Tuesday, March 28, 2006

PEIE Hosts World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Hosted by PEIE and staged at Muscat’s Shangri-La Barr Al Jissa Spa & Resort the World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship is the first-of-its kind forum, which aims to develop practical solutions to address the most important issues facing emerging nations and to inspire the development of the next Generation of entrepreneurs and innovators to fully celebrate the opportunities of the 21st century in a climate of global prosperity.

The summit consists of inspiring themes that simultaneously address real issues facing entrepreneurs and innovators within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and across the world while providing opportunities for established leaders and entrepreneurs alike to spread prosperity for future generations and create a new and vibrant future.

Four hundred of the World's leading innovators and entrepreneurs - with a talent for changing the global economy - will come together for three days of workshops and roundtable discussions to help create a new future for the next generation of entrepreneurs. One of the key factors that influence innovative thinking and economic and social development is the geopolitical factor associated to its respective region. Geopolitical factors mainly include macro-environment, religious freedom, public security and intellectual property rights. The World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship will shed light on these geopolitical factors with reference to the Arab world and regional geography.

In total, more than 85 confirmed high profile speakers from the MENA and across the globe will participate at the World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship, including several prominent thought leaders, entrepreneurs, investors and developers, including:

T.H. Peter Hansen, Former Commissioner-General, United Nations Relief and Works Agency H.E. Noel Dempsey TD, Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Ireland
Dr. Jose Luis Machinea, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America & the Caribbean
Dr. Bruce Jenks, Director UNDP Bureau for Resources and Strategic Partnerships
Dr. Naomi Tutu, Founder, Tutu Foundation for Development and Relief in Southern Africa
Mr. Mohamad Saleh, Chairman, Al Aqariya TV
Ms. Randa Ezz El Din Fouad, Secretary General, The Arab Media Forum for Environment and
Development Dr. Iman Bibars, Regional Director, MENA, Ashoka
Mr. Abdullah Atatreh, President, Bonyan Holding

The World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship is the ultimate platform, which will make innovation work for emerging nations, helping them achieve global competitiveness through initiative and action.

The Summit program focuses on six key themes:
Infrastructure & Competitiveness
Knowledge & Development
Energy & Sustainable Environment
Geopolitics & Innovation Society
Growth Strategies & Prosperity
Disruptive Innovations & Value Creation

PEIE Helps Boost National Economy

Trade links between Oman, Europe and Africa are set to grow following a series of international visits to PEIE-run Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM). Representatives from a variety of countries have recently toured the Rusayl-based Technology Park in order to make business contacts and learn how PEIE and KOM can help foreign hi-tech companies and manufacturers establish a Middle East base.

One visit was organised by the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce (ABCC). Founded in 1975, ABCC is devoted to the encouragement of Arab-British trade and economic co-operation. Sir Roger Tomkys, Chairman ABCC, headed the Chamber’s delegation to KOM. According to KOM Management, the ABCC delegation visited the Park to understand the facilities available to British hi-tech companies wanting to locate in the Middle East.

In addition to KOM, the ABCC delegation were also given a presentation on the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE), its newly-launched Al Mazunah Free Zone and expansion plans for its Sohar Industrial Estate.

A second group, headed by Jose Nuno, Spain’s Economic and Commercial Counselor for the GCC region - and representing several industries, visited KOM to look at the way the Park promotes the development of hi-tech businesses and discuss manufacturing issues related to PEIE’s six industrial estates in Al Buraimi, Sohar, Nizwa, Rusayl, Sur and Raysut.

Three further groups visited KOM recently. A UK Trade & Investment team accompanied by Janet Ford, Commercial Attaché, British Embassy, discussed KOM’s facilities and services and how they could help UK-based hi-tech companies looking to expand in the Gulf. A five man team from the Japanese International Co-operation Agency (JICA) visited the Park to discuss innovation and entrepreneurship and the development of the Knowledge Mine, a 30 office business incubator program based at KOM. Dr. Kennedy (pictured above) an advisor to the Kenyan Government also toured the Park where he visited Gulf Air’s Worldwide Reservations Contact Centre, Singaporean firm, Infocomm and The Knowledge Mine.

Mohammed Al Maskari said: 'We’re delighted to see PEIE and KOM’s reputation growing not only in the Gulf but around the world as the perfect location for manufacturing and hi-tech firms. By forging stronger relationships with these countries we aim to encourage inward investment and promote trade, providing a boost for the national economy.”

Sunday, March 26, 2006

HP & Intergraph New Tenants at KOM

Hewlett Packard (HP) and Intergraph announced today that they have signed tenancy agreements with Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) – Oman’s technology park based in Rusayl.

Mohammed Al Maskari (pictured left), Acting Director General, KOM said: "We’re pleased to welcome both HP and Intergraph as tenants at KOM. The Park obviously offers both companies exactly the right fit. They will be able to take advantage of operating alongside a skilled network of successful high-tech firms, from multinationals to one-man start-ups. We wish them every success in developing their businesses. It’s great to see that we’re attracting such large and innovative companies. KOM’s clearly fulfilling its goal in stimulating growth in Oman’s ICT sector. HP and Intergraph can only add further value to KOM’s growing international reputation.”

HP is a technology solutions provider to consumers, businesses and institutions globally. The company's offerings span IT infrastructure, global services, business and home computing, and imaging and printing.

Headquartered in Huntsville, Alabama, Integraph is a NASDAQ listed firm that employs 3,400 professionals across 30 countries. “Intergraph’s a world leader in delivering software and services for the management and visual representation of complex information. Governments and businesses in over 60 countries around the world rely on Intergraph’s technology and services to support better and faster operational decisions,” remarked Maskari.

HP and Intergraph have both chosen to take advantage of KOM’s exceptional facilities and supportive business environment, which has been designed to offer comprehensive support for multinationals as well as for start-ups. We were particularly attracted to KOM’s high quality, flexible accommodation, which supports the growth of IT firms, said Divesh Loomba of HP.

“We felt that we needed to increase HP’s office space in Oman to enable us to meet the needs of our growing portfolio of clients. The facilities here at KOM are superb and we’re delighted to be in a state-of-the-art office environment which complements the highly creative and technical work that we do,” added Loomba.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

PEIE on Re-branding

Branding's a hot topic among many of PEIE's tenants - we've over 400 - So, we've decided to explore the nitty-gritty of branding and explain when, why and how to undertake it.
There are as many definitions of branding as there are branding agencies and consultants. Your brand is what you stand for, and what you won’t stand for. It’s your company’s personality. It’s how you will and won’t do business. It’s the customers you seek and the ones you don’t. It’s how you treat employees, partners, vendors and customers. It’s the care that goes into your product or service. It’s your overriding principles and your diligence in adhering to them. In short, branding is the sum total of your values, as evidenced by how you deliver on those values, at every point of contact.
Now, if you think about it, we’ve all seen oil companies, telcos, manufacturers and banks proudly telling us they’ve revitalised and redefined their brand. They release a new logo — generally a poorly designed one — and a meaningless slogan. And believe it or not, they’re genuinely chuffed with what they’ve got. More to the point, they’ve paid through the nose to get it. Listen up folks, a slogan and a logo don’t make a brand.
Originally, branding referred to burning one’s mark on bovine rears to help US ranchers distinguish among look-alike cattle but it was the American railroads that brought branding into the marketing lexicon. Railroads made mass distribution possible, which, in turn, made mass production viable. With mass production came copies, and with copies came the need for manufacturers to differentiate their products. They solved the problem by adding proprietary marks to their packaging and began referring to the practice as branding.
To cut a long story short, branding worked. Consumers liked brands and it wasn’t long before brands became highly valuable assets. For example, after an unsuccessful foray as a women’s cigarette, Marlboro reintroduced itself as the cigarette for manly men. Powerful TV spots, road-side billboards and magazine ads featuring handsome cowboys puffing away on the cigarette quickly had any male smoker who wanted to look cool, smoking Marlboro, and the Joe Consumer was willing to pay extra for the privilege.
Other brands without a readily apparent competitive advantage were quick to differentiate by image as well. Substance was optional. It worked for a while, but as brands and choices proliferated and Joe Consumer paid more attention to the benefit of a product, brand loyalty began to erode. Folk soon realised that buying Hunts, Heinz or Paul Newman’s tomato sauce had little impact on the outcome of their Thursday night pasta sauce. The unthinkable was happening, despite distinctive trademarks and carefully crafted images, well-known brands were becoming parity products. Even the cowboy lost his grip, and mighty Marlboro found itself doing the ultimate brand no-no and lowered its price to compete.
Road to Damascus
For many companies, the branding process can be a real soul-searching journey, one that leads them to defining who they are, what they stand for and why customers should place their faith in their products or services. Brands are experienced through, inter alia, a company’s Website, letterhead, brochures, corporate film, office environment and the receptionist. The brand has to permeate every level of the organisation and every point of a customer’s experience to be effective. People want to connect with a brand, but for this to happen, the brand has to appeal on an emotional level.
Your brand should be thought of as a set of values implied by your product, service or experience and not simply as a symbol, which is usually your logo. Your logo is merely the manifestation of the brand, the visualisation of the emotional reality. Indeed, all the values associated with the brand, good or bad, are brought to mind when the logo is seen. Technically speaking, a brand isn’t created by designers or other professionals – it’s created in the minds of customers, audiences and participants through experiences with the brand. Brands, therefore, live outside the company. Let’s be clear, what the customer thinks, does and ultimately buys is driven by perceptions. So how does an Omani company go about branding? What are the hoops they need to hold up and jump through? Here are some tips:
Who are you Anyway?
Investigate and research, talk to your competitors, vendors and customers. Find out how your brand’s perceived. What is its current position? Consider your brand’s strengths and weaknesses. What are the opportunities and threats? Also think about the strategic goals behind existing marketing efforts and who your primary target is and how they behave. Figure out where your brand stands before you opt for a new direction.
Once you understand where your brand is and what it is to become, discuss with colleagues how to get it there. What tactics will help you achieve your strategic goals? What tonality and aesthetic is appropriate for the target? What’s your Brand Contract, the target’s “take away” after engaging the brand? And what needs to be done to continue the relationship once it’s begun?
Piece it Together
Answering these questions ought to give you a direction that can be pursued. The direction should take the form of a Concept Board and is the final step in the pre-design stage. The Concept Board should take your complex business strategies and mould them into a visual and verbal representation that triggers Joe Consumer’s emotive values. This is the litmus test against which all creative decisions are measured, keeping the work focused and on strategy.
The Bit Everyone Likes
Design is certainly the most difficult part, for many, it’s the most obvious; the best understood and needs the least explanation.
Roll Out
Print it and (e-)mail it. Immediately after launch, begin to generate findings. From this valuable data will emerge more questions, which will continue the focus on the most efficient, effective way to meet brand objectives. No matter how much brand designers contribute, if a brand isn’t viable or sustainable, it won’t succeed. On the other hand, well-managed and well-executed brands that keep business objectives and target audience in mind will effectively capture Joe Consumer and maximise return on your investment.
Who Brands Right?
BMW - the ultimate driving experience. When BMW makes a claim like this, it had better back it up with performance. What has BMW done? It has re-engineered its legendary 3-series and made it even better. Then it goes to the extremes of technology in its top-end 7-series. When they say 'the ultimate driving experience', that is the promise and BMW sales are strong because they are what they say they are. They’re keeping their brand’s promise.
Apple - think different. Who would have believed egg-shaped computers in citrus colours? Titanium cases and movie-shaped screens on laptops? Clear plastic cube-shaped computers? Flat screens suspended on articulating arms from hemispherical CPUs? A totally new operating system and software - is Apple thinking 'different'? Looks like it - because that's its brand promise, and it’s keeping it.
Ralph Lauren - enduring, consistency in style, quality and cachets. Ralph Lauren consistently uses its brand on products that match its image - good quality, comfortable, enduring and tastefully stylish. Ralph Lauren keeps his fashions on track because that's his brand's promise.
Changing Times
Times have changed. Linking a brand to a cowboy isn’t enough anymore. Indeed, it’s become more difficult to get Joe Consumer to part with his hard-earned Rials. Today, the practice of claiming to be unique without changing anything but your advertising isn’t enough.More and more Oman-based companies run campaigns telling us they’re different in the way they think, hire and behave. But when you visit them, you find a bank, a petrol station or a telco that looks, feels and acts just like it did before. This isn’t branding. It’s letting your customer down. Let’s be clear, Joe Consumer demands substance and rewards those who deliver it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Attracting Talent

The concept of attracting talent and multinationals to Oman is an important issue. We hear a lot about the new economy as if it only applies to IT or is still some way in the future; that it is something only young techies in smart offices are involved in. If that's what you think then you couldn't be further from the truth. In fact it is here and it is now and it affects us all.

Today's modern economy is fast moving, dynamic, ever-changing and global. To become successful, companies, countries and cities must master the art of innovation, constantly developing and adopting the best products, techniques and practices and attracting the right kind of human capital. Indeed, successful cities will be those that can adapt to the demands of rapid change, those that are flexible, creative and diverse and manage change rather than being drowned by it.

Benchmarking Cities
The World Knowledge Competitiveness Index benchmarks the world's high performing cities in terms of their performance on four crucial variables - knowledge capital, human capital, regional economic outputs and knowledge sustainability and it makes for sober reading. The recent index is dominated by US cities. The top 21 world knowledge competitive cities are all in North America. In fact, the first European city to feature in the ranking is Stockholm at 22nd and there is no Gulf city listed in the top 125.

The world's burgeoning cities are a critical fact of the 21st century - and represent one of the greatest challenges of the future. By the year 2050, cities with populations over three million will more than double from 70 today to over 150. When knowledge is perhaps the most important factor in today's economy, there's a growing interest in the concept of the knowledge city. But it isn't just large cities that have cornered the market in attracting talented people. For example, in the US, a number of smaller cities have some of the highest conce-ntrations of creative people in the nation, notably college towns such as Austin, Texas, East Lansing, Michigan and Madison, Wisconsin. But where does Muscat stand on attracting talent and establishing itself as a knowledge city?

We've a Tech Park
Clean, unpretentious and safer than most cities, Muscat is home to KOM, the Rusayl-based technology park. Tenants on the 68 hectare park are exempt from corporate taxes, have access to Class A office accommodation and superb telco infrastructure. Its tenants live in modern, comfortable and affordable housing, their kids attend great schools and healthcare here is second to none. The park's firms are positioned to tap a growing, youthful Middle East market, and a young, educated, increasingly tech-savvy, multilingual indigenous workforce. All of this should bode well. Among others, Hewlett Packard, Siemens, Huwaie, Gulf Air, Infocomm and NCR are taking advantage of what KOM offers. But if we want to attract creative talent to the sultanate - multinationals and entrepreneurs that drive innovation and create employment - KOM won't achieve this on its own. The point is, Oman doesn't have just one competitor - either the UAE or Saudi Arabia or Qatar. That's not how the global economy works. We are competing against a collection of countries simultaneously, and the cumulative effect of UAE plus Saudi Arabia plus Qatar plus Thailand plus India is something to worry about. So what should we be thinking?

The concept of attracting talent and multinationals to Oman is an important issue. Indeed, in the battle for global talent, we are moving from a company-centric economy to a people-driven one. Simply put, people are turning to their community rather than to their company to define themselves and location is taking precedence over the corporation. For example, when smart individuals and firms visit KOM, they don't just consider the Class A office accommodation, the tax benefits and infrastructure on offer. Increasingly, they check out what's available and happening in Muscat - the recreation and sports facilities, the standard and availability of accommodation, schools, healthcare facilities, flight connections, cinemas, night life, museums, shopping centres, art galleries and restaurants. They're looking for audile and visual cues which signal whether Muscat is a place where they and their employees can live, work and play.

It is also apparent from talking to people that location is as important as salary and career opportunity. Again, recent studies suggest that folk who make a job-based decision to relocate but neglect lifestyle factors such as recreational and cultural amenities move again shortly thereafter.

A High Amenity City
In order to help Oman attract talent and multinationals, what we should be looking to develop is Muscat as a high-amenity place where you can get anything you need instantaneously. If you are pulling an all-nighter, you can get a Thai take away at 2 am. When your dry cleaning piles up, there's a place in CityCentre that will take care of it in 30 minutes. If you need to blow off steam, there's a skatepark to ride or a wadi to bash! In brief, a place that has all these amenities is efficient. You save time when you live there. Many of these amenities are on offer in Muscat - but are we (collectively) getting this message across to international firms and entrepreneurs? Perhaps not.

Obviously, cities differ considerably in their ability to attract and retain human capital and the companies these folk manage, this is why talent hasn't spread evenly across the economic landscape and helps explain the emergence of business and technology clusters. From experience, it's more than apparent that people look for the same things in a city that they look for in a company: energy, amenities and a sense of fun. In Oman, people want to be able to go camping, cycling and picnicking on beaches. Now, when you question potential residents whether they camp, cycle or picnic on beaches, generally the answer is 'no'. But they want such activities to be available, because they like the idea of being able to do them if they want to.

Low Entry Barriers
Economists have long spoken of the importance of industries having low entry barriers, so that new firms can easily enter and keep the industry vital. Similarly, it's important for a city to have low entry barriers for people, that is, to be a place where newcomers are accepted quickly into various social and economic arrangements. All things being equal, if Oman adopts this approach, we are likely to attract greater numbers of talented and creative people - the type of people who power innovation, entrepreneurship and create employment. Cities that thrive in today's world tend to be plug-and-play communities where anyone can fit in quickly. On its own, building a first class technology park won't attract greater talent and more international firms, we need to work harder on offering more lifestyle options and greater cultural diversity.

Talent Magnet
Talented people seek an environment open to differences. Many highly creative people, regardless of ethnic background, grew up feeling like outsiders, different in some way from most of their schoolmates. When they're sizing up a new company, city or country, acceptance of diversity is a neon sign that reads 'non-standard people welcome here.' Put simply, crusaders of the new economy increasingly take their professional identities from where they live, rather than from where they work. In the past you would meet a guy on a plane, ask him what he does, and he would tell you that he writes code at Oracle. Today, it is, "I design educational game software and live in Madison." The most important national and corporate resource over the next 20 years will be talent. Smart, sophisticated businesspeople who are technologically literate, globally astute and operationally agile. And even as the demand for talent goes up, the supply will be going down. We have great ideas, we have got money, we just don't have enough talented people to pursue those ideas. We are talent-constrained. So, if we are to compete, we've got to get our heads round this issue and look seriously at how we can retain and attract the right human capital.

Research clearly indicates that talent is attracted to three types of new economy hot spots. First, there's the traditional, high-tech industrial complex such as California's Silicon Valley. Then there's the 'latte town' - high-energy places with easily accessible outdoor amenities, such as Boulder, Colorado. Finally, there are new urban technology centres cro-pping up, such as Pioneer Square in Seattle, Washington. Indeed, Muscat's fate cannot depend, quite obviously, on the performance of one technology park or one free zone or one port. Its prosperity will depend on the productivity of all its economic sectors and in its ability to collectively create a diverse environment - and one that does not compromise local culture - that is attractive to both talented entrepreneurs and multinationals.

What's at KOM?
Tenants on the 68 hectare park are exempt from corporate taxes.
They have access to Class A office accommodation.
They live in modern, comfortable and affordable housing.

What Muscat Should do to Attract Talent?
To attract talent we need to work harder on offering more lifestyle options to compete.

To compete we have to look seriously at how we can retain and attract the right human capital.

Talent Appeal
If Muscat wants to attract and retain creative talent what are the questions we should be asking? Here's a starting point:

1). What will attract young bright creative minds to Muscat?
2). How do we inspire the Omani community (nationals and expatriates) as a whole to take ownership in making Muscat a more creative city?
3). What other cities should we model our efforts on and why?
4). What are some of the key success factors to making Muscat a creative city?
5). Conversely, what are some of the barriers?
6). Identify positive creative initiatives currently underway that we can build on.
7). Is the creative community in Muscat a cohesive one or does it function in silos?
8). Where are the opportunities for increased collaboration/cohesion?
9). What is the role of economic development in building a creative city?
10). What are some current opportunities to do this?
11). What steps can Muscat take to become an internationally recognised medium sized creative city?
12). What can the private sector do to improve the quality of life indicators of Muscat?

JICA Visits PEIE Head Office

Staff from the Japan International Co-operation Agency - pictured left - (www.jica.go.jp)
visited Knowledge Oasis Muscat on Sunday 12 March.
The four man team (Mr. Nakui Koji, Executive Technical Advisor to the Director General Economic Development Department; Mr. Shibuya Akir, Small & Medium Enterprise Team, Economic Development Department; Mr. Mitsuo Sato, Project Economists; and Mr. Yasuo Izumi, Advisor ICNet USA, Senior Consultant, Private & Financial Sector Development, Human Capital Development) discussed the Park's current and future development plans, its role in encouraging ICT uptake in the Sultanate as well as the importance of The Knowledge Mine, the KOM-based business incubator program.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

eBrain Talks Website Transformation

Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) will hold its monthly Open House seminar on Tuesday 14 March at 5:15pm. This month’s presentation entitled: Transforming Your Website - will be delivered by Fuad Al Busaidy, Founder and CEO of eBrain, a technology start-up based in KOM’s 30 office space business incubator program – The Knowledge Mine.

According to Ibtisam Al Faruji, Open House Co-ordinator: “No matter how good your website is, it could always be better. To maintain a competitive edge and get the most out of your online presence, it’s vital that your website realises its potential. In a continually-evolving and relatively new medium, new ways to improve your website are constantly emerging. We’re excited to have one of KOM’s most successful start-up firms deliver this session. ”

“If you already have a website but you aren’t entirely happy with its performance, and feel it could be doing more for your business, then this Open House session is for you. The eBrain CEO will take attendees through each step from objectively measuring and assessing your website, identifying ways to improve its appearance and usability to on and offline marketing for your site including search engine optimization,” said Mohamed Al Maskari, Acting Director General, KOM.

Al Faruji added: “Al Busaidy’s seminar is aimed at those people who make the critical business decisions within their organization – it's a must attend seminar if you're serious about improving your firm’s exposure on the Internet and your bottom line.” Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE