DIALLED IN Tecom has evolved into a juggernaut shaping the face of media and technology in Dubai BY TAHIRA YAQOOB
hen the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum transformed Dubai from a tiny desert settlement into a commercial hub, his focus was on creating a bustling shipping and trading port essential to commerce around the world. The current ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has continued that vision to create a global hub on par with the world’s most vibrant centres of trade. But there is a key difference; the current ruler’s strategy is less tangible but just as forward-thinking. Its essence is a knowledge-based economy and the creation of a framework for digital, technological, media and design companies to flourish. The umbrella organisation for those aspirations is the Tecom Group, itself a subsidiary of Dubai Holding, which is majority-owned by Sheikh Mohammed. Most of those living and working in Dubai associate Tecom with a small burgeoning residential neighbourhood in the city. The reality is mind-boggling by contrast: Tecom - which stands for technology, electronic commerce and media - is a vast structure comprised of 11 free zones and business communities with more than 4,650 affiliated companies and a workforce of 74,000.
MAY / JUNE 2016
“Our story has been an integral part of the Dubai story,” says Tecom chief executive Amina al Rustamani. The foundations laid for Tecom with the launch of Dubai Internet City in 1999 are still flourishing and one of the sectors that has witnessed the greatest change is media, which makes up nearly half of all Tecom enterprises. Sharjah-born Mohammed Abdullah, the Emirati managing director of the media cluster, recalls a time when there was “just a shy representation of these companies to serve Dubai and the UAE”. The former vice president of CNBC Arabia started his career as a reporter and producer for Abu Dhabi TV in the 1980s. “The BBC and CNN had reporters going in and out at that time. Only Reuters had an office here in Hamarain,” he says. “There were some international players but not much in the way of local or regional media. With the establishment of Media City, these companies first started to move here and establish their businesses. Those who were here expanded to cover their operations and activities inside and outside the UAE.” Internet City, founded 17 years ago, was the first of the ventures representing the new face of Dubai. This was not long after broadband had become available globally and the power of