In an exclusive chat, Ammar Al Malik, Managing Director, Dubai Internet City and Dubai Outsource City, talks about how the tech hub attracts and retains top talent and creates an ecosystem supportive of big and small players
“Did you know Dubai Internet City was set up with a loan from HSBC?”
Ammar Al Malik, the Managing Director of Dubai Internet City (DIC) and Dubai Outsource City, revealed the humblest beginnings as we sat down for a chat in his office. Tapping into the right resources and having a dogged determination to succeed did the trick for Dubai Internet City (DIC).
The view from the upper floor is stunning, almost like a mirage. There’s a lake, lush green trees, and bird song, and through it all, you can spot the Microsoft building and its neighbor Oracle. All around, there are the world’s biggest tech companies.
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It all started around 23 years ago, at the burst of an Internet boom.
And now, as the world awaits the next generation of the Internet, DIC is firmly positioned to be the leading force in the Web 3.0 space.
Reflecting on the journey since its 1999 launch, Al Malik says, “It makes me proud to be part of the transformation journey. Not only for having almost every single large corporation and technology firm in the world but building an ecosystem that supports start-ups that positively affect the economy.”
From Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, and Dell to HP, Canon, Siemens, and Sony Ericsson – all are housed in the large ecosystem that forms DIC. “Our companies here are of strategic importance, especially when it comes to digitalization. These companies are part of the future economy and industries. The journey from establishing offices to having and supporting start-ups to setting up innovation centers reaffirms our commitment to being the leaders in innovation and technology.”
Currently, DIC has more than 12 innovation centers, and more expansion is on the charts. “We look forward to more success. We are still in the early stages,” adds Al Malik.
HOME TO GREAT IDEAS
If there was a quote to encapsulate the 23-year journey and steering its inspiration, it was words spoken by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and the Ruler of Dubai, at the launch of the tech hub on October 29, 2000. “He said, ‘The biggest risk is not taking a risk at all,'” recalls Al Malik.
These words, he says, have become a guiding path. Dubai Internet City will always be a “home to great ideas.”
Apart from having big tech companies, the numerous SME businesses add another feather in DIC’s cap. The ambition has always been, he says, to remove bureaucracy, create an ecosystem dedicated to technology and focus on the infrastructure of the future. The buck never stopped at attracting the multi-national companies. “That’s the beginning of the story,” he says.
“Many entrepreneurs take advantage of this unique ecosystem in the Middle East to take technology to the next level, across the whole region.”
Citing the most prominent mergers as the defining successes of DIC, Al Malik says, “Take, for instance, the Yahoo-Maktoob deal, or Amazon acquiring Souq, Careem-Uber, Dubizzle-Bayut, Wego-Cleartrip. These are all success stories emerging from an idea that started 23 years ago”.
DIC is a winning ecosystem not just for large corporations or successful entrepreneurs. It’s a breeding ground for innovation and future economies, he says. The winning formula lies in its policies, which have “always been focused on talent and knowledge workers.”
Explaining how working in the sector for decades has enabled DIC to institute policies to attract talent, for instance, effective freelancer packages or part-time employment visas, Al Malik says, “These tools have effectively boosted tech talent and retained them in the region.”
It doesn’t stop there. DIC’s greatest strength lies in its painstakingly built community over the years. “We are technology-centric, and therefore, the community we have developed makes us unique.” With real-life examples, Al Malik explains how he has heard stories of people starting as juniors in the hub today leading some big corporations across the lake.
From a national perspective, DIC’s infrastructure supports companies across scales. The goal has always been to “make it extremely easy for people to move into Dubai, establish a presence in the city, and use the city and the country as a hub for success.”
He adds how Dubai as a nation, its geographic positioning, success across industries, and economic development have made it possible for people to connect with billions of people across the globe.
“We support creativity by creating an infrastructure that supports people and attracts people. But we would not have been successful without Dubai as a city and its success story. So the ability to be connected to billions of people who are only hours away can use an amazing infrastructure across the city. It’s very easy to live in Dubai and set up businesses. DIC supports creativity because we have that base; we support it with technology,” Al Malik says.
Touted as the crypto capital of the world, Dubai has been lauded for its flexible framework supportive of Web 3.0. Is DIC prepared to ride on the next-generation Internet wave?
“We’re always ready. Web 3.0, metaverse, or crypto are all part of this ecosystem, and we will continue to support these new technologies,” says Al Malik.
“Will these technologies be the end?” he asks himself and promptly answers. “No, I’m sure that there will be something after that. We will continue to support any new technology or innovation that will positively affect people.”