A Quarterly Newsletter from the UAE and Oman member firms of the PKF International Ltd.

VOL 17, Issue 2 April 2015

Interview

Mr. Saud Salim Al Mazrouei, the young, dynamic and visionary director of Sharjah Free Zone Authority, UAE, who joined Hamriyah Free Zone Authority over a decade ago, has since enriched his credentials with enviable leadership traits.

With a passion for marketing, Al Mazrouei, with his forward-looking approach, backed by a business management and IT background, has made his mark in various commercial domains achieving various IT enabled business solutions. His vision and extraordinary competence has contributed boosting the growth graph of foreign direct investment in the UAE, especially in the Hamriyah Free Zone (HFZ).

His contribution in improving the HFZ’s investment landscape, from 81 companies in 2000 to 6,100 today from over 157 countries across the globe, is noteworthy. As a director of Sharjah International Airport Free Zone (Saif Zone) and HFZ, his strategic approach in earning both free zones the status of global brands and favorable investment destination has been appreciable.

Al Mazrouei is well-aware of the need for corporate social responsibility and believes that efforts in improving society are critical to achieving progress. He is rated today as a business leader with commitment who possesses great potential to be a partner in the process of the economic development of the United Arab Emirates.

Q. The UAE is home to nearly 40 free zones. With the tough competition, what steps are HFZ and SAIF Zone taking to set themselves apart from the others?

A. We follow a strategic approach in achieving our well-articulated plans and provide outstanding services and facilities to our customers every day. This encompasses a responsible regulatory environment, world-class infrastructure, innovative services and facilities such as total ownership of businesses, repatriation of capital and profits, application of one-stop-shop concept for quick issuance of licenses and a viable visa solution for business owners and their employees.

We believe in a customer-centric approach with traits like simplified procedures, transparency, modern and competitive business solutions. A competitive fee structure, inexpensive energy costs, and sponsorship and visas for expatriate staff are just some of the advantages we offer. Free from bureaucratic red tape, the registration process enables licenses to be issued within two to 24 hours.

It is notable that HFZ is the Middle East’s fastest operating free zone taking only a record 2-hour processing time for clearing licensing formalities.

In our free zones, investors enjoy 100% foreign ownership, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, 100% exemption from income and corporate taxes and on-site labour accommodation.

We are gaining ground in sectors such as the food and petrochemical sectors. We are expanding the steel sector in the free zone, and we have the largest private shipbuilding facility, Damen Shipyard, with around 350,000 sqm of land. We look at different sectors, and look into how we can complement these industries together. Sometimes certain industries are not aware of other industries that are in the Free Zone, so we match them together, which creates synergy and builds more business between them.

Today the Free Zone has an area of 22 million square metres and to cope with rising future demand, a further expansion of 10 million square metres is planned. We will continue our strategy of expanding in domestic and regional markets, enabling investment and sharing knowledge, improving competitiveness while unlocking new areas of growth.

Q. Does being a businessman yourself help in understanding the needs and demands of the business community?

A. Of course, my background helps me immensely. I believe that communication between the investor and the zones’ officials is the key to success and it is this attribute we can owe a lot of our success to, because here in SAIF Zone and HFZ, I make it a point to be in regular contact with all the investors, who are also free to visit me at any time.

Q. What message do you wish to give to established and upcoming businessmen in the region?

A. Key success factors are to withstand the winds of change and make a paradigm shift in your growth.

The businessman should also have a clear view on what is happening in the market. From very far, he should recognize his potential customers and “engage” them at the right moment.

Q. What is your vision for the HFZ and SAIF Zone?

A. We envision HFZ and SAIF Zone to be two of the pillars of industrial development in the UAE and beyond in the future. A customer-centric approach and 100% efficiency are some of the milestones along our way that we have already achieved. Our current growth is a testament that we are in the right direction.

HFZ, which was founded in 1995, has today emerged as the second largest free zone in the UAE, attracting over $3 billion in FDI.

Encouraged by our growing success over the years, the SAIF Zone, which was set up in 1995, is now embarking on its next phase of expansion to meet the growing demand of its investors wanting to set up operations at the Zone. It is in this context that we today are visiting various countries to offer our services and the opportunity to investors to set-up their businesses at the SAIF Zone, Sharjah.

What we are trying to do in SAIF Zone, as well as in HFZ, is to cluster their focus; we are looking at complimenting the airport by encouraging more logistics companies and more aviation companies to establish their business in the SAIF Zone and we are looking at more consumer goods and cargo that is related to the airport.

Q. How difficult or challenging is it to handle the functioning of two fast-growing free zones!? How do you juggle these twin responsibilities?

A. Managing these two fast growing free zones is not very easy, but I have a professional staffed team to assist me in different areas. With our excellent team work, I manage these two free zones and come closer to accomplishing our aim of taking the zones to greater heights.

Currently, HFZ and SAIF Zone have over 13,000 companies, and over 1,000 industries ranging from small to medium to heavy industries. We have investors of 157 different nationalities. My office is always open to all these investors. They can come and meet me at any time and discuss any issues that are related to their business.

Q. The HFZ was in the news for sponsoring and participating in the Geneva Humanitarian Aviation Conference & Exhibition 2014. How do you feel to be part of the World Food Programme’s (WFP) humanitarian efforts?

A. Of course, the initiative was to support the WFP’s humanitarian efforts to alleviate global hunger and we are proud to be one of the sponsors of that global conference.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has always been one of our prime focuses in order to achieve sustainable development.