The free zone concept is an intrinsic factor in the unparalleled growth of Dubai as a regional trading hub. So it’s entirely appropriate that we needn't look far afield for the free zone honoured as the world's Number One. For the last three years in succession, Financial Times fDi magazine, in its Free Zones of the Year competition, voted Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) - ‘Winner - Global Overall.' Moreover, DMCC has been acclaimed as the fastest-growing free zone in the GCC and is also unique in that it remains the only international commodity centre in the region.
While all residents of the UAE will be familiar with the reputation of DMCC, it’s worth explaining at the outset that this free zone authority was established with an important dual purpose. Firstly, to provide the physical, market and financial infrastructure required to establish Dubai as a hub for global commodities trade. Then, as a geographical jurisdiction providing both a physical and virtual home to member companies who can enjoy the diverse benefits of life as a trading entity in a freezone. Today, DMCC has more than 15,000 member businesses, a number growing at the rate of 170 per month. At the core of this appeal is the powerful free zone mantra that expatriate owners of member businesses can enjoy all the benefits of 100% ownership.
DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY
DMCC has always been at the forefront of innovation. A key example is the fact that it was the first free zone in the GCC to offer a completely online registration platform. The Digital Transformation Programme allows complete, 360-degree online visa and licensing facilitation - meaning supercharged registration timings and the fact that it is now possible to go from arrival to free zone status in an average of only eight days.
Moreover, in 2016, DMCC joined forces with Furutreagenda.org and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) to create a powerful, penetrating study of the trends impacting and empowering global trade - The Future of Trade. A highly influential report, it suggested that the full digitilisation of commerce could lead to a six-fold increase in the number of businesses that export goods - in other words, between 100 million and 350 million businesses would become engaged in global export trade for the first time. Another conclusion was that digital currencies represent a powerfully cost-effective future for the world of trade and could save economies as much as 1.5% of GDP.
DMCC also leads the pack in other areas: its partnership with Emirates NBD led to the first ever corporate credit card between a bank and a free zone. It can also facilitate the most critical factor of all for an SME - working capital, which can actually be provided upfront to member businesses meeting selected terms and conditions.
It's also worth mentioning that DMCC in fact comprises four diverse trading platforms: the Dubai Gold & Commodities Exchange, the Dubai Diamond Exchange, the Dubai Pearl Exchange, and the DMCC Tea Centre. There is also a raft of innovative products and value-added services such as DMCC Tradeflow and the Dubai Good Delivery Standard for Gold. With the latter, DMCC is one of the few entities in the region at the vanguard of the complex sustainability issues surrounding mining and extraction.
AN ECOSYSTEM THAT FINDS SOLUTIONS
DMCC is part of the government of Dubai, with a core remit of bringing businesses into Dubai and then helping them be successful - whether it is in trading, services or the industrial sector. It functions by creating an eco-system that helps companies get a soft landing into Dubai and creates connections and networks as quickly as possible for them.
DMCC has also been a pioneer when it comes to answering another key question: where and how can a business best set up an office? Plus, how should it do so in a way that is affordable, fast and projects a highly professional image from Day One? While the geographical advantages of DMCC are well-known - along with the spectacular landscape of 85 towers (which will soon include the world's highest commercial skyscraper) - DMCC has always been keen to work with acknowledged world leaders in office provision, and its latest business innovations result from a powerful alliance with Servcorp, providers of the world's finest flexible workspace solutions. Representing 40,000 members worldwide, across 54 cities in 23 nations, Servcorp is also well-placed to understand the very particular requirements of entrepreneurial start-ups, with their need for value and a time-saving, one-stop platform.
With its finger very much on the pulse of change, Servcorp has been well-placed to lobby DMCC to maximise the cost-effectiveness of business set-up in the free zone by allowing registration based on a Flexible Workspace. Businesses can register for a Coworking space at a Servcorp office, or register centrally with DMCC and reap the benefits of a Virtual Office.
This is a key step in allowing small and medium businesses to benefit from all the advantages of a prestigious address, landing phone numbers and office support, without committing to dedicated office space. The reality is that Servcorp has invested more than $100 million in IT and telecoms to ensure clients receive the best service possible. Plus, as a specialist in Flexible Workspace solutions, Servcorp can meet the needs of many styles of business, regardless of sector or specialisation.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FLEXIBLE WORKING
Servcorp's commitment to Flexible Working aligns with leading international practice, which increasingly recognises the tremendous interest in Flexible Working and its undoubted commercial benefits. Worldwide, Flexible Working is a key factor in the working practices favoured by a new generation of millennials, start-ups and innovative/creative entrepreneurs. In fact, the vibrant growth of the Flexible Working phenomenon is a headline success story of global business: by 2017, the number of flexible workspaces internationally had reached 15,500 - a staggering rise from the 2011 figure of just over 1,100. By the end of 2018, the figure looks set to rise to 18,900. Currently, there are estimated to be approximately 1.3 million people working in flexible workspaces globally. According to property and investment titan Jones Lang Lasalle, by 2030, up to 30% of all office space will be, in some form, flexible, or have an open layout design.
UNRIVALLED LOCATION - AND VISION
Servcorp's offer in DMCC is at the epicentre of the free zone itself, offering the best possible strategic, transport and commercial advantages: Level 54 of the prestigious Almas Tower. Not only does this location offer exceptional co-working environments, but a client-first mentality that ensures businesses can enjoy a host of bespoke contract options. Servcorp's desk service can even carry out the seamless, end-to-end registration and licensing of a business with DMCC. The focus is to provide a solution for everyone, encouraging diversity and entrepreneurship while removing the potential hurdles to start-up and growth.
This means that, in reality, a business can - depending on its budget - register for a designated office or take the option of a highly affordable virtual office, with packages starting at only AED800 per month. What's more, this will access an absolutely premier Coworking space, making the address a first choice amongst serviced offices in Dubai.
Having worked closely with DMCC since its inception, Laudy Lahdo, General Manager, Servcorp Middle East, commented on the free zone's unique offer and its relationship with Servcorp: "DMCC is a prime innovator in offering the comprehensive solutions afforded by a vibrant, forward-thinking eco-system. Servcorp is proud to partner a free zone committed to innovation and - above all - to the ease of business start-up and growth. With our finger on the pulse of change, we have always been driven by the need to provide solutions in markets where the dynamics of business are changing rapidly and where entrepreneurs have to move quickly and cost-effectively. The feedback that we have shared with DMCC has led to pioneering environments and the creation of workspace and registration facilities that are second to none. Moreover, incoming businesses can also access the extensive Servcorp Community in DMCC, empowering networking and market intelligence. Together, Servcorp and DMCC see Flexible Working as a passport to channelling and nurturing growth and we urge every SME to explore the opportunities available here."
Looking at the dynamic free zone climate and the advantages offered by DMCC, Ahmad Hamza, Director of Operations, DMCC, explained that: "At DMCC we provide our business community of over 15,000 companies with the infrastructure, products, and services they need to innovate and boost growth in a pro-business, collaborative, international environment. We also recognise that the requirements of a start-up is very different to that of a large corporation. So when we can collaborate with businesses like Servcorp to help meet the demand for more flexible workspaces by providing the right amount of regulation as well as cost effective co-working spaces that foster creativity, collaboration and sustainable economic growth, we welcome these initiatives.”