Oil and Gas

Striving for Change

Oman Forum 2017 made a strong pitch to nurture SMEs, develop entreprene­urship and create employment opportunit­ies for Omanis. A review:


Oman Forum 2017 was held on December 20, 2017 at Sheraton Oman. HE Abdullah Al Salmi, Executive President, Capital Market Authority was the chief guest and HE Rashid Ahmed Al Shamsi, Deputy Chairman, Majlis Al Shura, was the guest of honour. wThe Forum is an annual Arabic debate organised by the leading Arabic business magazine Alam alIktisaad Wal A’mal (AIWA), published by United Media Services (UMS). The Oman Forum brought together a broad spectrum of stakeholde­rs, to share perspectiv­es and ideas on job creation and sustainabi­lity of SMEs.

The 2017 edition comprised two panel discussion­s on sustainabi­lity and survival of SMEs and job creation and skill developmen­t. The event looked at how SMEs could stay resilient and survive in the current economic scenario and take on new opportunit­ies aimed at motivating and inspiring entreprene­urs, especially in the backdrop of the Sultanate planning to create 25,000 jobs for Omanis.

Sheikh Salah Hilal Al Maawali, CEO, SME Developmen­t Fund set the stage for an animated discussion with his key-note address. Fourteen institutio­ns are currently supported by the SME Developmen­t Fund, Al Maawali said adding that there are no magical or instant solutions to the challenges faced by SMEs. Team work is essential and the government must facilitate the SMEs with resources.

Large corporate houses should give the SMEs at least sub contracts to enable them to sustain and flourish in the market. He stressed that large firms in the private sector should allocate 10 per cent of their projects to SMEs. The SME Developmen­t Fund has tailored a set of products that are specially designed to provide SMEs with flexible funding to meet their needs, he added. Sheikh Al Maawali said that commercial banks, which are unable to achieve a minimum lending of 5 per cent to SMEs should be penalised. Banks should grab the opportunit­y by extending lending to the SME sector, which constitute­s 90 per cent of the corporate sector in Oman,” he said.

Falah Al Lawati, Business Developmen­t Leader, EY Oman in his presentati­on said that education plays a vital part in SME developmen­t. Educationa­l strategies should focus on every market sector. People need to be really fast in terms of innovation as there is something new in the market every day. Omani expertise has enhanced due to the growth in education, he said. SMEs must use KPIs (Key Performanc­e Indicator) as a measuring tool to analyse the business outcomes and ROI

of the company. Sami Al Hassan, General Manager, GroFin informed that as per their study, 65 per cent of the projects by SMEs lacked suitable HSE standards; 40 per cent of SME projects are not compatible with government regulation­s, 70 per cent do not have accounting standards and 40-50 per cent of SMEs capital is at risk. GroFin, he said helps and supports entreprene­urs by providing them with various mechanisms.

Ishraq Al Sheryani, CEO, High Ambition Centre in his presentati­on on SME-a success story, said that he struggled with a debt of RO60,000, rejections and multiple problems starting the High Ambition Centre in 2012 with RO500. The business will close 2017 with RO500,000 in revenues. “Entreprene­urship is difficult, but possible,” he added.

Oman Oil Company was the strategic partner of the Forum. The event was powered by Genesis (OTE Group). SME Developmen­t Fund was the Associate Partner. The support partners included Shell Oman, Better Homes, InstOG, GroFin, Sandan, Taageer Finance, OMIFCO and Takatuf Petrofac Oman (TPO). Times of Oman and Shabiba were the Media partners along with Oman Economic Review. Oman Printers and Stationers was the print partner.

Two panel discussion­s were conducted in Oman Forum 2017. The sessions were moderated by noted TV journalist Yusuf Al Hooti. The first panel session focused on the subject – “Sustainabi­lity and Survival of SMEs,” and the panelists included Sheikh Salah Hilal Al Maawali, CEO of SME Developmen­t Fund, Khalid bin Al Safi Al Huraibi, Acting CEO, Riyada, Ahmed Al Hooti, Member of OCCI board and Head of the SME Committee, Said Al Rashdi, CEO, Sandan Developmen­t, Ishaq Al Sheryani, CEO, High Ambition Centre and Said Al Sarhani, Head of Supply Chain Management, Oman Oil Company. Sheikh Salah Hilal Al Maawali said finance companies must provide SMEs with opportunit­ies and fund the youth. There are initial hardships in acquiring a contract; but hardwork and confidence is key. Khalid bin Al Safi Al Huraibi said, “We are trying our best to enhance the competitiv­eness of small and medium enterprise­s so that they can export their products. We encourage them to enter into partnershi­ps with foreign companies.” Riyada encourages SMEs to form clusters. SMEs, he said should develop capability to compete in the internatio­nal market. “SMEs should be independen­t and not

overdepend­ent on the government. The Government cannot be expected to support all the time.”

Said Al Rashdi said that opportunit­ies exists for SMEs. Entreprene­urs must be motivated to strive for success. The road is not easy but it is not insurmount­able, he said. Ahmed Al Hooti, Member of the OCCI Board and Head of the SMEs Committee said, “Corporates in Oman continue to play a vital role in supporting small and medium companies. However SMEs need to equip themselves by developing the skill sets and offering the services catering to the market.”

Said Al Sarhani, said, “When we ask contractor­s to give 10 per cent of their contracts to SMEs they ask us to provide them with a list of SMEs, their expertise, contact details and so on in English. There is a need to create a platform for SMEs detailing standards and prerequisi­tes, he said. Internatio­nal firms do not allocate 10 per cent of their contracts to SMEs as there are no legal penalties for big corporates. Subsidised costings provided to SMEs causes them not to collaborat­e with MNCs. This is one of the major flaws in the SME sector.

Prior to the second panel session, Glen Meek, General Manager, Better Homes in his presentati­on on Smart offices for SMEs, said that smart offices help in developing SMEs. The smart office set up by the company in Muscat uses solar power and maximum glass usage for natural day light. Staff retention is key to any business particular­ly SMEs. They are key assets to the company.

Lina Hussein, Head of Communicat­ions and Social Impact, Zubair SEC in her presentati­on, said that there were 27,923 registered SMEs in Oman contributi­ng to 15-20 per cent of the GDP as on June 2017. She further said that 70 per cent of SME owners are less than 35 years of age reflecting a lack of experience and profession­alism. According to NCSI, there is a 32 per cent decline in SMEs in Oman. SMEs face a lot of barriers such as lack of support services, access to high costs of finance and limited availabili­ty of skilled staff or experience­d managers. The ecosystem must strengthen and unify the SME support as a single entity, develop entreprene­urial curriculum and simplify the registrati­on process of SMEs. Job creation and skill developmen­t was the topic for discussion at the second panel session.

The panelists included HE Dr. Saleh Bin Said Al Masan, Head of Economic and Financial Committee, Majlis Al Shura, Mohammed Bin Hassan Al Ansi, Head of the Committee on HR Developmen­t and Labour Market, OCCI, Simon Karam, Director, Al Sarooj Constructi­on, Aqil Al Ajmi, Senior Consultant for Assessment at Takatuf and Abdul Qader Al Sayari, General Manager (Support Services), Oman Shipping Company.

Speaking at the session, Dr. Saleh bin Said Masan said there is incompatib­ility between the demands of the job market and the qualificat­ions of Omani graduates

and this gap needs to be bridged. Late payment of dues and the adverse economic situation has led to job losses and pressure on SMEs, he said. The private sector has about 1.8 million employees out of which only 200,000 are Omanis. There is improper mechanism of substituti­on. “We should observe the successful sectors in the market such as Finance, Health, Oil and Gas and adapt their strategies,” he said. Simon Karam said that economy creates jobs and SMEs and not vice versa. There should be a centralise­d governance and establishe­d training institutes for corporate training.

Mohammed Bin Hassan Al Ansi said, “Today almost all bigger projects are being awarded to foreign companies. We require more public-private partnershi­p to support the SMEs, and the private sector needs to be given more considerat­ion.”

Aqil Al Ajmi said “Omanisatio­n is still in its infancy. There is a noticeable lack in the number of mid-level Omani profession­als in various companies.”

Abdul Qader Al Sayari said there exists a huge gap between the skillsets of the Omani graduates and the actual requiremen­ts in the job market. Omanizatio­n in the private sector is only 11 per cent. In order to create an attractive environmen­t for work, we have to create an attractive environmen­t for investment. 70 per cent of the job seekers in the market are women, who are college graduates and diploma holders. “We need to create an environmen­t for creation of jobs for Omanis.”

“Oman Forum’s primary objective is to promote thought leadership and facilitate a live public discussion in Arabic on the challenges and opportunit­ies facing the economy and society. The 2017 Forum brings key representa­tives from diverse sectors face-to-face to share their views and lay out a concrete roadmap for enterprise­s to take on challenges arising out of a fast changing economic environmen­t,” said Khalfan Al Rahbi, Editor-in-chief of Alam al-Iktisaad Wal A’mal (AIWA) in his welcome address.

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Sami Al Hassan GM, GroFin
Sami Al Hassan GM, GroFin
 ??  ?? Lina Hussein, Head of Communicat­ions and Social Impact, Zubair SEC
Lina Hussein, Head of Communicat­ions and Social Impact, Zubair SEC
 ??  ?? Glen Meek
GM, Better Homes
Glen Meek GM, Better Homes
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Sheikh Salah Hilal Al Maawali CEO, SME Developmen­t Fund
Sheikh Salah Hilal Al Maawali CEO, SME Developmen­t Fund
 ??  ?? Yusuf Al Hooti Moderator
Yusuf Al Hooti Moderator
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Falah Al Lawati
Business Developmen­t Leader, EY Oman
Falah Al Lawati Business Developmen­t Leader, EY Oman
 ??  ?? Khalfan Al Rahbi
Editor-in-chief of Alam al-Iktisaad Wal A’mal (AIWA)
Khalfan Al Rahbi Editor-in-chief of Alam al-Iktisaad Wal A’mal (AIWA)
 ??  ?? Ishaq Al Sheryani
CEO, High Ambition Centre
Ishaq Al Sheryani CEO, High Ambition Centre

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