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

VOL 19, Issue 3 July 2017

Interview

Mohammad Bin Suwailem is the Executive Director of Relationship Management and Government Services Division at Dubai Airport Freezone. He has been an integral part of Dafza since 1998. Gifted with cross-functional knowledge, he has a proven track record of leadership, with around 20 years of experience in senior management positions. In his previous role as Director of Sales, he spearheaded efforts in the accomplishment of business targets and maximized market penetration through independent relationship development with key clients across various countries and nationalities. In his current role, Mr. Suwailem does what he is best at, managing relationships between multi-cultural clients and DAFZA, among other key portfolios.

Q. The UAE is home to nearly 40 free zones. With the tough competition, what steps has the DAFZA leadership taken to ensure that DAFZA is set apart from the others?

A. One of our key priorities at DAFZA is to provide unique services within an equally unique environment. All our facilities, processes and services always come with attractive value-added elements. Another major competitive factor is our strategic location near one of the world’s busiest airports and just a few minutes away from the center of Dubai, the region’s commercial hub. Moreover, as an active supporter of Dubai’s economy, DAFZA aligns all its incentives, investments and innovative solutions with the emirate’s overarching economic diversification agenda.

Our business model, which focuses on efficient operational management and flexibility to the business and investment needs of the local and global markets and those of our hosted enterprises, also sets us apart from the rest.

And of course, we continue to draw in investors and organizations from all over the world to our numerous incentives such as 100 per cent exemptions on corporate, personal income, and import and export taxes; zero currency restrictions; dedicated logistics services and support; sophisticated infrastructure; and host of innovative smart solutions and capabilities complementing Dubai’s transformation into one of the world’s smartest cities.

Q. Amid the buzz that other free zones create, DAFZA quietly keeps growing at an even pace without raising an eyebrow. Is the low-profile a strategy in itself? Tell us the story behind DAFZA’s continued success?

A. DAFZA is a customer-centric organization that prefers to direct the spotlight on its hosted businesses through exceptional levels of collaboration, cooperation and partnership. We prefer that any buzz we generate is beneficial first and foremost to our clients. We are not really making a conscious effort to be low-key, we just want all our actions to be about our customers.

Our desire to keep the attention focused on our customers has led several Fortune 500 companies to the free zone. We reward their patronage with the highest levels of innovation, service quality, and business and investment opportunities. Our sharp focus on our customers and their diverse and evolving needs has always been the key to our sustained success.

Q. You already have the advantage of a superbly strategic location. What are the other offerings from DAFZA that are sustaining its growth within the free zone industry?

A. We promise our customers an environment where they are free to grow, which we complement with continued expansion. Just recently we completed the DAFZA Industrial Park, a premier distribution platform representing our first expansion project outside of the free zone’s geographic periphery. It is a 16,000 square metres plot conveniently located near to the Al Qusais Industrial Area which will facilitate in-bound logistics, warehousing and distribution. Our customers there will be provided with light industrial units that can support a broad range of industries.

DAFZA also focuses sharply on comprehensive diversification and nurtures new sectors such as the Islamic economy which we are fully supporting to complement Dubai’s efforts to become the Capital of the Global Islamic Economy.

Innovation – one of DAFZA’s core business values – is another focal area that we capitalize on to guarantee sustained growth. To ensure our transformation into one of the world’s most innovative free zones, we are implementing the DAFZA Innovation Strategy to put various innovation-driven protocols, procedures, capabilities and services in place. We have our Innovation Unit dedicated to achieving the goals of this strategy and establishing innovation as a fundamental pillar of the free zone’s development structure.

Another remarkable milestone is our smart app that enable our customers to efficiently, swiftly and safely perform important transactions such as license registration via advanced electronic platforms. Such initiatives have helped us boost the level of customer happiness in our service centers by a remarkable 83.5 per cent.

Our philosophy is that if we want our customers to spread their wings, then we should constantly come up with new and innovative facilities and offerings to accommodate their development.

Q. You have nearly two decades of experience in the free zone industry. Does this help in understanding the current needs and demands of the Dubai business community?

A. They say that experience is the best teacher, which is very true in our case. Our almost two decades of exposure to the industry has provided us with valuable insights on how to best meet the needs of our customers and the market we operate in and how to leverage challenges and turn them to opportunities.

DAFZA’s good pulse of Dubai’s business and investment dynamics enables us to assist in local commercial and investment growth. We keep up with the latest trends and best practices to continue attracting leading multinational companies and investors and in the process, help maintain the vibrancy of the local business landscape.

Q. What is your vision for the future of DAFZA in particular and Dubai in general?

A. During the first quarter of this year we rolled out our Strategic Plan for 2017 to 2021 which will guide us in further boosting our key contributions to Dubai’s economic diversification and development. Our vision is to cement our position as a premier hub for foreign investors and leading multinational companies from all over the world. We will achieve this through a comprehensive diversification strategy involving the establishment of new sectors, the inclusion of companies specializing in the Islamic economy, and the development of more expansion projects along the vein of our new DAFZA industrial Park.

As for Dubai, we envision the emirate soon emerging as one of the world’s leading business, investment and lifestyle destinations under the wise leadership of H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The upcoming 2020 Dubai World Expo will draw global attention to Dubai as a city of vast opportunities that significantly grows day by day, and will be an important platform for securing Dubai’s international prominence. We are currently preparing to support this major event and help attract more investors and multinational companies.

Q. You’ve been with DAFZA for 20 years! That is nearly a generation in today’s world of millennials. What has sustained your enthusiasm and drive to be with DAFZA?

A. It gives me a great degree of satisfaction and fulfillment to be able to help maintain a stimulating and nurturing workplace for highly talented people. Although there have been many challenges throughout those two decades, they have all been instrumental to my successful professional growth. Plus, I have been blessed with the tireless support and encouragement of DAFZA’s inspiring management, which I appreciate very much.

It is an honor and a privilege for me to be part of DAFZA’s distinguished team as I firmly believe in the exceptional role that the free zone will play in forging a bright future for Dubai and the entire country.

Q. You are and have been part of a score of business councils in the UAE. What message do you wish to give to established and upcoming businessmen in the region?

A. I would like to convey to the region’s seasoned and up-and-coming businessmen that the UAE and Dubai continue to be exemplary business and investment destinations that the world looks up to as key gateways between the East and the West. The necessary facilities, infrastructure, manpower and policies are all here for entrepreneurs and enterprises of all sizes and forms to achieve unprecedented and sustained growth.

We are particularly proud of how DAFZA has grown into the region’s premier free zone, and given the chance I would invite as many members of the region’s business and investment communities as I can to take advantage of our high-caliber facilities, services and incentives to achieve greater success.

Q. What does a Director at one of the busiest free zones in UAE do for work-life balance? What are your other interests / passions?

A. Striking a good work-life balance is already difficult for a professional, so it is of course hard to achieve this while working at one of the world’s most dynamic free zones. While it is highly challenging, it is not impossible, though. I am constantly aware of the need to shift my focus on certain aspects of my professional and personal life whenever and wherever needed; I do not allow myself to get stuck in one place and lose my center. I manage my time as best as I can, I set my priorities at the start of the day, and I carefully go through my schedule. The key is to work smarter, and not just harder.

I try to squeeze in some rest and relaxation as much as I can through quality time and vacations with my family, attending equestrian events, and occasional get-togethers with friends. I also exercise regularly and eat a nutritious diet to sustain my energy and good health.

Q. What does the future hold for a modest yet dynamic representative of the Dubai Future Leaders Program?

I am very proud to be a representative of the Dubai Future Leaders Program which was launched by the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. It gives me the opportunity to participate in the grooming of future leaders with the vision to take Dubai to new heights while staying true to its roots and core values. I am learning a lot through my involvement in helping government entities meet their strategic objectives and in collaborating with leading scientific institutions to reinforce national capacities. As a representative of this inspiring program, I am learning more about how to polish my own leadership skills and transfer my knowledge to the next generation to ensure greater success for Dubai.

Q. What does the future hold for a modest yet dynamic representative of the Dubai Future Leaders Program?

I am very proud to be a representative of the Dubai Future Leaders Program which was launched by no less than the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. It gives me the opportunity to participate in the grooming of future leaders with the vision to take Dubai to new heights while staying true to its roots and core values. I am learning a lot through my involvement in helping government entities meet their strategic objectives and in collaborating with leading scientific institutions to reinforce national capacities. As a representative of this inspiring program, I am learning more about how to polish my own leadership skills and transfer my knowledge to the next generation to ensure greater success for Dubai.