1 IMD v DUBAI INTERNET CITY: SERVING BUSINESS Research Associate Anne-Valérie Ohlsson prepared this case under the supervision of Professor Jacques Horovitz as a basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a business situation. This case won the Euro- Mediterranean Managerial Practices & Issues Award in the 2004 European Case Writing Competition organized by the European Foundation for Management Development (efmd). The taxi drew up in front of a tall glass and marble building. It was the end of winter in Dubai and at 10 o clock in the morning the temperature was already 25 C. In the shaded entrance outside Building Four, headquarters of Dubai Internet City (DIC), a prospective business partner walked down the red carpet printed in bold letters with two mottoes: Red Carpet, No Red Tape and At DIC everyone is a VIP. The business park offered a beautiful work environment. There were fountains and a man-made lake, flowers and manicured lawns. On the rooftops of the five-story buildings, the names Cisco, Dell, Microsoft, Canon, HP and Oracle stood out against the pale blue sky. The air-conditioned hallway of Building Four was similar to many of its kind. A central welcome desk with hostesses too busy on the phone to greet the visitor. To the left, a chat zone resembling a first-class airport lounge, with comfortable chairs and courtesy coffee and tea. To the right, an open-plan space with rows of government desks. Fragments of Arabic, Hindi, English and Farsi drifted down as men in traditional dress and business suits greeted one other. Dr Omar Bin Sulaiman, CEO of DIC, received his guest in a conference room fitted with blue and yellow sofas. On a side table stood an IP phone and a wireless laptop. Large windows looked out over the lake and the palm trees. A member of the hospitality staff offered tea. Dr Omar s welcome was warm and genuine. In faultless English he shared his thoughts and preoccupations: We have grown even faster than we expected. We are today where we had projected to be in This success brings with it challenges that we will have to address. For one, will we manage to maintain our current level of service to our partners? And should we take this concept one step further and go international, following our clients into other markets and adding to our service? Copyright 2004 by IMD - International Institute for Management Development, Lausanne, Switzerland. Not to be used or reproduced without written permission directly from IMD.
2 - 2 - IMD Dubai Dubai is one of the seven emirates, or states, that declared independence from the UK in 1971 and came together in a federation--the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (refer to Appendix A for a map of the UAE). The rulers of the seven emirates form the Supreme Council of the UAE, which is responsible for general policy matters including education, defense, foreign affairs, economic development and the ratification of federal laws. The president and vice president are elected by the Supreme Council from among its members. The individual emirates also appoint members to the 40-strong Federal National Council, which reports to the Supreme Council and monitors and debates government policy and has executive authority to initiate and implement laws, but no power of veto. Dubai has its own Executive Council, headed by His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who rules Dubai along with his brothers, Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Ahmed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The lack of distinction between government finances and the private wealth of the Sheikh and his brothers make a clear analysis of the economics of the state difficult. Think of Dubai as a corporation and Mohammed its chief executive--without a board of directors getting in his way. 1 Islam is the official religion of Dubai, and freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution. Censorship is applied to the Internet in that users do not dial directly into the web but into a proxy server monitored by Etisalat (the state telecom monopoly) which prevents access to sites on the banned list. Publication of any criticism of the president of the UAE or emirate governments, and of material insulting Islam or offensive to public morals is prohibited. At the beginning of the 21 st century Dubai had already become not just a transport hub but also a tourist destination. Revenue from petrol made up only 8.4% of the state s gross domestic product (GDP), most of which was derived from trade, tourism, real estate, construction and financial services. Almost one-fourth of the Global 500 companies had a presence in Dubai. The favorable regulatory environment, the state s progressive attitude to business and trade, and its safety made it a location of choice for multinationals. In 2004 Dubai was the third most important re-export center in the world after Hong Kong and Singapore. No corporate taxes were levied, there was no income tax, foreign exchange controls, trade barriers or quotas. Import duties were 4% with many exemptions; imports more than doubled between 1989 and Free zones provided additional advantages: 100% foreign ownership (vs. 49%), 100% repatriation of capital. In % of the Dubai population was expatriate, representing over 185 countries. Of these expatriates, 65% were of Asian origin and 13% of Arab origin. Dubai s GDP per capita was US$19,000 per annum, having grown from $8 billion to $20 billion over the last decade. As a result, Dubai was one of the most prosperous states in the world. The currency, UAE dirham (Dh), was pegged to the US dollar. Inflation was low, averaging 2.5% in the period from 1991 to Unemployment was stable at 2%. 1 Arabian Knight. Forbes, March 2004.
3 - 3 - IMD Dubai Vision Embracing the concept of global business excellence, and keen to transform the UAE s commercial landscape, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed worked on his vision to bring together talent and leading companies to transform Dubai into a knowledge-based economy by the year This vision became known as the Dubai Vision Dubai subscribed to the notion, If it s good for business, it must be good for Dubai. Between 2004 and 2009, $40 to $60 billion were earmarked for investment in projects ranging from Dubailand, a Disneyland-like theme park, to massive leisure projects like The Palm, a huge palm-shaped manmade resort island, luxury residential projects and the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), a cluster initiative dedicated to the financial industry. 2 Beyond Petrol Petroleum was a finite source of wealth for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) 3 countries. Thus diversification was a priority for member states. To date, the common approach of all GCC states has been to set aside large areas of land for industry (25,000 hectares in the UAE alone). This took several forms. The first and most traditional approach involved the state providing land, infrastructure and utilities, either at subsidized rates or for free. The person acquiring the land was subject to the national and local legal and regulatory environment. The second approach was that of the free zone. At their most basic, free zones involved creating a more liberal regulatory environment, which generally meant freedom of ownership and management, and exemption from tax and duties. Furthermore, free zones typically offered partner companies a simplified approach to documentation, government relations and administrative services, making them particularly attractive to foreign investors. The Jebel Ali Free Zone in Dubai pioneered this concept in the GCC region. The third approach, relatively new to the region, was that of the business park. Business parks grew in the West as an evolution of traditional industrial estates. Since the 1950s, cities and states had attempted to consolidate manufacturing and business activities in locations outside cities. In the 1980s, the concept evolved further, with parks dedicated to specific sectors, for example Stanford Research 2 The cluster theory was developed by Michael Porter in Clusters and the New Economics of Competition, Harvard Business Review, Nov-Dec 1998, and in On competition, (Harvard Business School Press, 1999) and previously The Competitive Advantage of Nations, (The Free Press, 1990). Clusters are geographic concentrations of interconnected companies, specialized suppliers, service providers, and associated institutions in a particular field that are present in a nation or region. Harvard Business School, Department of Strategy and Competitiveness, Harvard Business School website. 3 Saudi Arabia was a prime mover in setting up the Gulf Cooperation Council in 1981, created in response to the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war. Other members are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE. The GCC aims to coordinate resistance to outside intervention in the Gulf and seeks to strengthen cooperation (in areas such as agriculture, industry, investment, security and trade) among its six members.
4 - 4 - IMD Park in the US, Sophia Antipolis Science Park in Europe, and Tsukuba and Hsinchu Science Cities in Asia. The Original Business Plan Creating Dubai Internet City His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the DIC project in 1999, at an annual international IT exhibition held in Dubai called GITEX. The park was to open 365 days later. The business plan for DIC, designed with the help of Arthur Andersen and McKinsey, focused primarily on real estate and described DIC as a technology park. (Refer to Exhibit 1 for the original business plan.) Deepak Padmanabhan, chief planning and business development officer for DIC, commented: At the time, in 1999, the Internet economy was booming, and DIC was created to welcome the ICT 4 companies. This was in line with the government s 2010 vision of diversifying while focusing on a specific industry: providing physical location and all the support around it. In addition to real estate, the business park would provide services such as business incorporation, all of the free trade zone advantages, and state-of-the-art technology. DIC s raison d être was described as: The mission of Dubai Internet City is to create an infrastructure, environment and attitude that will enable ICT enterprises to operate locally, regionally and globally, from Dubai, with significant competitive advantage. The team immediately started approaching potential partners, 5 focusing on companies with existing regional operations that could benefit from working out of Dubai. The timing was perfect: at the end of the 1990s many large multinationals were consolidating or growing their operations in the region. DIC s location provided an ideal base for companies doing business anywhere in the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Africa and the CIS countries--a potential market of 1.8 billion people with a total GDP of $1.6 trillion. 6 Dubai also had access to a large pool of highly skilled, low cost knowledge workers. The Final Product DIC was inaugurated in October just 364 days after His Highness Sheikh Mohammed s announcement. The park, extending over 30 million square feet of land, opened with four buildings representing over 275,000 square feet of leasable space out of a total of 1 million. (Refer to Appendix B for a map of Dubai Internet City.) Some 180 companies had signed up as tenants, including world-renowned companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, HP, IBM, Compaq, Dell, Siemens, Canon, Logica and SonyEricsson. Companies opening offices in the Internet City could 4 Information and Communications Technology Companies 5 DIC referred to its clients as partners, as it better reflected the close relationship between them figures
5 - 5 - IMD choose either to lease office space or to lease land to build offices. Whenever possible, the offices of business partners were located next to each other. Space was easily scalable. Built in partnership with Cisco, the technical infrastructure was clearly worldclass, providing high bandwidth, low cost telecommunications. The business park housed the world s largest commercial Internet Protocol (IP) telephony system. The state s liberal policies meant that DIC could offer its partners 100% tax-free ownership, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, no currency restrictions, and protection of intellectual property. Dubai s flexible labor laws meant that spontaneous, sporadic needs for part-time and temporary staff could easily be met. Solutions and Services: Value-Added Real Estate DIC s service offering went well beyond simply providing office space (refer to Exhibit 2). Its management team described it as a one-stop shop, offering solutions to all the problems a company faces when it enters a new country (refer to Exhibit 3 for cost of establishment at DIC). The most important service was guiding partners through the incorporation process, which allowed them to secure legal protection and tax exemptions, and to obtain credit. DIC s process, which took just three days, was highly simplified and relatively inexpensive. Along the same lines, DIC business partners could benefit from a 24-hour visa service and a simplified immigration process for knowledge workers. The hospitality service assisted partners with anything from accommodation, travel arrangements and relocation to golf or restaurant reservations and health club membership. The events management team managed press conferences, exhibitions, product launches and seminars. DIC organized frequent networking opportunities within the community, increasing business opportunities and knowledge sharing. A quarterly CEO Interact evening, organized at a local hotel, brought together Dr Omar and the CEOs of all DIC s business partners in an open exchange. Wadi Ahmed, director of marketing, noted: We have made Porter s cluster theory a reality. If you bring all the companies from the same segment together, channel development opportunities materialize. It s real life networking. It is bringing the integrator together with the software developer. Our ICT cluster includes over 600 companies working within 2 km of each other. Our clients set up joint ventures together, and do trade together. We are the only managed entity in the world to house that many brands. Everyone who is anyone in the industry is here. Silicon Valley has some similarities but it is an area, not a single managed entity. Eating and snacking facilities also served as informal networking and meeting places. DIC did not manage the restaurant facilities itself but leased them out to franchising operations. 15 branded outlets offered Arabian, Chinese, Italian and Indian food. The campus also housed a supermarket, car rental, banking and travel offices.
6 - 6 - IMD DIC promoted what it called the PLUG & PLAY approach. It benefited both the entrepreneur wanting to rent a small office and happy to share conference rooms and other facilities, and the large company testing Dubai as its base for Middle East operations (refer to Exhibit 4 for the Plug & Play brochure.) The product included fully maintained offices and shared services like photocopying. The businessman or entrepreneur simply plugged in his laptop, traded, closed some deals and paid more as business grew and use of the resources increased. Charges Clearly, the services provided were not free. Real estate was invoiced at Dh per square foot per year, slightly higher than the market rate in town. The IT and telecom package prices depended on the requirements. Hospitality services were billed per item (flowers, birthday party arrangements, etc.). Hiring a conference room cost between Dh 400 and Dh 800 per hour. Obtaining a visa cost slightly more than if the company did it, because charges covered the cost of the person standing in the queue at the government offices, but saved time and hassle. In some cases, services were provided free of charge as a sign of goodwill. Growth and Expansion DIC grew at breathtaking speed from the time of its inception through to (Refer to Exhibit 5 for DIC s organization chart.) The first year centered on building the partner base and the DIC brand name. By 2001, the company was focusing increasingly on the needs and wants of its customers, in line with its service orientation. Deepak described: In 2001 we went through a tremendous growth phase, most of which was understanding what the customer wanted or not. We were feeling around. This was new. It was logic rather than experience driven, very entrepreneurial, trying to focus on customer demand. Between 2001 and 2002 DIC grew by 149%. In 2002 the management team realized that many of DIC s services and functions were similar to those of the recently set up Dubai Media City (DMC). Created in 2001, DMC catered to the media industry and was home to companies such as Reuters, CNN, Sony Broadcast and Professional, Bertelsmann, BMG, Arabian Radio Network and RAI. The concept was similar to DIC s. The difference lay mainly in the customer relationships and the segments in each industry cluster. A restructuring was undertaken to consolidate common support services as well as HR, strategy and finance functions under the management of the parent organization, the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone Authority. Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City and Knowledge Village outsourced these services to the Free Zone Authority. Core functions like sales, marketing and partner relations, meanwhile, were retained by DIC, DMC and KV. The Free Zone Authority served as the parent company of a number of brands, with DIC, DMC and Knowledge Village 8 at the core. (Refer to Exhibit 6 for a chart of the Free 7 Dh 100 = $ Knowledge Village opened in October It housed a cluster of training and education companies who served the needs of knowledge workers.
7 - 7 - IMD Zone s businesses and services in spring 2004.) In the pipeline were an entertainment company, a printing zone and a film production company. The reorganization in early 2002 meant that DIC lost its family dimension as processes and systems replaced the project-based approach. Between 2002 and 2003 DIC more than doubled in size once more, growing 184%, and reaching its forecasted size for 2007 in early It housed more than 10,000 knowledge workers from over 600 companies. The DIC site was so successful that it was still oversubscribed as it completed its sixth phase of development. Sixteen buildings--representing 1 million square feet out of a planned total of 6 million--rose five stories above the sand dunes. 9 (Refer to Exhibit 7 for DIC s profit and loss report.) Services Become Independent Businesses In 2003 the telecom business, which had been highly instrumental in the success of DIC, became a stand-alone entity providing services to DIC s business partners. This model was increasingly to guide the Free Zone s and DIC s development: Create services to support customer demands, then spin them off into separate entities. Future ventures included a chilled water company, a technology education company, a foundation for the training, education and employment of the visually impaired (part of the requirement for all Dubai-based companies was to be involved in charity), and a teleport (satellite) company. Most spin-offs resulted from needs generated by DIC and DMC. Many of these businesses were still in their infancy. As the service offerings grew and matured, they were grouped under different segments. 10 Deepak, as head of the Free Zone s as well as DIC s strategy group, explained the logic behind the business model: At the outset we had one of two choices: We could offer the services ourselves, or we could outsource to another big player. We chose the first and incorporate them as business units. Let me give you an example: the first thing we put in place was a telecom infrastructure because we knew our clients had specific telecom needs: high speed, broadband, low cost. So we created a local telecom company that could offer these services to the zone. It was a humongous investment but we had to make a difference and make our clients feel different. Being semi-government, we were allowed to operate outside the government monopoly. DIC and DMC both shared a demand for satellite services. So we created a teleport business. Today it is the biggest teleport in the region. Thus a third business was born (after e-hosting and security. 11 We make sure not to step on our customers toes--we don t go into software development or e-commerce, for example. 9 This represents the leasable land for DIC alone (not including DMC and KV). 10 These subsidiaries, once spun off, could offer their services on a regional scale, and were not restricted to the Free Zone clients only. 11 The subsidiary businesses created were an ehosting Centre, a provider of managed e-hosting services and DataFort, a managed security services provider. These were later merged to form a single company.
8 - 8 - IMD Although the group willingly invested in businesses that other companies considered too risky, too long term or too low margin (real estate, state-of-the-art telecommunications), there still had to be a solid business rationale. Corporate Strategy Organizational Architecture Dubai s approach to the knowledge economy was divided into three horizons based on the value-added to the knowledge economy. Sanjive Khosla, senior strategy and financial analyst, explained: Knowledge economy Horizon 1 Horizon 2 Horizon 3 Time Horizon One is about Doing better what we do best, which is tourism, logistics, etc. But the value-added to the knowledge economy is quite low. Horizon Two is about extending our competencies--basically people and services--into new sectors. The sectors selected were finance, IT, media. This is where projects such as DIC and DMC fit in. Horizon Three is about sowing seeds for the highest value-added sectors--healthcare, nanotechnology, etc. This is all still in the planning phase. These overarching strategic principles had to translate down to the industry level, and in DIC s case, to the ICT industry. (Refer to Exhibit 8 for the application of the cluster theory to DIC.) Sanjive elaborated: First we needed to look at the factor conditions. We identified three factor conditions that were important to the ICT industry: value-added real estate, state-of-the-art telecom services and mobility of labor. But in addition to that we needed to stimulate growth, and therefore looked at demand conditions. For example, there was no e-hosting in the region so we set up an e-hosting company. Security was a concern, so we set up a security business. Both, by generating trust and demand, would support the model. The government played an important role. For example, it encouraged the various government services to become e-departments, making Dubai the only fully e- based government. Police fines could even be paid through a dedicated police portal. For government projects, no offers were accepted unless they were submitted electronically. Sanjive went on:
9 - 9 - IMD Finally we had to link these factor conditions to firm strategy. To attract companies we offered 100% foreign ownership, 100% repatriation of capital, etc. This would also promote equal competition and was a good way to attract firms. We also looked further into the link between industries--for example, the media industry needs IT for delivery. So setting up DMC was another way of stimulating DIC. And the Knowledge Village supports both. The strategy plans looked well into the future, including future factor conditions. Because Dubai s oil reserves were expected to run out in the next 20 years, energy was a real concern. DIC diversified into businesses that addressed this type of issue: Its district cooling business reduced energy consumption by 30% and therefore responded to both country and business needs. Marketing Strategy DIC is an interesting challenge because there is nothing like DIC internationally. There are other free zones and business parks. But if you look at the Internet City s value proposition, it is quite unique. Which makes it interesting to market. Wadi Ahmed A British citizen of Arab origin brought up in the UK, Wadi Ahmed had spent the past four years in the Middle East. Before joining DIC he worked for Oracle in the UK and for a VC firm setting up small businesses in Saudi Arabia, giving him an insider s perspective of both DIC s target customers and start-up businesses. I knew the mentality of these businesses, why they would want to come to the Middle East and what they needed. As head of marketing, he took a proactive approach: We looked at our mission statement and tried to understand what it meant for marketing-- we came up with the following words: identify understand attract maintain local, regional and international ICT companies. The marketing department was subdivided into teams addressing these four areas: market intelligence (identifying segments and opportunities), product marketing (understand), marketing communications (attract) and channel marketing (maintain). 12 By working in this way, they were able to deliver a clear and specific message to their partners and understand how their value proposition was attractive to different customers in different ways. Our core product at DIC is incorporation. This is important because in the region a free trade zone means you don t need a partner to whom you give 51% of your business. Free zone benefits are similar across the world. So what makes us different? The difference is what makes up the rest of our value proposition, the services we offer and the fact that Dubai is a nice place to live. 12 Channel marketing here refers to the support that DIC provided to its customers to help them develop their revenue channel. For example, by helping them take part in major regional and international exhibitions cost-effectively and with high visibility on a DIC platform, it helped them explore and expand opportunities to develop their revenue channel. This proved to be a powerful retention strategy.
10 IMD Wadi provided a clear list of advantages for DIC s business partners: When you move to a new location, you don t want to get caught up in a lot of government red tape. You want someone who can cater to your needs, speaks your language and gets you up and running ASAP. We take that headache away from you. We will even get a driving license for your partner, visas for your family, and cover schooling requirements for your children. We have taken the one-stop-shop concept to its extreme. And on top of it you have a beautiful work environment that also provides services such as food courts, banks, opticians, travel agents, grocery shops, hairdressers, etc. Once you are here, we not only keep providing these services but we also try to help you do business by providing business networking opportunities. Wadi s marketing team consisted of 10 people, with 3 or 4 vacancies. With scarce resources, it was important to select marketing efforts carefully. 13 According to Wadi, channel marketing was the company s truly innovative stroke. It included services such as helping a business partner with marketing. For example, small companies did not necessarily have the means to take part in large and expensive fairs such as CEBIT or GITEX. DIC therefore rented a large space, which it then sublet to smaller business partners. The economies of scale meant better prices for the partners. They also benefited from brand association, received help with setting up their display, etc. Further benefits came from the traffic generated: We don t need to go to GITEX--everyone knows us here. But we do it for the sake of our business partners. Finance Strategy George Mushahwar, CFO of DIC, 14 and Ali Tabbal, director of finance managed the growing company s financial strategy. George, originally from Jordan, had spent 13 years in Arthur Andersen s accounting division working in Jordan, Abu Dhabi, Yemen, Syria and Oman. He joined DIC in February Ali, of Lebanese origin, had a background in economics and had worked for Chase Manhattan Bank in the US for over five years. He had come to Dubai with Arthur Andersen Corporate Finance practice and had been part of the team that had designed the original business plan. The biggest challenge for the finance team was to reconcile responding to customer demands and monitoring DIC s financial performance. As a result, investments were carefully considered. Real estate and telecom were the largest investment areas. Sometimes creative solutions were designed to solve a problem and minimize costs. For example, a parking valet service was set up to deal with the park s parking problem, rather than designing a multimillion underground parking (refer to Exhibit 9). Ali described the decision-making process: Before investing in new projects or ventures, we usually carry out comprehensive financial viability analysis on a project-by-project basis and present possible outcomes and establish 13 The cost of attracting a new customer was calculated at a 5% ratio of marketing expense versus revenue. 14 The annual report presents an aggregate of DIC, DMC, Knowledge Village and other Free Zone brands. Thus the Free Zone s CFO is also DIC s.
11 IMD recommendations to Management and the Board. Our objective is to always have a positive spread of project returns above the cost of capital to finance the project. At the organizational level, however, we carry out a valuation analysis of DIC as part of our annual strategic planning exercise, using the classical financial valuation methods. This allows us to assess how much value creation we have achieved. A key performance measure for us is the spread on return on invested capital versus the company s overall cost of capital, which is measured against the plan. If that is positive then we know we have created value and are moving in the right direction. Changing the mindset from concentrating only on revenue as a key driver for success of the company to focusing on all the value drivers and ultimately the bottom line was a challenge that the two finance men had to embrace and depict to the rest of DIC. George explained: Initially DIC was operating in a project mode, while focusing on increasing revenue was primarily the only criterion for success. We changed this to focus on the bottom line and value maximization. Accordingly we started by understanding the key underlying economic drivers of our business. For us, it is the rate at which we are growing our revenues, but equally important is the rate at which we are becoming more efficient while doing what we do best better, growing our profits and capital base to drive revenue growth and above all, the return on invested capital as compared to the company s cost of capital. It makes absolute sense. One of DIC s biggest challenges as it grew was associated with making space available to potential partners. Some infrastructure-related projects were not completed on time, which meant delays in billable services. As a small operation with four buildings to manage, it could build within six months and have a fully occupied building two months later. As it grew, however, the time frame extended to 18 months and it had to revisit the project methodology. Overall, this did not have a great impact on DIC s bottom line, since the young company constantly outperformed its budget projections. In parallel, the screening criteria for potential partners became more stringent. Deepak explained: At first we accepted almost anyone as client to DIC. But now we apply a fairly stringent screening process. Clients need to have a demonstrable link to the ICT industry. Also, we do not want companies to come and leave after three months, six months or even a year. We want to create a stable community. Partners had to have a solid business plan and strategy for Dubai and the region and clearly demonstrate their participation in ICT or related business. The more thorough screening process helped DIC ensure continuity of the business partner and their contribution to the overall DIC cluster and the Dubai economy. This also helped minimize financial risks and potential credit defaults and bad debt. It happened occasionally that companies closed shop and disappeared. In the past, DIC had given partners a reasonable margin for payment and return, but this was no longer the case. The financial costs were too high. Even so, it could be three to four months before the offices were declared empty and a new partner could be sold the office space. Further time was lost as the offices were refurbished and modified to suit the needs of the new tenant.
12 IMD Human Resource Strategy The HR function at DIC was known as human capital, emphasizing its importance as an asset. Recruited to head the department in the summer of 2003, Chris Cole was British with a background at Logica and Hay Group consultants. He had spent most of his career in various Middle Eastern countries. When he joined the organization, HR was relatively unstructured, victim of the company s rapid growth. Chris designed structures and processes for recruitment, pension and social benefit plans. He also set about developing a performance management system and a training and development strategy. Each job had a clear set of key competencies attached to it. There was also a short list of core competencies common to all jobs: flexibility, teamwork, customer relationships and innovation. These values were taught through the induction program, which was relatively basic. For example, it did not specifically focus on customer service, despite the fact that over 50% of DIC s employees were in direct contact with the company s partners. This was to change over the course of 2004, in line with the company s desire to increase revenue from services. Key performance indicators (KPIs) were linked to the balanced scorecard and personal objectives. For example, the employee turnover rate was set at a maximum of 7.5% per year, and managers performance was measured in part on this type of indicator. The aim for 2004/2005 was to base the incentive system on management by objectives (MBO), thereby increasing clarity. The bonus would depend on the company s financial performance and would be allocated according to employee performance and customer satisfaction. One hurdle of the reward system was that no measure could be proposed unless it could be made available to all employees, regardless of job description and level. As always, the biggest challenge in creating a reward system was to make it sufficiently attractive to retain the best employees. With 75% of employees expatriates, financial rewards were important. George commented: We are always looking to attract and retain the best people. As a matter of fact, this is reflected in our Guiding Principles, one of which is to attract and retain the right person for the right job. We have also established specific employee objectives that are measurable and are linked to the overall company s strategic objectives. To ensure uniformity and effectiveness, we have recently trained selected managers in the organization on performance evaluation and how to link individual objectives to the company s. This is ultimately linked to the financial results and accordingly the reward system being the annual salary increment and bonus. This approach means employees are rewarded according to the organization s performance and consequently this filters the best performers from non-performers. Employee Profile Chris described the organization s human capital: We are a fairly flat organization with nine levels of hierarchy. We have a young, dynamic workforce. It is therefore fairly easy for us to find talent, in particular people from the Indian subcontinent who enjoy working here. At the CEO level it is more difficult to hire. We often need to look outside Dubai to find CEOs for our new businesses.
13 IMD Of the 457 employees in the Free Zone, 105 were locals. The company did not apply a quota for hiring local UAE employees. Chris clarified: We want the best person, regardless of nationality. Naturally, at equal qualification, we will hire a national. 15 The expatriate employees came from over 40 different countries, with significant representation from South Asia, the Arab world, the Far East and Europe. The average salary was a little less than $5,000 per month. As Dubai s reputation grew as an attractive place to work and live, there was an influx of workers from South Africa and Australia. Corporate Culture Employee communication and information was managed through DIC s intranet portal. The site provided updated information on activities within the Free Zone, news of building inaugurations, upcoming training programs, etc. The results of the biannual employee satisfaction survey--run by external consultants--were also published on the intranet. The 2003 survey showed an overall satisfaction rate of 89.2%. The company took action on a number of concerns raised. For example, to manage traffic better, employees had asked to change their working hours to 7:30 to 16:30, rather than the traditional 8:30 to 17:30. Management was studying the potential impact on business partners, with a view to changing to the new working hours. In 2004 the Free Zone embarked on ISO certification, which entailed implementing a number of new processes. For example, service level agreements for departments providing support to internal clients were drafted, with the aim of increasing quality and improving interdepartmental communication. Chris outlined his service agreement: I will tell Dr Omar and the senior management team the following: My commitment to you is that I will turn around employment requests within 10 days with a shortlist of candidates; salary certificates will be done in 24 hours, etc. Leadership Style The company functioned with the energy and flexibility of a start-up. Authority was readily delegated and employees were given the freedom to run with their ideas. The guiding principles and values (refer to Exhibit 10 for DIC s mission and vision statement) were very much part of the way in which the company functioned. Ahmad Bin Byat, director general of the Free Zone, explained: We tend to throw our employees in at the deep end. They are given full accountability, full responsibility and the right tools, but they really are thrown into the deep end. 15 DIC had 33 employees, DMC 44 and KV 8. There were about 270 employees in the Free Zone s departments/units providing shared services like Finance, Planning and Business Development, Human Capital, Events, Hospitality, Government Services, Property, Facilities Management, Technology, etc. The rest of the staff were in the subsidiary businesses like ehosting DataFort and Samacom.
14 IMD Dr Omar, the charismatic CEO of DIC, described his leadership style in a few words. Care for the people who work with you. If you do, they will give you more than their best in return. He elaborated on what Ahmed had said, Very often, you do not know what you can do until you have done it. So we help our employees stretch their limits. We make people achieve things by making them do them, not just by telling them that they can do them. But to do that, you must also give people the right tools and the means to succeed. He was also a strong believer in leading by example: In our culture this translates into Leading by Walking Around. Even when I leave in the evening, it can take me up to two hours to reach my car as I stop and interact with people in the corridor. I arrange a lot of one-to-one interactions and I try to make an appointment with every employee at least once a year. Anyone can walk into my office. The decision-making process was relatively simple and clear: An employee went to the head of department with an idea/request. If the decision would have an impact only on the department, the decision was taken then and there. If it would affect other departments, it was forwarded to the quality committee, which would look at the necessary changes to existing processes and ask the operational committee to make a decision. The opcom, which included all managers and directors, met weekly. If the suggestion would require a policy change it was referred to the executive committee, which met twice a week. Customer Relations Management The attitude dimension in our mission is vitally important. It means approaching our customers and business partners with a view to solving their problems. Partner Relations Management His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Created in 2003, partner relations management was a natural evolution from key account management. DIC employed three fully dedicated partner relations managers (PRMs). Their role was to focus on the future needs of their clients, increasing loyalty and understanding, particularly in terms of business opportunity development. For example, if a partner was considering opening an office in Iran, his PRM would put him in contact either with another client who had offices in that country or with a local DIC contact. George Saad, a Syrian born, US educated member of the team, commented: Our role is a very proactive one. We are here to serve our customers and help them grow in the region. Of course we also solve simple, everyday problems whenever necessary. But generally we operate at a more strategic level. For example, we help our customers to explore business development opportunities in the region. Besides the three PRMs, five other people in the department worked on leasing (rental contracts), licensing (visas, incorporation) and property management (air conditioning, cleaning, etc.). A partner s requirements prior to settling into DIC
15 IMD were the responsibility of the sales team, but once on site, this responsibility was transferred to the PRM team. Cross-functional teams headed by PRMs were set up to tackle issues such as parking or road infrastructure for the zone. The team constantly strove to improve its service to partners. In early 2004 a business-matching program was set up, whereby potential business partners were invited to networking-type events. External speakers--contacts in neighboring countries or heads of other local business parks, such as Dubai Land or Dubai Healthcare City--afforded valuable insights. The PRMs played an important role in customer satisfaction. Partners praised their involvement and their help. As a result, PRMs were expected to play a strategic role in increasing customer satisfaction from 78% to 92%. PRM performance was measured in part on churn rate, as an indicator of customer retention. In 2003 churn rate was 5% in terms of capacity utilization (square footage), and 8% for people. The Call Center DIC s call, or contact, center was the focus for all customer complaints and requests and their single point of contact once they settled into DIC. While some partners still preferred calling the PRMs, they were strongly encouraged to use the call center for fast and efficient problem resolution. Most calls concerned facilities management, telephone, IT and Internet issues (refer to Exhibit 11 for examples of customer complaints). Prior to 2001, DIC ran a standard help desk which was then developed into a fullfledged call center using elaborate CRM software. By 2004 it logged approximately 500 calls per day, which staff answered in 10 to 15 seconds. Calls were not logged through the phone but via computers, and queued. DIC, DMC and Knowledge Village shared the call center, representing a total of 1,600 companies that could call at any time. (Refer to Exhibit 12 for an example of number of calls and call logs.) When a partner called, his extension was immediately identified. On the staff member s screen would appear not only the customer profile but also his special requirements as defined with the PRM. The history of previous calls was also recorded in the profile. Both the call center staff and the PRMs had access to the CRM system. Information was updated in real time. (Refer to Exhibit 13 for a sample of client profile.) Ahmed Baghoum, manager of the call center, was a UAE national who studied engineering in India before doing his MBA in the US, where he worked for Citibank. He outlined the center s role: We deal with everything from visa requirements and insurance to parking, facilities and telecommunications or technology. The client has a single number to dial to solve all his problems. Our system allows us to tailor our answers to the specific client profile. If he calls to ask for additional phone lines, we will know what is already included in his package and what he will have to pay extra for and how long delivery will take.
16 IMD In spring 2004 the contact center employed 22 people, organized in two groups: a front-office, multipurpose team that directly answered phone calls and , and a support team (at the time two people) that dealt with requests on a problem basis. The latter were known as customer problem resolution agents. The agents were called on when a problem was not solved rapidly enough, for example when a partner had asked for a phone that was not delivered on time. They were also expected to call partners proactively in anticipation of their needs. Problem Solving When a customer care officer received a call or message, he logged it and sent the partner an automated message thanking him for contacting the call center, and providing a complaint reference number. If the issue was more complex than simply technical or facilities-related, it was forwarded to the PRM, who either resolved it or shared it with a member of senior management (for example in cases requiring relocation to larger offices). On average, problems were solved within two hours of the time the partner called. As in many other DIC departments, the call center staff was stretched. The enormous growth rate of the company had made staffing a problem at all levels. While in 2000 there were four call center employees for 100 clients, in 2004 there were 22 for over 600 clients. Even though the technology increased the staff s efficiency, this was nowhere near sufficient. Ahmed explained: We are constantly trying to improve. Our main challenge in the coming years is that Dubai wants to pamper its customers, and they are becoming more and more demanding. So we need to meet that challenge, stand up to it, and try to delight our customers more and more, surprise them. For example, when we started, it used to take a week to deliver a visa, now it s two working days. This is the challenge: to keep up that reputation and make sure our customers are delighted with our services. It should be heaven on earth. Measuring Customer Satisfaction In 2003 DIC carried out its first customer satisfaction survey. Fifty client companies were surveyed on an anonymous basis. The results were reported to the entire organization and teams set up to address the more critical issues. The overall satisfaction level was 78%. 84% of DIC customers said they would recommend it to others. Staff courtesy was rated 4.2 (out of a maximum of 5), availability 3.9, problem resolution 3.6, and anticipating needs % of respondents were satisfied with the value for money. Courtesy and hospitality consistently ranked highest. Senior management was not satisfied with the results of the survey: 78% was not a very high mark for a company focused on adding value through services. Ahmad Bin Byat, director general of the Free Zone, commented: I am not happy with the 78% result from our customer satisfaction survey. Our target this year is 82%. However, it must be recognized that our customers are global brands so they are more demanding than maybe other customers. So to reach that level of satisfaction considering our customer base is a good thing, but it is not the end of the line. Chris confirmed:
17 IMD We have set ourselves such high standards, in particular with leading-edge technology, that keeping the momentum going will be difficult, as will always giving the best to our business partners. That s a challenge. For example, we have very large businesses and oneman start-up business. How do we provide an equal level of service to Microsoft with 400 people and that one-man operation? We need to keep the large players happy. Customers Talk Overall, DIC s partners were satisfied with their choice. Because many of them had chosen DIC for its free trade zone status, added services were not their main concern. It was, however, the main reason for them wanting to stay with DIC. The most important advantages of DIC were quoted as being 100% foreign ownership and 100% repatriation of capital. The pleasant environment, the stateof-the-art technology and the one-stop-shop facility for all types of legal documents largely made up for the higher rental and service costs. Rabea Ataya, a Stanford graduate, CEO of Bayt.com, 16 and one of the first tenants, shared his reasons for choosing DIC: DIC was our lucky stars come true. We had two motivations for choosing DIC: being in Dubai and foreign ownership. If you ask for my satisfaction level: I would say that I am dissatisfied with my rent (which is a huge part of my upfront investment as a start-up), satisfied with the community at large and the environment, satisfied with the staff and communication infrastructure. And I am very satisfied with the fact that my governmental headaches don t exist. Christian Bailey of the consulting firm Axon confirmed: In the city, the number of people you employ dictates the size of your office. This is not practical when you are a consulting firm and most of your people are out of the office most of the time. At DIC we found no such constraint, we could rent only the size actually needed. It is easier and simpler to get working visas too--there is a lot of red tape for recruitment in Dubai. And even though it might be more expensive to obtain your visas at DIC, the management time lost was an even greater cost. In Dubai, you operate in cash and you don t know where the money is going, at DIC it is clear. Setting up an office at DIC was relatively simple. Aiman Al Shehabi, CEO of Cell Hub, recalled his experience: I filled in the application for DIC online. After organizing an appointment, I was assigned an account representative that assisted me in dealing with all the paperwork. We also chose an office space together. This single-point interface was very useful. We had about three meetings. The time between selecting an office space and moving in was less than two weeks. That might depend on how much you want done in your office. DIC will propose suppliers or you can select your own locally. In terms of technical, technological infrastructure, I met the technology team and everything was up and running in three to five days. The company was also praised for its proactiveness: 16 The single largest online recruitment company in the region.
18 IMD A lot of hackers try to get into the DIC intranet. Some time back DIC called us because they found an unusually high level of activity on our bandwidth. We checked and it was hacking activity. They helped us secure the network. The downside was that we had to pay both for the broadband usage and the Cisco experts who delivered the solution. The development of DIC coincided with Canon s decision to open a subsidiary in the region. From the DIC base, Canon s marketing and sales operation could service the entire region. Dubai was a perfect middle point between Tokyo and Amsterdam. Gordon Jones, president of Canon Middle East, commented: We are very happy with our choice. We have an excellent account manager who responds quickly to our needs. Together we create networking opportunities as well as events that will benefit both DIC and ourselves. Also, having our name on the roof of the building has definitely raised our profile in the region. It will be difficult to reproduce the concept, even though there is talk of Dubai as a whole becoming a free zone. The easy infrastructure, the low bureaucracy, the good living standards will be hard to replicate. While larger companies were happy with the support received from DIC, smaller companies were disappointed. They had expected more from DIC s original positioning as an incubator. Bayt.com CEO Rabea Ataya noted: As a start-up, I expected a different degree of help from DIC, more so because it originally marketed itself as a home for start-ups. I know that some of the large companies were courted through free rent, and I was not given that privilege, which is exactly what a startup would need. Nor did I benefit from the economies of scale that I had expected. Many of my peer group have left DIC in the three years I have been here. In the four years since its inauguration, DIC had built a strong brand name. Its partners recognized this as an advantage. The CEO of ComGuard, Herbert Kamensky, cited it as one of the reasons for setting up offices in DIC: If you are in the Internet business, this is the place to be. All the big players are here, more so than in Silicon Valley or any other place. In addition, during the recessionary years following the dot-bomb, it was one of the few places with a positive GDP and a continuous stream of investments. A common cause of dissatisfaction was linked to the settling-in phase, in contrast to the marketing and sales phases, which were considered excellent. Dissatisfaction stemmed from delivery time of an office space (waiting list) and from hidden costs associated with office refurbishing, extra phone lines, etc. Venture capital and seed money were a clear downside of the local business environment. Both were virtually non-existent in Dubai, which meant that small start-ups had to come in with their own running capital already secured. Competitors In 2003 there were 450 business parks worldwide--science parks, business incubators and business support centers. In Europe, business parks were often linked to universities, functioning as idea incubators and knowledge centers, like the Cambridge Business Park, which benefited from close links with the research
19 IMD department of the 800-year-old university. Sophia Antipolis in the south of France also focused on R&D and a diversified client base including 1,200 technology companies. Ireland had a growing number of business parks, encouraged by a young, highly educated population and a concentration of multinationals attracted by the government s tax incentives and low wages. In Asia, business parks were a relatively new concept. Huge projects in Malaysia, Singapore and India aimed to attract foreign companies and build local talent pools. Most focused on the traditional concept of space rental plus services. For example, Singapore s International Business Park housed 200 foreign and local companies and offered services such as restaurants, a supermarket, childcare, banks, a copying service and fitness center. The country also developed industrial parks to lure skilled workers to Singapore. The Technology Park Malaysia (TPM) was designed to propel Malaysia into the Information Age. Covering 750 acres of land, the first phase of this gigantic project consisted of 12 buildings each with specific functions. Already in place were the Engineering City, Biotech City, and Communications and Technology City. The park was designed to provide first-class infrastructure and services, and to promote innovative growth in the development of technology-driven companies that are competitive in the global marketplace. TPM offered the typical range of additional services, including restaurants, convenience stores, financial institutions and a sports center. In addition, the TPM Academy, part of the Malaysian government s national initiative to promote the knowledge economy, was located in the park. The academy offered certificates and degrees in engineering, ICT and multimedia, business and entrepreneurship, life sciences and languages. Evaluating Success DIC in 2004 By 2004 DIC s customer base totaled 10,000 knowledge workers in fields as diverse as software development, consultancy, e-commerce, training, and sales and marketing. 60% of DIC s clients were start-ups. As director general of the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone, Ahmad Bin Byat shared his analysis of the situation: From a business side we have more than achieved our objectives. Although year zero was the most challenging because it was the conceptual stage, year one the results were already apparent. What counts is the competence of the community. The more companies choose to settle here, the bigger the brands, the more we prove the validity of our business model. We are pleased with how much, how many, and who has come here. We have two advantages: First, we have a captive audience. We know our customers and we can see them--they share the same building as us. Second, we have very demanding customers. So our benchmark is really high. And we have managed to turn the tables around: Rather than us buying products from Microsoft, Microsoft is buying services from us.
20 IMD In the future we need to focus more on customer retention than customer acquisition. One way of doing this is to help our customers grow their business in the region. This approach implies creating a different set of processes, policies and incentives. For example, it is more important for us to support companies such as IBM and help them grow than to keep adding companies. By year end 2003, the company s main source of revenue was real estate (60%), followed by telecom services (25%) and services to business partners (15%). The aim was to reduce dependence on real estate to 34% by Ahmad continued: Over the next few years we will be scaling down our investment in real estate. Why? Because we don t feel that we are a real estate company. We had to invest in real estate at the beginning because we had to build up the credibility. Today we have investors knocking on our door, wanting to invest, because our return rate is good. I don t want a lot of buildings on my balance sheet. I want to go towards a more service-oriented company. I own the land but I could lease it--that s a service. I also have good skills in generating the customer pipeline, so I can also fill the building for the investor. And charge a fee for that. In early 2004 DIC embarked on a quality program, with the aim of winning the Dubai Quality Award Gold Category. Before entering the competition, the company hired a consulting company, Axon, to measure its strengths and weaknesses. The report showed the gaps that had to be bridged if DIC s parent company was to work toward winning the competition. 17 Strengths Enthusiasm of leaders and staff and their commitment to customers. Growth and expansion of the organization. Sense of direction and planning along with the balanced scorecard and KPIs. Commitment to growing and developing people. Use of technology. Areas for Improvement Sound approaches but these have not been formalized or assessed. Deployment of Mission, Vision, value guidelines, plans and objectives are not consistent. Performance management system needs to be implemented and in a way that ensures all people have objectives linked to the KPIs. Many good departmental processes and manuals, but insufficient linkages between departments in terms of a top level process map or service level agreements between processes. Many results do not have targets or are not compared with best in class. Source: Dubai Government Excellence Program, Axon Report, September 2003 DIC immediately addressed some of the areas for improvement. These included redefining the values, mission statement and employees suggestion scheme (refer to Exhibit 14 for examples) and introducing service level agreements and a new performance management system. 17 The competition was open to public sector companies only so the Free Zone as a whole would compete.