DUBAI TURNING INTO THE CITY OF FUTURE

KANWAL SALEEM
Nov 16 - 22, 2009

Dubai has grown from a small trading outpost in the Arabian Gulf to the leading cosmopolitan city for innovation and investment.

The people of Pakistan and the Pakistani community, who live in the Emirates, have always been the crucial partners in the growth of Dubai as demonstrated through their culture of hard work and dedication.

Unlike the United Arab Emiratesí capital Abu Dhabi, Dubai has no significant oil resources, and has been hard hit by the economic crisis, with property prices plunging by 50 per cent from their peak. However, vision and hard work of Dubai rulers bring it out of financial crisis. As the global economy stabilizes, Dubai today is well-placed to exploit its inherent strength and its key strategic location to start new rounds in its march towards excellence.

A good number of Pakistanis have business stakes in Dubai. According to them, Dubai is now the leading destination in the Middle East region for investment and business entrepreneurship due to the decade old economic diversification initiatives undertaken in the Emirates. Resulting growth in the sectors of the economy such as banking, manufacturing, information, and communication technology, marketing and tourism was boosted by the growth of industry specific free zones such as the Jebel Ali Free Zone, Dubai Media City, Dubai Internet City, Dubai Textile City, Dubai Health City, and Knowledge Village. These key infrastructure developments boosted the real estate and the travel and tourism market in the Emirates.

More than 6 million tourists and business visitors came to Dubai in 2008, attracted by leading trade shows, conferences and exhibitions as well as world class conferences, events and sporting spectacles.

Pakistanís furniture manufacturers have potential to explore more avenues for promoting their exports to different countries by organizing exhibition in Dubai. A large number of businessmen around the world participated in such exhibitions in Dubai to see business potential.

According to businessmen associated with the export of wooden furniture, its export from Pakistan has jumped by140 per cent during the last few years, rising from a modest $1.89 million during 1996-97 to $4.90 million in 2004-2005; this phenomenal rise in furniture export is due to effective marketing by Pakistani exporters in the recent years. They believe that value of furniture export is very nominal, but a beginning has been made and with aggressive marketing strategy, the value of exports can further be increased in a short span.

They said the major buyers of the Pakistani furniture are UK, USA, Sri Lanka, the Gulf countries including Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait etc. The United States is the sole buyer of the Pakistani bedroom furniture, while the UK and Gulf countries import kitchen and office furniture from Pakistan.

It may be noted that the total world trade in furniture is estimated at $23.2 billion of which wooden furniture acquired a share of $17.7 billion or 77 per cent, followed by metal furniture with $4.02 billon or 17 per cent and plastic furniture $1.44 billion or 6 per cent.

The United States is the leading importer of furniture, followed by Germany and France while Italy is the major exporter followed by Germany and Canada. Pakistanís share in the total world market is quite negligible, and there are bright prospects for increasing this share by exploring new markets and holding exhibitions in places like Dubai.

They said the wood furniture industry in Pakistan could be divided into two main types: cottages and small-scale industry. These units, which are not mechanized, use outdated tools and employ manual labor for the production of furniture. There are about 700 registered units in the country. These units are operating on a single shift/300 days per annum.

The wooden furniture market is also divided into the home-use and contract markets. The contract market represents a significant part of it. And when built-in furniture, which is sold in a package with new homes and condominiums, is included, the contract market is thought to be huge.

Hotels, restaurants, and public facilities represent the backbone of the contract market for wooden furniture. The office furniture market consists almost entirely of metal furniture, and typically office furniture cannot be included in the contract furniture market.

According to them, wooden furniture is manufactured in Pakistan by a large number of cottage industries, spread over rural areas, small towns and cities. Pakistanís tradition of wood-carving has been considerably enriched by the continuing addition of new furniture designs in vogue overseas. Furniture makers keep themselves well acquainted with the latest design kits. The fast growing furniture industry is aiming at developing a system designed to incorporate its tradition with modern functional demands, coupled with a feeling for the quality of the material and of aesthetic values.

The need of the hour is to adopt effective strategy with the assistance of Trade Development Authority Pakistan (TDAP) to increase export of furniture by exploring new markets. Tastefully designed furniture items, made of superior quality wood, which are light in weight and in knocked-down condition, are more suitable for export purposes, and for supply to the distant markets.

Experts believe Pakistanís wooden furniture industry has a great export potential, and in quality is inferior to none. Moreover, Nakheel, a Dubai Company that is contributing towards building the vision of Dubai, has invited the Pakistani community who calls Dubai their home, to command a share in the efforts of turning it into the city of the future.

"Our portfolio of distinguished projects offer the prospects full guarantee on the investment they have made," a spokesman of the company said. "The value of these unique offerings has appreciated considerably, in some instances as much as by three times, due to the considerable interest shown by the investors in our portfolio."

Nakheelís signature projects like The Palm, Jebel Ali and The Palm Jumeirah was sold out in record time in mixed-use commercial and residential properties like the Jumeirah Lake Towers, Jumeirah Islands, and The Jumeirah Village.

"All of Nakheelís properties are regulated by transparent and flexible tenancy, leasing and freehold ownership rules. For freehold investments in Nakheel projects, the investor stands to benefit from a renewable 3-year residency visa issued for them and their immediate dependents if they have no other sponsorships in Dubai," the spokesman added.

Nakheel as the premiere property developers in Dubai is committed to provide unique infrastructure solutions for its sustained success, he added. "Nakheel is providing ultramodern infrastructure for the people from all around the world, while creating the opportunity for investment in landmark and very high profile projects like Palm Islands as well as distinctive homes," he said.