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By Our Special Correspondent
The SAIF Zone has a enviable 30 per cent growth rate in terms of number of companies operating out of there. An interesting aside is that 50 to 60 per cent of the investors in SAIF are from India with the second largest investment coming from European countries.
Although there are around 2,500 free trade zones around the world, not many free zones are truly free or flexible. That, however is not a problem that SAIF has to contend with. ``We can change our procedures on a daily basis,'' said Sheikh Qassemi, adding,'' compared to other free trade zones, our advantages are the way we treat our investors being proactive to their needs.
Secondly the location is ideal in that it is right the middle of UAE.'' By the end of August this year, 818 companies are operating out of SAIF. This includes a virtual who's-who of the Indian corporates. Major Indian companies operating from this zone are Infosys, Ashok Leyland, Zee Telefilm, India Today, Godrej Boyce, ACCEL ICIM and Parikh Platinum.
Companies in the SAIF zone can target a customer base of around two billion spread over West Asia, Africa, CIS countries and Europe. ``Over the last decade, UAE has become the point where East meets West,'' said Sheikh Qassemi. Sharjah is the industrial base of UAE and more than 45 per cent of UAE's industry is in Sharjah.
There are daily flights, including cargo, for 220 destinations from there. The SAIF zone is an ideal location for the garments industry given that there is no quota restrictions for apparels.
Fifteen years ago, 85 per cent of GDP of the UAE was from the oil sector. However, since then, there has been a conscious shift in strategy from being so heavily oil dependent. As a consequence of this, oil now constitutes only 35-40 per cent of the total economy.
Said Shiekh Qassemi, ``because of this diversification we have a very stable economy, enjoy among the lowest inflation rates in the world and have a very stable currency.''
SAIF has an MoU with ICICI Bank and also gets support from Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and other financial and trading houses for implementation of its marketing strategies in India.
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