Supported by Oman Air (www.oman-air.com), Oman Mobile, Omantel,(www.omantel.net.om) Infocomm Group (www.i-grp.com), BankMuscat (www.bankmuscat.com), Reflections and dGraphix, the topic of October's Knowledge Oasis Muscat's (www.kom.om) seminar and networking Open House session was the story of the Weightless Economy. Presenting at the seminar were: Gus Freeman (www.arabianresearch.com); Mark Hobbs (HH Consulting); Jamal Al Asmi (www.realitycg.com); and Eyhab Al Hajj (www.nawras.com.om).
What has fascinated economists and sociologists studying the Weightless Economy is not the business innovations themselves, but the geographic clustering that supports them. Various aspects of geography and culture has conspired to support high-growth businesses. Climate is one; relative proximity to Asia another. Some have even suspected that the latent laid-back ethos of San Francisco gave rise to a widespread ambition to escape the drudgery of office life through entrepreneurship. But ultimately, the reason geography has mattered so much is because of the importance of face-to-face interaction. For example, IT specialists have had to meet entrepreneurs, who have had to meet bankers and venture capitalists. In California's Silicon Valley this occurred fairly informally, although it was supplemented by networking clubs such as First Tuesday, an event not disimiliar to KOM's monthly Open House program (http://www.kom.om/index6ee2.html?lang=en&sub=activities).
From an Oman perspective, the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (www.peie.om) - through KOM and the Knowledge Mine business incubator program (http://www.peie.om/under_the_spotlight.asp) is working hard to help Omani small businesses embed themselves in a supportive geographic context. Helping them to develop networks with tertiary institutes such as Sultan Qaboos University (www.squ.edu.om), the Middle East College of Information Technology (www.mecit.edu.om) and the Waljat Colleges of Applied Sciences (www.waljatcolleges.edu.om) and larger businesses is an important part of this. Indeed, KOM is viewed by many as one of the most ambitious real-estate development projects ever undertaken in the capital area. With 12,000 square metres of Class A office accommodation already occupied and a further 9,000 square metres ready for occupancy in July 2006 - "KOM's helping to transform this part of Rusayl into a centre of technology, it's, a next-generation work environment designed to facilitate productivity, satisfaction and balance for forward-thinking companies and their employees. Our thinking and facilities are very much Weighless Economy," commented Hisham Al Zubaidi, PEIE's Head of Marketing.
So how is Oman's own Weightless Economy progressing? "Rather than simply put the conditions in place and wait for entrepreneurs to get on with creating success, it's apparent to us at PEIE that a more intimate dialogue with businesses is needed. What do they want? Where are they currently looking for it? When do they feel lost? In this regard, PEIE is working hard to develop and strenthen such dialogue," remarked Sultan Al Habsi (pictured), Executive President, PEIE.