- RAK Economic Zone (RAKEZ) is one of the few entities that reported growth in 2020
- Depending on the sector, new business leads grew between 15% to 20% this year, according Ramy Jallad, Group CEO of RAKEZ
- Growth has been enabled by use of digital platform, incentives and the UAE's business "ecosystem"
Dubai/Ras Al Khaimah: Growth amidst the pandemic is possible. Despite the challenges brought by the coronavirus, there’s one winner in the UAE — the Ral Al Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ).
That may seem like a surprising news. But not really, considering the timely move towards digitisation, which means lesser face-to-face facilitation of permits, competitive fees, and the UAE's pro-business stance, including high-speed internet allowing for remote work. These have become some of the biggest draws for business locators to the zone, said Ramy Jallad, Group CEO of RAKEZ.
The pandemic has brought a lot of challenges for everybody across the world. But I believe that planning, strategy, foresight and digitising everything, gave us greater resilience in dealing with the situation; we have managed to control the situation and prepare for the rebound.
These have become some of the biggest draws for business locators to the zone, said Ramy Jallad, Group CEO of RAKEZ. The result: A 20 per cent spike in the number of fresh business leads this 2020. RAKEZ currently hosts has about 15,000 companies from more than 100 countries.
RAKEZ, one among the 37 free zones across the UAE, offers a variety of license types: commercial, educational, e-commerce, general trading, individual/professional, industrial, media, professional, services and freelance permit. The zone produces everything from ceramics and passenger buses, to tea and personal care products (toothpase, hair-care and skin-care items).
“The pandemic has brought a lot of challenges for everybody. But I believe that planning, strategy, foresight and digitising everything, gave us greater resilience in dealing with the situation; we have managed to control the situation and prepare for the rebound,” said Jallad.
100Number of countries represented at RAKEZ
“The number of companies we attracted so far this 2020 had exceeded the number during the same period in 2019. Depending on the industry type, the number of new customers has gone up by between 15-20 per cent,” said Jallad.
RAKEZ's digitisation project — which helps investors limit paperwork, avoid physical or face-to-face interactions in the application and licensing process — had not been an easy task, but one that paid off. Moreover, linking its digital platform with all government entities gives locators a "full digital experience, from on-boarding, clearances and fee payments," explained Jallad.
The zone recently launched the new Office Spring Packages for SMEs and entrepreneurs looking to start their business from a private office or a space in a co-working environment, in the process offering up to 35 per cent discount on the package, with installment options.
“Accessibility and digitisation of our services excites me the most, because it allows us to provide a seamless, ease-of-doing-business environment. In the background, it was very tough to do,” said Jallad. Incentives as well as pro-active policies had also been part of the mix. In May 2020, RAKEZ introduced a holding company set-up to back investors in diversifying investments.
37Number of Free zones across the UAE
Jallad also points to the UAE’s key advantages: “We have a second-to-none logistics hub that moves products and services efficiently. We’re also a hotspot for people who want to do remote work, and those who come here and set up their businesses, and access the rest of the world.”
Customer support, incentives
To alleviate hardship faced by companies, RAKEZ unveiled a number of initiatives alongside local government entities. “The pandemic has allowed us to be agile and even focus more on our 'customer-centricity' and experience,” said Jallad.
The zone has offices India, Germany, as well as in Dubai. This year, RAKEZ has also launched a raft of "customisable" incentives, to support the companies operating under its umbrella. These include:
- 3-month exemption from renewing commercial licenses
- Flexible options for payment of fees, such as installment plans
- 50% discount on the cost of licenses
- Full exemption from the amount of insurance on new residency visa applications
- 5% discount on new residency visas for family members of people employed by RAKEZ companies
- Full exemption from renewal delay fines
- Full exemption from cheque postponement fees
- Full exemption from package downgrade fees
- Full exemption from changing activity fees
- 25% discount on new workers’ housing applications
- Complete exemption from entrance fees to centers affiliated with RAKEZ.
In May, the government of Ras Al Khaimah launched a stimulus package to ease the financial burden and help private sector companies face pandemic-driven challenges. It covers all sectors including tourism, government services, environment and SMEs, which make up the largest number of companies operating in Ras Al Khaimah and which are the most affected by the situation.
Three levels of support were offered: payment exemptions, postponement of fees and the provision of consultancy and assistance. RAK government agencies introduced a 25 per cent exemption on fees for renewing commercial licenses that were closed as per circulars issued by government agencies, as well as for any sectors affected by the crisis, provided they meet the terms and conditions set by the Department of Economic Development in Ras Al Khaimah.