With the global slowdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses in Dubai are beginning to adapt to a ‘New Normal’. Face masks and hand gloves are de rigueur today as is working from home. While we focus on the handling of critical supplies like food, medicines and medical equipment, the Arab Fashion Council (AFC) launched the #threadforacause campaign with the aim of repurposing clothing manufacturing facilities to mass-produce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and surgical face masks. The shift from making designer dresses to doctors’ masks is not easily achieved technically, but it is the need of the hour and an opportunity for the AFC to demonstrate that the retail industry need not necessarily come to a total standstill because of the pandemic.
Covid-19 has proved to be more disruptive than climate change and cybersecurity, two leading issues that had been bothering supply chain industry leaders for a long time. The lockdown has particularly impacted Jafza’s partners from the Retail and General Trading sectors.
Just before Covid-19 became a reality, Jafza launched proactive plans to step up support for the over 8,000 companies that have made the Jebel Ali Free Zone their operating base. In March, Jafza announced that all business-related fees would be reduced by up to 70% for all its customers, existing companies as well as aspiring investors. It sent the message to customers that in the challenging journey ahead Jafza will be at their side in solidarity.
The reduction in registration, licensing and related administrative fees benefits the more than 1,000 companies from 94 countries playing a pivotal role in Jafza’s Retail and General Trading sector. Critically, with the extensive digitalisation taking place in Jafza and DP World, UAE Region.
In April, DP World announced two forward-looking digital initiatives to boost e-commerce: Manasah to support the retail business in the UAE and Digital Freight Alliance, which has a global imprint.
Manasah, a new online marketplace for Ramadan bazaars to support local small businesses during the Holy Month and beyond, was purpose-built to bring people together even when they physically stayed apart and it was made possible in a short time because of DP World’s sustained investment in technology. Registration is free on Manasah and the services are offered at a very low cost and supported by delivery features. The Department of Economic Development, and Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), an agency of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing partnered in this programme to make it a success.
The Digital Freight Alliance is an online association that brings freight forwarders globally onto one platform, giving them access to new tools, routes and services, and enabling them to do more business anytime anywhere. The initiative follows DP World’s acquisition of SeaRates.com, a digital platform that enables customers to transport cargo worldwide at the click of a mouse, along with LandRates.com and AirRates.com.
Amidst the chaos it has created worldwide, the pandemic has thrown up an opportunity for retail businesses to decisively step into the world of online business.
The pandemic is already changing shoppers’ habits in ways that are likely to be lasting. So, while it’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed by the waves of Covid-19 news, staying positive is a core ingredient for recovery, presenting a golden opportunity to reconstruct and redefine how we do business.
A recent market study by BUZ Management & Marketing Consulting titled ‘UAE Retail Response on Covid-19, showed that 63% of UAE retailers had seen a huge impact from the pandemic on their supply chains. Most of these businesses are in F&B, health and wellness, entertainment, and electronics. About 36% (mostly clothing and speciality category and beauty) were not disturbed with the impact, and expect a smoother function post the lockdown period.
Significantly, all of them are looking at different channels of supply. DP World’s cutting-edge tools and connected platforms will help companies in the retail sector to move management of their logistics online for shippers and freight forwarders. Digitalisation will enhance efficiency to keep business flowing through the Covid-19 crisis.
While this pandemic is unprecedented in the manner it has impacted personal and commercial life across the world, at Jafza we’re confident that the UAE will come out stronger even as we leverage technology to support our customers in the new environment.
The crisis of Covid-19 is different from any other before, but the policies and practices that made Jafza the free zone of choice for investors will continue to drive us. Our customers are sacrosanct for us even as we think ahead to be ready to meet their changing demands.
As the old saying goes, ‘when someone pushes you to the corner, push the corner away’. We need to accept that reality is changing, identify what works, and ‘push the corner’ – meaning define new ways of working. Covid-19 is terrible, but it also opens up new business opportunities.
Jafza announced that all business-related fees would be reduced by up to 70% for all its customers