City talk

Two months into his new post, Malek Sultan Al Malek, executive director of Dubai Internet City (DIC) discusses the challenges facing the highly successful ICT cluster and how it is planning on facing these.

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By  Sathya Mithra Ashok Published  June 22, 2008

Two months into his new post, Malek Sultan Al Malek, executive director of Dubai Internet City (DIC) discusses the challenges facing the highly successful ICT cluster and how it is planning on facing these.

What would you say are the main reasons for DIC's strong growth since formation?

We started seven and a half years back as the first project in the government's overall strategy to move towards a knowledge based economy. We have been fortunate to more than achieve our targets for 2010 by having more than 900 ICT companies established in Dubai.

We have maintained a growth of not less than 25% every year in number of companies. Last year, we had around 30% growth. We continue to attract large as well as medium companies and, through different services, we support small and start-up companies.

Looking back on the history of DIC, I think the main reason for the growth and why ICT companies came to Dubai is that we have the right environment.

When I talk about the right environment, I am referring to the IT and telecom infrastructure, the customer savvy environment, the smart offices, the registration and licensing type of activities here.

Additionally, all of this is made available through a free zone type cluste, The added opportunity to have 100% ownership is yet another of the extremely attractive options for companies to move here.

Moreover, DIC put in effort from the beginning and has created a brand that everybody wanted to be a part from the outsets.

The growth of the ICT industry can also be traced to the region's overall economic growth. In any economic growth, ICT is a main or major fundamental element that is necessary for sustainability.

Hotels need IT systems, airports need IT systems and residential and construction industries need IT systems. So part of the success for the huge technology boom that has happened in the Middle East - it can be even called the main driver - is the overall economy.

We were lucky enough to establish the cluster in 2000 when the IT revolution happened globally. We were fortunate to be on the map of the trans-national companies which moved from Europe, the US and Asian countries to tap into the fast growing economies of the GCC and the Middle East.

The history of DIC clearly sets forward that we are part of the development that has happened across the board. We were lucky enough and smart enough to offer the right opportunity for these ICT companies to come and set up shop here.

The systems and infrastructure that we offer are not available anywhere else in the region. We are the biggest implementer of IP telephony in the Middle East and we have received awards for such an advanced deployment.

If you take DIC as a cluster, we are part of the success of the overall economy and we have the right products and the right services for the ICT companies.

How big is DIC today and what are your growth plans?

We have maintained a growth of not less than 25% every year in number of companies. Last year, we had around 30% growth. We continue to attract large as well as medium companies and, through different services, we support small and start-up companies.

Recently we had companies like Google opening offices in DIC, as well as BT and other brand names. To give you a number, we are today 1200 companies operating from the DIC cluster.

The plan is that we continue to grow - physically in terms of office space as well as in other ways. We will continue to attract new companies and we will be selective about the type of companies and the type of activities that these companies will pursue in the cluster.

This is what will be different from previous years.

We were attracting all activities - now we will be more focused on the more complicated or complex activities rather than just sales and marketing and support functions.

We are very keen on attracting companies that are planning to set up innovation centres, technology demonstration centres and software development centres here. Physically we will have more buildings while we will be selective in the kind of companies that we will be adding on.

We will also be keen on going into partnerships with companies here to provide more services to our community. We would also like to partner with them to tap into other possible business opportunities in the market.

TECOM, as the mother company, has already invested in pure play technology companies and we have a share in Axiom Telecom. We will look to replicate such partnerships.

These are our growth plans.

How is this expansion going to pan out in the UAE as well as other areas of the region?

In terms of physical expansion, we will keep on growing here. We have a number of buildings that are coming up and will be ready in the coming two years.

We have a screening process for companies, when they initially apply, and that is when we will be selective in the type of companies that we take on. We will be keener to offer more support if the company has more complex - R&D or software, development or technology demonstration activities - planned in the cluster.

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