Dubai: As the city’s thriving tech park, Dubai Internet City (DIC) is a brand to reckon with. Since its launch in 1999, it has grown leaps and bounds to become the region’s premier destination for tech companies and a catalyst for Dubai’s vision to be one of the smartest and most futuristic cities in the world.
Last year, the business community announced that companies in DIC drew AED7.8 billion in funding since its launch; this number is on the rise.
“These figures bear testimony to our success in attracting the best and brightest businesses. As a key enabler of Dubai’s future vision, DIC plays an indispensable role in supporting innovative tech companies that fuel economic growth and smart city development,” said Ammar Al Malik, managing director, Dubai Internet City and Dubai Outsource City.
Partners driving business in DIC
There are more than 1,600 companies registered in DIC. Of them, several feature in the latest Forbes 500 ranking including Fortune 500 companies such as Oracle, Visa, Google, 3M, Dell, Microsoft, IBM, Facebook and MasterCard.
DIC is home to more than 24,000 skilled professionals and this figure is expected to go up to nearly 40,000 by the end of the year with the launch of the Innovation Hub.
The companies within DIC belong to a range of industries such as Internet of Things (IOT), artificial intelligence (AI), big data, cyber security, cloud and robotics.
“Most of the big technology firms you know such as Oracle and IBM have all been part of the growth of DIC," said Al Malik. "We launched the development with four buildings that you see surrounding the big lake; today, we have several hundreds. That is proof of how much the development has grown. From big companies to start-ups and smaller names who have made it big in the UAE, they are here in DIC.” he added.
“Careem, Mumzworld, Media.net among others are all success stories which have come from DIC,” he said. Property Finder also stemmed from DIC, located in the development.
Al Malik also stated that Amazon’s acquisition of Souq.com and the Careem-Uber deal are examples of the diversification opportunities available in the UAE. Property Finder is also located in DIC. “These partnerships have been vital for UAE’s growth and diversification, and [are] encouraging other such global tech leaders to come and work in the region,” said Al Malik.
Other DIC successes include the region’s first legal music streaming platform and digital distribution company, Anghami, which raised more than Dh106.6 million ($29 million) from regional investors and leading digital health platform Altibbi brought in funding worth Dh18.4 million.
Additionally, members of in5 - a platform used by entrepreneurs and startup which fosters innovation and collaborations - have also contributed significantly to the local economy. Launched by TECOM Group, in5 offers five key benefits: a robust business set-up framework; training and mentorship; networking; investment opportunities; and cutting-edge prototyping labs, studios and creative workspaces.
“Going forward, for the next phase of growth, the focus will be (and in fact it has always been) to continue to attract promising and revolutionary tech companies from across the globe,” said Al Malik.
Financial benefits of running your business from DIC
For starters, companies enjoy 100 per cent ownership and tax incentives to full currency convertibility, no customs duties and no restrictions on profit or capital repatriations. Additionally, a range of business set-up solutions -such as the smart gateway axs - and a vibrant and supportive community further enhances the ease of doing business.
Nikhil Nair, a senior executive at HTC Consumer located in DIC, said: “For a technology company like ours, which focuses on the most cutting-edge technology in the VR [virtual reality] industry, we felt DIC is an energetic community and offers us a solid strategic base. With upcoming hardware launches and a growing ecosystem of VR content partners, we strongly believe that DIC gives us a robust platform to accelerate this growth,” he said.
“In the end it is all about enablement. We want to enable our customers to realise the value of mobility and virtual reality today, and DIC also appreciates that this cannot happen in a silo - it requires an ecosystem of likeminded thinkers.”
"Other benefits we see is that DIC helps us by connecting us with enterprises. As an example, we participated in GITEX 2018 along with DIC to explore how VR use cases are expanding beyond gaming into applications in healthcare, education, government, retail and more. It was very fruitful. We would not have received such benefits if we had an office in any other development.”
Mansoor Sarwar, Director Technical Services and Pre-Sales, Sage Middle East, added: “We chose to set up an office here at DIC because the process to set up a business was easy and quick, and it is a welcoming technology business community, where many regional headquarters of tech giants, small- and medium-[sized] businesses and even fledging start-ups are based.”
“If you think about iconic technology communities such as Silicon Valley or Shenzhen, the success of one company adds to the success of the industry. That’s what it means to be in a thriving community, where companies continuously push the boundaries for innovation and exchange best practices,” said Sarwar.
Sarwar said the company first set-up office at DIC in 2002, and since then the headcount has grown to about 50 staff members and more than 60 business partners and distributors across the region.
The development, he said, is particularly attractive because of the value for your money that it offers.
The development, he said, is particularly attractive because of the value for your money that it offers. He added: "DIC’s mandate from the start was to support information and communications technology firms, and it has one of the biggest ICT infrastructure[s] built within a free zone. From a business perspective, the free zone has attractive benefits such as tax exemptions, 100 per cent foreign ownership, full repatriation of profits, world-class infrastructure and legal entities within it that protect the rights of businesses.”
Life at DIC
DIC has a vibrant community with a lot to offer in the leisure, wellness and hospitality space. There are plenty restaurants such as Costa and Doner Kebab for DIC’s nearly 24,000-strong workforce. And there's always a place to stay; choose your budget and you'll find a hotel like Holiday Inn Express and the Two Seasons Hotel all based within the development.
Those travelling for work to DIC can choose hotel accommodations with diverse options such as the Holiday Inn Express or the Two Seasons Hotel all based within the development.
Besides offering the necessary infrastructure for a good work environment, the Tecom group believes in offering an equally good lifestyle component in DIC. "One of the things we strive to do is create more than just a work environment. The way the development has been designed is that there is ample space for people to walk and sit. There are a number of restaurants, cafes as well as hotels within the development."
"Other lifestyle components are important for us too. For example, every year we hold a yoga festival in DIC. The idea is that we want to people working in the community a complete package. The idea is that they should be happy coming and working at DIC," said Al Malik.
What is going on with DIC now?
Last year, Tecom Group launched the first phase of the Innovation Hub in the heart of DIC. Once complete, the Hub will have a capacity for a workforce of 15,000. In addition, this workforce will be able to network and share knowledge across the vast DIC ecosystem. Last October, DIC developer signed an MoU with the Russian Export Centre to launch the Russian Center for Digital Innovations and Information and Communication Technologies. The purpose behind the launch has been to encourage Russian tech firms to consider setting up businesses in the Middle East region. DIC has also signed an MoU with Indian IT industry body the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) to encourage Indian SMEs to set base in Dubai and the wider Middle East region.
Looking to set up an office in DIC? This is what you need to know
Malik says companies of all sizes can launch their operations in DIC, owing to its comprehensive and flexible business set-up framework. Since the development is primarily designed to be a tech park, the vast majority of businesses in the community are related to or focused around the tech industry. But not all companies here are tech-oriented; food delivery start-up ‘Lunch’ and music-streaming service Anghami being two examples.
DIC offers licenses in three basic categories: start-ups, branch expansions and retailers. Under each of these categories are separate legal requirements, fulfilling which the applicant will be able to set up operations at DIC. In the event an applicant has not zeroed down on an appropriate commercial space at the time of application, DIC even assists them in the selection of their office space. Those interested in setting up their business at DIC can visit www.dic.ae to find out more about the requirements behind obtaining a license.
A quick scan of property websites revealed rents for an office space in a tower in DIC hovers around Dh85,085 per annum for an area of 1,001 sq.ft. A 1,550 sq.ft space in the same tower is asking for Dh131,750 per annum. The rates are for a shell and core space.