Dr. Amina Al Rustamani is the Chief Executive Officer of TECOM Business Parks, an entity of TECOM Investments designed to function as an umbrella organization for 10 business units consolidated to cover five clusters: ICT, Media, Education, Sciences and Manufacturing & Logistics.
As the Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Al Rustamani is responsible for defining and executing the strategy of the five clusters embodied in the entities comprising Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City, Dubai Knowledge Village, Dubai Studio City, International Media Production Zone, DuBiotech, Dubai Outsource Zone, Dubai International Academic City, Enpark, Dubai Healthcare City and Dubai Industrial City.
She explains: “At the end of the day, when you face difficult times, you have to re-engineer your approach to the way you do business. We are now 2012 I don’t think it’s as bad as people expected — Dubai is a very dynamic city and so you have to be dynamic with what’s going on in the market. There have been previous events like the Gulf war, we always had flexibility,” she says, adding: “2011 was a tough year because of the competition and the supply in the market, but for the industries we focus on — mainly ICT, media, education, science, biotech, energy — it’s been wonderful for these sectors. If in 2009 I was told we would have 284 new companies registering two years later, I would be very happy, I mean, really really happy with that figure.”
The current projections certainly make happy reading for Dr Al Rustamani. ICT spend in the Middle East is forecast to hit $81bn by 2015. This year, Saudi Arabia is expected to lead that growth by reaching $32bn, with the UAE second, by growing its ICT spend to $16.15bn.Advertising revenue in the MENA region is expected to grow at 8.4 percent, with the UAE and Qatar the biggest beneficiaries, while the total number of students in the GCC is forecast to reach 11.3 million by 2020 — nearly two million more than in 2009. Add to that the fact the UAE’s manufacturing sector contributed thirteen percent of GDP last year, and it soon becomes clear that the knowledge based sectors around which TECOM has built its empire are the places to be.
Dr Al Rustamani says: “The fact is we have diversified our offering, and you can see the results. We have data centres, studios and warehouses. So the opportunity is there. Could we get to 7,000 companies in ten years? Yes, we could get to that,” she says, adding: “It’s not that people just get amazed with what they see physically — the first thing they look at is the legal framework, not just the real estate.. What made these projects successful is two factors — the Dubai factor, and the second is the commitment of the government to make this a free zone and really operate as a free zone.”
Though the good times appear to be rolling back, it is only three years ago that the picture looked bleak at best. The collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 was quickly followed by a crash in the Dubai property market, with prices falling by over 60 percent. Media — the bread and butter of TECOM — was amongst the worst sectors hit, and the doom-mongers were already preparing the obituaries. But Dr Al Rustamani admits that while it was a tough period, there were still positives to be found.
“It was a period of huge uncertainty. I got a lot of phone calls saying this place will become a ghost town. We had some companies leaving, but we were very careful to understand what the customers were going through, especially those who had been here for ten years — we made sure we listened to them to see how we could support them, and help them sustain their business.
“My advice to succeed is you need to love what you do. A CEO has to be patient, and have experience of leadership and management. You need that ability to motivate people to do their job. I believe it’s better to use the carrot rather than the stick. But this comes with experience, and the different situations I had to deal with… I was never really daunted by having to take on such a big role. The first question in my mind when I got the job is can I do it?”