Sharjah invites Indian publishers to world’s first publishing free zone

Sharjah is all set to launch the world’s first publishing free zone and has invited Indian publishers to set up shops in the facility which offers state-of-art built-up infrastructure, a slew of tax incentives and hassle-free relocation.

The Sharjah Publishing City, a flagship project of the government-owned Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), is a free zone covering 400,000 sq m of land with office and warehousing space for companies to set up regional, as well as international sales and marketing presence.

The zone is expected to open by the end of March.

“Sharjah Publishing City is a very significant project for us, both culturally and economically. We will pull out all stops to make sure it becomes a global hub for publishing in the future,” says Ahmed Al Ameri, chairman of the SBA.

“We are particularly keen to have Indian investors on board with us, especially because we already have such strong trade and bilateral linkages,” he says.

According to Mohamed Noor Hersi, consultant to the Sharjah Publishing City, the government of Sharjah has lined up a string of financial incentives to attract Indian publishers.

“These incentives include foreign ownership, fund repatriation, zero currency restrictions and exemption of corporate and personal income tax; and exemption on import and export tax,” he says.

“Another major incentive will be free promotion to Indian publishers. SBA participates in over 30 book fairs across the world. We will display the names of Indian publishers associated with us prominently at these fairs,” Hersi told PTI.

He says SBA will look forward to quality educational and school books in English from India.

Sharjah, one of the seven Emirates of the UAE, has the advantage of a strategic geographical location with access to the Middle East, African and Asian markets.

The UAE’s publishing market is estimated to be USD 233 million and expected to triple in size by 2030, says Hersi.

India exports about USD 26 million worth of books and other printed materials to the Arab World, with the UAE claiming a 37 per cent share of this, he says.

The free zone offers a choice of furnished or unfurnished offices with long-term and short-term storage facilities, licences issued in 24 hours, sponsorship and visas for all staff and zero restrictions on hiring 100 per cent expatriate workers, according to Hersi.

The publishing city will have pre-built warehouses implemented as part of phase II scheduled for 2017. They will be available for an affordable annual rent, featuring office and storage spaces.

Investors and their employees will be sponsored under the Sharjah Publishing City Authority.

“The Sharjah Publishing City will be tailored for the publishing industry, which is undergoing sweeping changes in an era of digitisation. We understand the needs of the industry and the markets, and have custom built the space for them,” says Hersi.

“The UAE has a reputation as a highly investor-friendly destination, and we are sure to maintain this with the Sharjah Publishing City,” he adds.