In what ways is RAKIA continuing to invest in Ras Al Khaimah?
MASSAAD: RAKIA is continuing to invest in Ras Al Khaimah in infrastructure and facilities in the industrial parks. We have two industrial parks and our aim is to invest in the infrastructure and to attract investments into these parks. This is the most important subject for RAKIA. The infrastructure is world class. I am pleased to tell you that last month we were rated as one of the best and most creative investment destinations in the Middle East. We are among the top 10 in the region so we are very happy about that. We have roads, electricity, sewage, and gas all available. RAKIA is working on many projects to attract many industries like the automotive industry and other spare-part industries. We are doing many seminars in Europe, the Far East, India, and the US to attract investors.
Where do you see opportunity for foreign direct investment in Ras Al Khaimah today?
MASSAAD: In every field there is an opportunity because the UAEâ€™s population and the Gulfâ€™s population are growing. Here, investors and people setting up industrial projects here can export to a population of 2bn within a 3-hour flight. If we take the example from RAK Ceramics, our most successful industry, they are able to export to 150 countries from Ras Al Khaimah. Any other industry can be successful as well. We donâ€™t have any specific target, but every industry that is long-term and sustainable is welcome here. We are looking to attract all types of investors from around the world in every sustainable, long-term industry.
What industries are you most keen to promote in Ras Al Khaimah?
MASSAAD: Personally I am keen to build non-cyclical industries. I prefer to have long-term sustainable industries that produce products that are exportable all across the world, year around. This is what we are targeting. We think we will be successful in this. We already have glass table wear, polyester palettes, cars and automotive, food industries, appliances, and others just to name a few examples. CEOs have the opportunity to have HR from anywhere they like here in Ras Al Khaimah. I would tell investors this is a place where CEOs and managers can focus on their business. There is no politics and no problems to look after other than their business. There is no need to play politics or to lobby or anything like that. They just have to be creative and perform in their business. In the end, every business setting up in the UAE and in Ras Al Khaimah in particular will employ local people. To have local employment in industry will be very beneficial to the country. The locals we have in RAK Ceramics and RAKIA are excellent and they are doing a very good job. They are very dedicated and great for our companies.
What benefits do the UAE and RAKIA offer for investors?
MASSAAD: RAKIA offers all types of benefits; it is part of the UAE, and here we are tax-free, an advantageous labor market, and general freedom to operate a business. We are especially cost effective in the cost of construction, the cost of land, land lease, etc. are all cost effective and this is very important.
Under what circumstances will RAKIA become involved in equity participation of a project?
MASSAAD: If projects are feasible and interesting RAKIA will likely invest in it. We have invested in a cement plant, a glass bottling plant, a polyester pellets plant, etc. To encourage investors and to give them confidence, sometimes RAKIA can invest on a project-by-project basis depending on feasibility.
In what ways is RAKIA different from other free-zones in the UAE?
MASSAAD: We try to be very friendly, very welcoming, and very efficient. We try to make it very easy for investors; we try to put ourselves in the shoes of the investor and understand what they need and to help them solve their problems, assist them in their needs, and help them establish their projects.
In every field there is an opportunity because the UAEâ€™s population and the Gulfâ€™s population are growing. Here, investors and people setting up industrial projects here can export to a population of 2bn within a 3-hour flight. If we take the example from RAK Ceramics, our most successful industry, they are able to export to 150 countries from Ras Al Khaimah.
What is the impact of RAK Ceramics on the economy of Ras Al Khaimah?
MASSAAD: RAK Ceramics today is the biggest ceramic company in the world. Last year we produced 100m square meters. This year we hope to reach 105m-110m square meters. We are exporting to 140 countries around the world and we are producing any type of ceramics from 10x10cm tiles up to the biggest tile in the world, which is 1.2x1.8m. RAK Ceramics is a brilliant company and is an example for many industries.
Ras Al Khaimah is actively developing a local automotive cluster. What geographic markets will products from this cluster be targeted towards? Why should automotive sector players set up shop in Ras Al Khaimah?
MASSAAD: In RAKIA we have started this cluster for the automotive business and we have allocated this segment space in the industrial zone. We have about 30,000,000 square meters of land and we think that the future of the automotive sector will be imported in this region. The market is increasing and there is no automotive manufacturing in the whole area. We think that many of the European manufacturers could benefit by relocating parts or all of their production to this region and benefit from the cost-effective destination here. Ras Al Khaimah is a strategic location for Central Asia and Africa. So we are targeting the European manufacturers as well as the Japanese and American manufacturers to come here and set up a base that they can do business from. The benefits of setting up this kind of industry here are that we are cost-effective, we have expertise from around the world, there are no taxes, and we positioned near growth markets. We also have all the necessary resources available. So it will be a very good move for manufacturers to set up their production here or parts of units of their production here. We already have Sumitomo from Japan and they are happy here. We have Mahindra from India and they are doing very well sourcing products to Africa. So we hope to have more companies come here.
What role do you see Ras Al Khaimah playing in the greater UAE?
MASSAAD: I hope that Ras Al Khaimah will be the industrial hub of the UAE with the efforts of RAKIA. We try to attract many industries here. His Highness, the Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, is very keen to have a peaceful and industrious place and for the people to work and live happily in Ras Al Khaimah.