the DMCC member community – as well as the wider SME sector – that has contributed to us being honoured with such an accolade.

Don’t you think the role of the free zone is underestimated in today’s global economy?

There is a huge emerging recognition of the roles that Special Economic Zones or Free zones are playing in the international landscape. If you look at the DMCC alone, we contribute almost 10 per cent of Dubai’s GDP, and that’s having set up only in 2003. The reality is that free zones provide an open business environment, acting as a catalyst for trade opportunities.

What do you personally regard as the ‘X factor’ that makes DMCC such an attractive proposition?

I would say the ‘X factor’ is integration, and this is true in many ways. We provide seamless integration between physical and digital platforms. Our digital portals provide a one-stop-shop solution to our members; in fact, more than 50 per cent of member services can be completed online within the same day!

Another great example of integration is that we strongly encourage our members to integrate global best practices within their organisations. For instance, we understand that SMEs don’t have the time to develop their own corporate governance systems. They require one that has already been developed for them. We create efficient systems by partnering with the right people to readily provide this to them.

What are some basic pre-requisites that companies need to consider before setting up in DMCC?

I should also add here that our company registration process is completely online – we’ve become streamlined, sleek and paperless. Companies are able to speak to a dedicated key account executive who can talk to them about the type of business they need register under. Our professional team will identify if your business proposal is viable and suitable to operate within a free zone environment. We register around 500 business activities in DMCC – this is one of the broadest range any free zone offers in the world. This is followed by a proper conversation regarding the structure of the business, the shareholders involved, the company’s plan for growth and the office solutions they are looking at.

How do you help a company transition smoothly from a start-up stage to a mature growth-stage?

We’ve experienced that a lot of companies that work with us are rapidly growing and naturally their needs in terms of office space are evolving. If a business goes from being a 10-member company to a 50-member company, we match them with solutions they need straightaway.

DMCC is often described as the ‘Free zone for SMEs’. What would you say about this?

DMCC first started out as free zone for SMEs. What’s remarkable is that this was followed by a large intake of corporates and MNCs. We are so proud that we developed this free zone working with SMEs. I truly believe that this was the right start for us and we won’t ever forget that we built our success working with SMEs. This is the reason why we continue to provide specialised services for them. For example, having partnered with one of the best insurance brokers in the region, DMCC is able to bring its member companies the buying power of 40,000 employees that they would otherwise never have.

On a global scale, how would you rate DMCC as an innovator? Is innovation part of your overall development strategy?

Innovation underpins our overall strategy; we innovate in order to meet the requirements of our customers. It includes customers that we have today and the customers that we are going to have in future. We understand that we have to be efficient enough to be able to handle the massive growth that we are experiencing. Three years ago we had about 3,000 member companies. Today we have almost 11,000 firms. In order to triple in size in just three years, you have to make sure that you keep ahead of the rest of the market.