Times of Oman

Relevant experience crucial for success of business, says Omani entreprene­ur

- ELHAM POURMOHAMM­ADI Support for SMEs

MUSCAT: A relevant educationa­l and profession­al background is crucial for the success of a business and should be taken into account by funding organisati­ons, says an Omani entreprene­ur.

There are some people who establish a business without having any relevant background and there is a high probabilit­y that they will not succeed in the market, said Ben Bella Al Naamani, founder of Ocean & Earth catering.

“When you start a business, you should not work ‘for’ the business. You should work ‘on’ the business. It means you should get involved in all aspects of it. If you do not have any background, you will not be able to do so,” Al Naamani told Times of Oman.

He believes that funding organisati­ons in Oman should support start-up projects based on the ‘experience’ of the individual­s and not only their ‘interests’, and their capabiliti­es should be assessed through various tests.

Having a strong background has been the key to the success of Ocean & Earth catering, founded in 2009 by Al Naamani, a hotelier with around 27 years of experience.

Before setting up his own business, he had worked at Al Bustan Palace Hotel, Interconti­nental Hotel Muscat, Interconti­nental Dubai, Grand Hyatt Muscat, Grand Hyatt Cairo, Park Hyatt Hotel Dubai, Meridian Hotel Kuwait and Kempinski Hotel in Chad, Africa.

“I had been working in Chad for over a year and came back to Oman after Gonu. When the time came for me to return to Chad, I thought to myself that it would be a good idea to establish my own business in Oman,” Al Naamani said.

First initiative

His first initiative was to open a live seafood restaurant, where live fish would be kept and cooked for customers based on their choice.

“However, courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. I realised that this kind of business is very expensive because of the costs and the massive space that it requires,” he said

Al Naamani then decided to open a small ordinary restaurant and the idea of changing it to a catering company came to his mind when he thought that ‘if people do not come to us, we should go to them.’

“It was being run by two people at the start of the business, and now, we have 18 staff, including Omanis,” he said.

Sharakah’s support

When Al Naamani felt the need for more capital to maintain his business, he approached the Fund for Developmen­t of Youth Projects (Sharakah), which provided 49 per cent of the required investment. In addition to offering financial support, Sharakah helped enhance his auditing and management skills.

Al Naamani managed to buy back all the shares owned by Sharakah in a record two years and so, sooner than the specified period of three years.

New location

Ocean & Earth catering had establishe­d its production facility in Barka and is now shifting to a new location in Al Ghubra North to enhance its accessibil­ity to clients.

“Our clients include Oman’s Telecommun­ications Regulatory Authority (TRA) and the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech). We are also providing our services to those working on the new airport project,” Al Naamani said.

Expansion plans

Ocean & Earth catering also plans to open a bakery, and the work on the project is expected to begin by March 2016. While expanding the business in Oman, Al Naamani is considerin­g the opportunit­ies abroad, especially in East Africa.

The entreprene­ur believes that there is still room for ‘quality’ catering businesses in Oman, establishe­d by those who have a solid background in this field. In addition, Al Naamani said that the government has done a lot in order to support small and medium enterprise­s (SMEs) and business owners should themselves prove that they are capable of delivering quality services.

“If you prove yourself, I do not think that anybody can stop you. You should not wait for large companies to come and award you contracts. You should approach them,” he added.

Local community

He also noted that Ocean & Earth catering believes in contributi­ng to the local community and is using local products and services wherever possible.

In his message to those who are interested in setting up their businesses, Al Naamani said, “As we all know if there is no struggle, there is no progress. Truth builds trust. Success in business requires training and discipline and hard work. If you are not frightened by these things, the opportunit­ies are just as great today as they ever were.”

“We are very much open to share with you new ideas. So if any young Omani plans to open a food business, he or she can contact me anytime for consultati­on atinfo@ cateringoe.com,” he said.

 ??  ?? UPBEAT: Ben Bella Al Naamani, founder of Ocean & Earth
UPBEAT: Ben Bella Al Naamani, founder of Ocean & Earth
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