Trade between UAE and India at US$75 billion for the year 2012-13
The Roundtable, which took place on the 11th of December, was attended by HE Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), Mr Ashok Babu, Acting Consul General of India in Dubai, Paras Shahdadpuri, President of the IBPC, HE Dr. Ghanim Al Hajiri, Chairman of Sharjah Airport, HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), HE Khalid Al Huraimel, Group CEO of Bee'ah, Saud Mohamed Al Mazrouei, Director of Commercial Affairs at Hamriyah Free Zone Authority, Binu Pisharadi, Commercial Affairs Manager of Sharjah Healthcare City (SHCC), HE Dr Khalid Omar Al Midfa, Director General of SMC, Badr Jafar, President of Crescent Enterprises, and a number of prominent businessmen, investors, and stakeholders in the Indian business community. Speaking during the opening address, Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), said, "Sharjah and India are no strangers. We have a long and successful shared business history that has brought benefit and progress to both our countries. The Indian business community has consistently acted as positive drivers of business and commerce within our Emirate and there are many Indian companies whose regional and even international success stories started right here in Sharjah or the GCC." Sheikha Bodour also went on to emphasise that the Sharjah-India Roundtable was aimed at exploring the many mutually beneficial opportunities that Sharjah has to offer the Indian business and investment community. In his opening note, Mr Paras Shahdadpuri, President of the Indian Business and Professional Council (IBPC), remarked, "Investors are looking for a "hassle free" environment. In Sharjah, thanks to forward thinking business legislation put in place by the Sharjah government, we are assured that our business and investment interests are being taken care of. The Emirate offers excellent infrastructure, good logistics, and space in which to expand at very competitive prices. Sharjah also has a very diversified economy and a strong consumer base, all of which positively impact ROI and makes it an excellent location to base operations from. The synergy that exists between Sharjah and India is clear and the Indian business community look forward to continue capitalising on this already strong and established relationship." Economic and commercial relations between the UAE and India continue to grow and have contributed to the stability and strength of a rapidly diversifying and deepening bilateral relationship. Trade between the two countries, which was valued at US$ 180 million per annum in the 1970s, is today is close to US$75 billion, having increased by 4.16% from the year before, (according to DGCIS, Kolkata) making the UAE, India's largest trading partner for the year 2012-13. When looking at the emirate of Sharjah specifically, exports and re-exports between India and Sharjah were valued at AED 21.162 billion in 2012, according to the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. There are also a large number of major Indian corporations that are based in Sharjah specifically, with 17,350 Indian companies registered in the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. These include companies and corporations such as Giant Group of Industries, Dr. Sunny's Healthcare Group, and Kingston Holdings, with many more still present in the region at large, such as LuLu Group, Land Mark Group, NMC Health Care, GEMS Education, Nikai Group, Mulk Holdings, Sky Line University College, and Thumbay Group. The Roundtable focused on the four key sectors that have been identified by Shurooq as major areas of potential growth, namely travel and tourism, environment, healthcare, and transport and logistics. Presentations, highlighting the numerous investment and business opportunities that Sharjah has to offer in each of these sectors, were delivered by representatives from authorities and government bodies. In addition, the event also aimed to act as a platform for Sharjah's various government bodies to coordinate their overall strategies with regards to promoting Sharjah's investment sector and economy. Speaking during the first presentation on travel and tourism sector, HE Marwan Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq, outlined the immense potential that the emirate of Sharjah has in this sector in addition to giving an overview of the diverse range of tourism related projects that Shurooq is developing to leverage this potential. "The latest projections show that Sharjah's travel and leisure sector is likely to grow from AED1.24 billion this year to AED1.49 billion by 2016, furthermore tourism's contribution to Sharjah's GDP is expected to jump from 9 per cent now to approximately 12 per cent by 2016," Shurooq CEO stated. Al Sarkal went on to say: "The Emirate is becoming an increasingly popular tourism and leisure destination, thanks to a carefully executed investment and development strategy under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. This strategy has seen a diverse range of projects across the major sectors being undertaken, which offer highly rewarding investment opportunities for local and foreign investors. In line with Sharjah's overall strategy, Shurooq has initiated large array of ground breaking projects, aimed at stimulating the Emirate's burgeoning tourism sector, such as Al Jabal Resort - The Chedi Khorfakkan, Sir Bu Nair Island, Mlieha, the Heart of Sharjah, Al Bait Hotel, Al Majaz Waterfront, the Flag Island, the Kalba Eco-tourism project, Al Montazah Park, and Al Hisn Island - Dibba Al Hisn. Each of these projects has been carefully designed to stimulate the local economy, while also providing foreign investors with unique opportunities to capitalise on the phenomenal growth being witnessed in Sharjah's tourism and leisure sector." Exploring the opportunities in Sharjah's logistics sector, Saud Mohamed Al Mazrouei, Director of Commercial Affairs at Hamriyah Free Zone Authority, said, "Sharjah has a strategic location rivalled by none in the region. Not only is it the only emirate to share a border with all six of the other emirates, it is also the only emirate in the UAE with direct access to both the Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, with active ports on both. This combined with Sharjah's well-developed air transport and cargo capabilities means it is ideally situated to see to the logistics needs of businesses looking to secure a regional base in the GCC. Our focus at the Hamriyah Free Zone Authority is to leverage this strategic advantage by offering foreign investors and business an ideal environment in which to base their operations." Al Mazrouei also emphasised Sharjah's strength as an economic centre, stating: "Sharjah has the most diversified economy in the region, with no single sector contributing more that 20% of the Emirate's GDP. It is also the manufacturing heart of the UAE, with one third of the UAE's total manufacturing activities taking place in Sharjah. This combined with a very healthy SME sector - with more than 45,000 strong small and medium-sized businesses - makes Sharjah a highly competitive investment destination." Highlighting the opportunities in Sharjah's environment sector, HE Khalid Al Huraimel, Group CEO of Bee'ah said, "Our aim at Bee'ah is to spearhead the development of sustainable and economically viable solutions for waste management and to thereby drastically reduce Sharjah and by extension the UAE's carbon footprint. Under the directives of the Sharjah government we are working to tackle waste in the region and build a strong waste management infrastructure, with the ultimate goal of leading the emirate of Sharjah to become the first city in the Middle East to achieve Zero-waste-To-Landfill by 2015. With this in mind we are currently looking to expand our operations and actively seeking partners, technology providers, and investors for a number of projects in the Middle East, which means that there is both a range of diverse investment opportunities available for foreign direct investors, as well as business opportunities for waste management solution providers." Concluding the presentations, Mr Binu Pisharadi, Commercial Affairs Manager of Sharjah Healthcare City (SHCC) outlined the array investment opportunities in healthcare and related fields available in Sharjah to prospective investors. "Sharjah and the Northern Emirates' population alone is expected to grow considerably, which will demand a significant increase in overall healthcare facilities - the current estimation indicates that Sharjah will require approximately 630 additional hospital beds by end of 2016. The supply of specialised medical centres is also either limited or lacking, which represents a key opportunity for investors wishing to enter the market. Taking these factors into account Sharjah's healthcare industry is expected to grow by 9.3% from its current AED 4.59 Billion to AED 6.55 Billion in 2016," Pisharadi elaborated. Shurooq was established in 2009 with the aim of achieving social, cultural, environmental and economic development on the basis of Sharjah's distinct Arab and Islamic identity, and to encourage investment by adopting the best international standards in providing quality services that help attract investors from the region and the world. Shurooq's key mission is to provide facilities and incentives to help overcome obstacles facing investment activities in the emirate, evaluate tourism-related infrastructure projects, and lay down the necessary plans to complete such projects.