Sharief Habib Al Awadhi, Director General, Fujairah Free Zone Image Credit: Supplied

In Fujairah Free Zone, cost-effectiveness, convenience and easy access to authorities as well as well-priced human resource facilities are the key factors that draw in entrepreneurs, says Sharief Habib Al Awadhi, Director General, Fujairah Free Zone. “I think the best thing about our free zones are the easy licencing procedures and cost-effective tariffs.”

While easy regulations and a generous grace period smoothen the process of business set-up at Fujairah Free Zone, they also comply with international standards of corporate governance, he adds. Today’s convenience was unthinkable a decade ago. “Ten years ago, it might take months to get a license. Today, it’s simple. You can just do everything online.”

Al Awadhi says that although start-ups in the tech, logistics, food security and pharmaceutical sectors are promoted heavily by the media – and, consequently, free zones often feel pressured to market these – but the reality on the ground is different. “It’s easy to come and say I have 100 start-ups involved in trending topics like AI, or the next Google, rather than saying I have companies in well-established but less exciting industries such as packaging or plastics processing, which are doing well.”

The Fujairah Free Zone niche Al Awadhi is perhaps proudest of is accessibility to authorities, both governmental and managerial decision-makers. “This gives a lot of comfort to the business community. If we look around in Fujairah, we have an oil zone that has developed tremendously over the past 20 years. We accordingly developed the free zones, the port, and now we have a devoted establishment to look after these.”

During a challenging 2020, Fujairah Free Zone provided safety training to its people and clients while also extending support by restructuring tariffs.

Other human factors matter too. Operating a free-zone business requires calls after hours, site accessibility, handling imports and exports while dealing with environmental, safety and human resource issues. “You need devoted people. We’ve been working on these elements for more than 25 years but are always looking to improve things.”