Sunday, April 30, 2006

All Woman Start-up in The Knowledge Mine

The Knowledge Mine (TKM) a business incubator program based at Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) welcomed its first female entrepreneurs, Success Technology, a scientific and medical software technology start-up founded and managed by Dr. Zahra Al Rawahi and Munira Al Mahrooqi (pictured: left to right - Al Rawahi and Al Mahrooqi).

According to Dr. Zahra Al Rawahi, an Assistant Professor and Computer & Information Technology Chairperson at Sultan Qaboos University's College of Medicine & Health Sciences: “We're delighted to be initiating our operations in TKM, it offers us a host of services that we couldn't possibly get outside a Tech Park environment - from subsidized office space to mentoring to networking, it's a great opportunity for us to take Success Technology on and up.”

“Business incubators like TKM are intended to nurture the development of entrepreneurial companies, helping them survive and grow during the start-up period when they're at their most vulnerable,” said Dave Pender, Advisor at PEIE. “TKM was set up in April 2004 to help create jobs, enhance Oman's entrepreneurial climate, retain businesses, build and accelerate growth in Oman's ICT industry and help diversify the national economy.”

Remarking on the importance of having women set up businesses in TKM, Mohammed Al Maskari, KOM's Acting Director General said: “Self employment is an increasingly important way for Omani women to participate in the development of the national economy. Dr. Al Rawahi and Ms. Al Mahrooqi are making a bold move in establishing Success Technology, this certainly isn't an easy thing to do.”

“However, I'd like to see more women follow in their footsteps. We need to tackle the barriers to female enterprise, have greater access to finance, stronger business support, help in increasing women's business confidence and self esteem, and have more role models like Dr. Al Rawahi and Ms. Al Mahrooqi.”

PEIE's Ibtisam Al Faruji who works in marketing TKM said: “Every Omani woman with the desire to start or grow a business needs our support, but we also need to change the culture to help deliver that so that more women view the option of enterprise as a positive and achievable aspiration. TKM goes a long way in helping that process.”

KOM Welcomes First Silicon Valley Tenant

Hewlett Packard (NYSE: HPQ), one of the world's largest IT firms with a global presence in the fields of computing, printing and digital imaging has significantly expanded its Middle East presence with the opening of a new office on Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM). This move is the latest in KOM’s ongoing efforts to attract and support fast-paced, high growth technology companies, from multinationals to start-ups.

The new office, which is now operational, is being headed by Mr. Divesh Loomba (pictured - left to right: Mohammed Al Maskari, Acting Director General, KOM; Joseph Hanania, MD, HP Middle East; and Divesh Loomb, HP Country Manager, Oman), this is a key step for HP as it continues to grow its Middle East business and support network. Mr. Loomba is obviously a key appointment in that regard and the new office on KOM will undoubtedly provide HP with enhanced market opportunities.

“HP employs in excess of 150,000 people, has an annual revenue of over US86 billion, owns more than 30,000 patents and is acknowledged as the producer of the world's first personal computer and regarded by many as the symbolic founder of Silicon Valley – this is the calibre of international firm we’re looking to attact to KOM. Indeed, we’re delighted that HP has chosen to base its operations in Oman on KOM,” remarked Mohammed Al Maskari, Acting Director General, KOM.

We’re an exciting and competitive Technology Park," said Ibtisam Al Faruji from KOM’s Marketing Team, "where business enjoys easy access to a full spectrum of services and infrastructure. Our innovation and IT industry operates under a well-established framework, with intellectual property rights protected by effective laws. We strongly believe HP will become a valuable member of the Park’s community.”

Sunday, April 23, 2006

KOM Tenants Present at COMEX

Tenants from Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) will deliver over 30 IT presentations at this year’s COMEX exhibition (26 – 30 April) – Oman’s annual flagship IT show. According to Ahmed Al Hadhrami (pictured), a member of KOM’s Marketing team: “We’ve compiled an interesting presentation programme that will run over four days at COMEX. KOM tenants from Singapore, the US, Oman and Switzerland will talk about e-Security; data warehousing; e-Learning; ATM channel management; and hospitality broadband solutions. Representatives from Sultan Qaboos University’s newly-launched Communication & Research Centre - which is housed in The Knowledge Mine, KOM’s business incubator programme - will also be delivering a series of presentations on their activities. “The schedule looks really exciting and I’m confident it’ll be of considerable value and interest,” remarked Al Hadhrami.

Commenting on NCR’s participation on the KOM pavilion and their set of 12 presentations, Mr. Habib Hanna, NCR Corporation’s General Manager for Oman said: “This year, we’ll be introducing our latest innovative and integrated solutions that are intended to help our customers achieve their business objectives by reducing costs, increasing revenue, maximizing operational efficiency, ensuring customer loyalty and differentiating their image in the market place.” Asked about NCR’s presentations at COMEX, Mr. Hana said: “We’ll have senior industry consultants on our COMEX stand and they’ll be delivering presentations on various topics for different industries. We’re very excited indeed about COMEX and the value it brings to NCR.”
Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Saturday, April 22, 2006

KOM-based Call Centre Services US Hospitals

An Omani company which provides medical transcription services for hospitals in Saudi Arabia and the United States will be demonstrating its skills on the Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) Pavilion at COMEX 2006, the IT and telecom exhibition taking place April 26 - 30.

OmanLine was set up in 2003 and has carved itself a niche business transcribing doctors' dictations that are recorded in meetings with patients. The dictations are sent electronically to the company's offices at KOM, transcribed, and then returned to the hospital within 24 hours, where they become part of the patient's records.

Most of OmanLine's skilled transcribers are Omanis who have been intensively trained in medical terminology and procedures.

The company's Business Development Director, Alan Rooke (pictured), said: “Our success is based on the fact that Oman has a good pool of skilled and educated young people with an excellent work ethic. They are dedicated and provide a first rate service.”

One of the attractions for American hospitals in getting their work done in Oman is the time difference between the two countries. Notes of meetings with patients or records of operations can be downloaded to OmanLine's dedicated server as the day is drawing to a close in the US.

The notes, which go through three stages of checking for accuracy, can be transcribed and returned to the hospital before the beginning of the next working day.

Internationally, medical transcription services promise 95% accuracy, but OmanLine is currently operating at in excess of 99% accuracy.

All the operators have been trained at the company's training centre where courses are held for GCC nationals in several subjects, including telephone skills, sales and customer service and call centre skills.

At COMEX, two Omani transcriptionists will be giving demonstrations of the medical service, transcribing notes from both US and Saudi hospitals.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

KOM's Business Incubator Program

Knowledge Oasis Muscat ( is home to The Knowledge Mine (TKM) a business incubator program. We caught up with Abdullah Al Jufaili, TKM Manager - this is what he had to say how about the incubator program and the type of firms setting-up in TKM.
What's TKM all about - what's your mission and what do you do?

AJ: TKM is Oman’s first fully-fledged incubator program. Its mission is very simple - to assist start-up and early stage companies grow and prosper. What we do is to provide a top-flight facility and services to help firms succeed. We designed the facility for technology-based and knowledge-driven businesses. The facility has 29 individual offices ranging from 9 to 45 square metres. These offices can be rented individually or in blocks, depending on the space needs of a company. TKM is open 24/7 and has a sophisticated telecommunications system. Each office has multiple telephone and data points. Firms have access to meeting rooms and a board room. We have gated parking, a key-pass security system and, as is typical with incubators, low cost office space.

TKM offers business consulting services through an on-site mentor program - mentoring is provided by organizations such as KPMG, Ernst & Young, Intilaaqah and Trowers & Hamlins. In brief, our philosophy is to provide a place where firms can concentrate on their core business while we take care of the side issues that often distract start-ups - conference rooms, space planning, Internet connection, parking, etc.

Who are some of your clients, and how are they using your services?

AJ: We have seven start-ups at the moment with four more at the interview stage. Our tenants have concentrations from software development to research and development for security systems. Several firms are developing proprietary software for education and logistics. We have firms specializing in turn-key measurement and automation systems and products. We also have a firm specializing in multimedia and its applications to third generation mobile systems. Many of our tenants have science, maths and engineering backgrounds and this has influenced the type of firms they’ve set-up. Indeed, TKM tenants have run projects with some of Oman’s major blue chips and feedback has been extremely encouraging.

At what stage do people join TKM?

AJ: Because admission is competitive and requires a full business plan and profile of a firm's management structure, TKM firms have typically had a fairly solid sense of their technology, marketing and operational plans. These turn out to be more important to us than the number of people or the source of financing - although an indication of financial vitality (bearing in mind the start-up status) is important. For reference, full details on how to compile a business plan can be found on PEIE’s corporate blog:

How long do firms typically stay in TKM and at what point in a company's development do they move up and out?

AJ: We don't have a fixed graduation date. We anticipate the development time to be two to three years, but that cycle seems to be lengthening.

When interviewing potential TKM tenants, what do you look for?

AJ: We look for a number of things. For example, are they capable of being number one in that category in 10 years? Are they fundamentally changing an industry or an experience that is today broken or seriously flawed? Are they focused on demand creation or demand fulfillment and are they in a space that has defendable margins?

What strengths and weaknesses do you see in Oman’s growing technology base and what do you think is important for companies here to succeed?

AJ: In my opinion, business is increasingly less about technology and more about changing and improving traditional ways of doing business. It's about seeing the future and integrating the Internet into every facet of your business. The Internet shouldn't be an initiative in your organization, it should be a guiding principle. In that vein, TKM has the kind of creative business minds that can wrap their heads around the changes that need to happen from top to bottom in an organization.

What have you learnt over the past 12 months that you think helps make a start-up work?

AJ: Execution and focus. Great ideas only take you so far. At the end of the day, it comes down to what you're able to accomplish and how quickly you accomplish it.

How do companies qualify to locate in TKM. What's the process for getting space at TKM and where should entrepreneurs go or who should they contact for more information?

AJ: There’s an admission procedure. The first step is to complete an application form – this can be downloaded from the KOM website. Alternatively, if you want to chat over a TKM business idea, then e-mail the TKM admissions co-ordinator on:

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Business Plan Article #2 - The Acid Test

Here's the second business plan article.

The Acid Test: The 7 Steps - Will Your Idea Work?
To conclude, run through the following 7 questions and find out whether your business idea will really work. Good luck!

1. Who Needs You?
Making Money: No one shells out hard-earned cash even for a great idea, but they will pay for an excellent product/service that will make their lives better.

Who cares? There's no substitute for talking to the people you expect to pay you – so do some market research. Ask them what they want, what would improve their lives at work, at home, wherever. Then be prepared to change your idea.

Re-Invent the Wheel: You don't have to have a totally new idea, just have something better, bigger, faster, cheaper, more seductive than your rivals. If you haven't got this then get it quickly. Why should anyone buy a new untested name when they can go with a brand they may have been buying for years?

Know Your Enemy: Like any fight, it pays to know your opponent and their tactics. Speak to them, get their brochures, adverts and anything else you can get your hands on. Pretend you are a client/customer. They are unlikely to be much help once they know you are setting up in competition, but try to discover whether they are doing well or suffering. Find out who their clients/clients are and speak to them to find out what they want.

2. Are You Good Enough?
Products and services are people. Make sure you find a top team to make and sell your idea, from staff to shops that will stock it. You may be able to pile up the quantity, but if the quality stinks you’ll go down in flames. Premature birth is risky. Make sure your idea is ready when you come to sell it. Get in the right experts. If you build up client/customer hopes and can't deliver, they won't come back.

3. How You Going to Sell It?
To move with the market you'll need to know all the right steps. Ask friends you think may be interested in buying your product/service for their feedback. Perhaps place a trial ad to see what response it gets. Check out your first clients to see what they think. Then be prepared to change your idea if you need to.

Buyers aren't going to leap out at you, you've got to discover their world and go and live with them. Find out what they look like, what they wear, their favourite TV programs, which magazines and newspapers they read – know them backwards! Your idea depends on it.

If you're selling to another business the people doing the buying are probably bored silly of hearing of new products and services. Mail shots are likely to go straight in the bin, so think of a way of getting to them. Phone them, get them out talking and make them your best friends, then they might listen to what you’ve got to say.

4. Will it Sell?
Ask yourself why anyone will buy your product or service or time. It must be better, for example a more competitive price, a more efficient and accessible service or easier to buy. Ideally, your idea should have at least two plus points over your competition to succeed.

Know your rivals. Measure your offer against theirs to see if you can make your idea more attractive.

Count your competitors. If the market is already crowded, is there room for your product or service? So people will buy your idea now. But will they next year, or in 3 years time? Today’s markets are always changing, so can your idea keep up?

Check that your clients will pay a price that will allow you to make a profit. To know this you will first need to work out precisely all your costs from production and marketing, to sales and delivery. Before committing yourself, find out what potential clients are paying for similar products/services, or the time of people like you, and ask them what they are prepared to pay for yours. If this is not more than all your costs, then you'll need to think again. Ask yourself if it's worth the hard work for the sort of money that is likely to come your way.

5. Can You Deliver?
Will you be able to deliver on time and to quality and can you satisfy your client’s demands?

If you are going to find client demands insatiable, you'll have problems. Frustrated clients soon turn to rivals. Find out if your clients want to buy in ones or hundreds, hours, days or months.

Red tape is everywhere, but ignored rules and regulations are likely to trip you up. Is there any legislation governing what you are intending to supply?

Never pay a bill today that you can settle tomorrow. Make sure you know how quickly you must pay for supplies and labour and when you can expect cash from sales you make on credit. The further apart the two dates, the more stretching you'll have to do to make ends meet.

Reliable supplies of quality materials and labour when you need them at a price you can afford will be essential to your idea’s success.

6. Can You Hear Me At the Back?
Make sure your clients understand why they can't live without your product/service. To do this you'll need to understand the benefits your idea will offer them. Can you make sure your message is easy for others to understand?

Unique selling point (USP). This is crucial to remember. What is it that will make you stand out from your competition? You need to be clear about this so that you can focus on it when talking to clients.

Think about how you will promote your idea: brochures, websites, press releases or do you want to give the impression that it is more exclusive by relying on a slow build up through word-of-mouth recommendations.

BBC - brevity and basics to communicate. Keep your marketing message simple and short. People won’t read or understand it if it is too long or complicated.

7. Have You Got What it Takes?
A lot of pulling power will be needed to drag your new idea into the world, so you'll need the right people on your side to give the skills, attitudes and motivations that make sure you and your idea don't buckle under the strain. Remember, it’s you and the people behind your idea that will make it a success.

Don't be afraid to hire help for things you can't do. This is better than doing the job badly. Employing sub-contractors or staff may be the answer or you may find the solution in a partnership with another trust-worthy like-minded person or getting yourself some quality training.

Be passionate about your idea and prepared to dip into every last ounce of energy you have. If you won't do this, no one else will.

If you’ve made it this far and your idea still sounds good, then you need to work out if your idea adds up. Is your idea a real money-spinner or a financial black hole?

How to Write a Business Plan - Boldidea LLC

Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) runs The Knowledge Mine (TKM) - a 25 office - business incubator program. We're approached quite a lot by folk with start-up ideas. However, many of them haven't got a strong business plan. In order to help remedy this situation, we've compiled a couple of business plan articles - here's the first:

o Summary of Business Plan
An Executive Summary - a one-pager on what BoldIdea is all about. Hammer home BoldIdea’s WOW Factor. Think of it as a Lift Pitch, because if you can't explain your idea to someone in a one minute climb from the ground to fifth floor your target will be out of the doors and gone. If you pull it off, you'll be off to a flyer with them licking their lips and reading on.

Start with a one liner - your strapline - that really sums up BoldIdea so that your reader instantly 'sees' where you're at.

o Management
Detail BoldIdea’s management and/or business experience and team members – include your CVs here. Make sure you clearly set out the roles and responsibilities of each team member and how they fit together. What are their strong and weak points? Make sure you know this before deciding who does what.

o From Idea to Reality
Here’s where you detail all the nuts and bolts of BoldIdea - like premises (location), key partners, suppliers, IT, etc. Where’s the nerve centre going to be? Your home? Rented commercial premises - office space, a shop, a warehouse? Will your premises give access to BoldIdea’s key markets, good communications, such as Internet access and public transport for your clients?

What raw materials, equipment, facilities and other hardware does BoldIdea need? How will you get the raw materials? Who are your suppliers? Are they any good with a solid track record? How are you going to sell the product/service – from a shop, wholesaler, distributor? What are they like? Quality is key. How will yours be checked and maintained? It’s no good designing a product/service if it falls apart after five minutes. No-one will come back for more.

o Product: A Technical Explanation
Give a credible description of what BoldIdea’s product/service is, how the idea of BoldIdea works and what it will do for its clients that will make it worth paying for. Keep this short and to the point. Remember, clients are less interested in how clever you are than how well you can serve their needs.

o Market Research
Put yourself in your clients’ shoes when giving details of BoldIdea’s products. Think of it as they would think of it. Tell them why they won’t be able to do without your product/service now and in the future. This shows you really understand your market which is what often makes a successful idea stand out. But keep it simple. If you need to talk ‘techie’ then put it at the end of your plan.

What’s BoldIdea’s USP? What gives BoldIdea the edge on its competitors? How is BoldIdea different from its competitors?

Do you have any patents or copyright (register the name – website etc)? Address any of these so-called intellectual property issues. Can your competitors copy all the new things you are offering easily?

You may want to attach a ‘Features and Benefits’ analysis at the back of the plan, perhaps covering BoldIdea’s manufacturing process and any other life and death factors.

o Marketing
You will need to know BoldIdea’s market and how you will promote BoldIdea to your clients. Spell out where you are now - new market, mass market (everybody wants BoldIdea!), niche market (you’ve only 3 clients in the whole Gulf). How big’s your market, what’s its history and where does BoldIdea fit in? Is it likely to shrink, grow or stay the same? Your aim must be precise. Who exactly is your target customer or client? Research this.

Winning new clients and keeping your existing clients will be crucial. How will you do it?
You must know your competitors intimately. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How is BoldIdea different or better? How is the BoldIdea brand better? Where are the gaps in the market and what is BoldIdea going to do about them?

Your marketing mix could be your money-spinner. So how are you going to position yourself in your market? Key strategies are:

Price. The Rials you expect your clients to pay is critical. Will you undercut your competitors or up the price knowing that all your extras provide value for money? How will your pricing policy affect the business - will you make any profit? How will your competitors react? After all, you are stealing their trade and they may launch a fierce battle to protect themselves, like slashing their prices.

Place. Can your clients get to you easily? Do they need to?

Promotion. How are you going to reach your target clients? If you believe that all you have to do is make it and they will come, you may be shocked when they don’t. Don’t make the fatal mistake in believing that BoldIdea is so cool and clever that it’ll sell itself. Cover all your options including advertising, public relations, direct mail, branding, networking etc.

Product. Why is BoldIdea’s product/service better than your competitors? Have you got that award-winning designer, the super-quality support service, the cool distribution channel? How will it develop in the future? How will BoldIdea move with or set the trends?

o Operational
Business location, equipment in-situ, proposed equipment.

o Short and Medium-term Objectives
What are your objectives for BoldIdea year one and for the next two to three years? For example, what targets do you want to achieve, what turnover or how many people do you hope to employ?

o Sales Forecasts
Is anyone going to buy BoldIdea’s product/service? Here’s where the numbers game kicks in. How many pieces will you sell? How many potential clients do you really have? And how much of your product/service are they likely to buy? Be realistic. How does this breakdown on a month-by- month basis?

o Financial Documents – P&L and Cash Flow Forecast
Sales may be great, but are you making a profit? Just because BoldIdea’s product/service is selling faster than you can churn it out doesn’t mean that you’re going to make any money at the end. So when it comes to piecing together a Profit and Loss (P&L) and Cash Flow Forecasts be realistic with your numbers.

Make sure you cover any fixed and variable expenses you have over the accounting year. These might include:

o Rents. Show how much you’ll be paying each month. If you pay your rent annually, you’ll need to divide it up evenly across each month.

o Utilities. How much are you likely to pay for water, AC, lighting, gas, etc each month?

o Telephone/Internet. When will you have to pay these bills?

o Insurance. BoldIdea may need: fire or liability insurance, life insurance, shipping insurance, employee insurance. How much will these be?

o Drawings. As your manning the ship, how much are you going to pay yourself each month? You will need something to live on.

o Salaries. How much will you pay your staff?

o Interest. If you’re borrowing cash to make BoldIdea work, what are your interest payments each month?

o Depreciation. Even the best equipment gets old and dies. Work out the value of your assets at the beginning of the year and how much they’ll depreciate by at the end of the year. The depreciation period can vary, e.g. your delivery van may be depreciate at a different rate to your desk.

Crunching Numbers
Now you need to put all this on paper to see if BoldIdea really can work. You need to think about:

1. Is BoldIdea going to make a profit, and

2. How much cash does BoldIdea need to make it happen and how long will it take BoldIdea to earn it back?

Profit/Loss Forecast (P&L)
Every business has to have a P&L. It’s not rocket science! At its simplest, this is the difference between what money you’ve got coming in and what you are spending. So:

Profit = Sales (income) less Costs (spending)

Your Sales/Income is everything that you will make from all sources over your working year. If you’re a photographer this could cover everything from weddings to sales from your exhibition.

Your costs are everything that you need to buy/hire/rent to make your idea happen in the same working year. This includes your Direct Costs (like raw materials, transport, etc) and your Fixed Costs and Overheads (like phones, office rent, heating, etc).

This produces your Net Profit. Now you know if YOUR idea’s worth it!

Cash Flow Forecast
When cash will come in and when it will go out (Cash Flow Forecast). Just because you invoiced in April, doesn’t mean you’ll be paid in April. Chances are you won’t get paid until May, or June… if not later. So you need to show how much BoldIdea needs to keep afloat until the cheques start rolling in and that you’ve got the cash to cover your costs. In brief, just how much cash do you need to make BoldIdea work?

To work it out you need what’s known as a Cash Flow Forecast. It does look complicated so you need a simple system to work it out for your idea.

Follow these steps:

Step 1: Set up a simple table with one column for each of the next 12 months.

Step 2: Work out your Sales/Income - who is likely to buy your product/service or time in the first year and how much cash this will produce each month. Think carefully about when they will actually pay you.

Step 3: Enter your most realistic projections of your income/sales into your table. Think about when you will actually get paid for all the work you’re going to do.

Step 4: Now work out your Direct Costs (like materials, transport, etc) and when you’ll have to pay for them so you won’t disappoint your clients/clients. Expect to pay for these in advance as you are a new business. Think about the smallest amount you’ll need to pay out to finish the job.

Step 5: Now plot these into your monthly table.

Step 6: Now work out your Fixed Costs and Overheads (like AC, rent, petrol, web access, etc). Remember, include everything!

Step 7: Now plot them against the headings most relevant to your idea and put them into your monthly table.

Step 8: Finally, work out your One-Off Costs that you need to cover to get started (like IT equipment, cars, etc).

Step 9: Enter these into your table in the month that you are likely to have to pay for them.

Step 10: All you have to do now is total up all the different costs for each month and take them away from all your sales/income received. You now know how much cash will move in which direction if your business lives up to your realistic projections.

The last thing you’ve got to do is enter the amount of money you will start with – your opening balance - and add (or take away if it’s negative) your cash flow for each month. Now you know what cash you need to make your idea work. You’ll also know how much investment your baby needs and have a clear idea of when you will make enough money to pay it back.
Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Monday, April 10, 2006

KOM on Web Hacking

With high-profile hacking cases frequently making today’s headlines, Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM - is hosting a Web Hacking Seminar on Tuesday 25 April at 5:30pm that will be delivered by Bassam Elhifnawy, CEO, Trusted IT Solutions. “Bassam will share with attendees the techniques used by hackers to compromise an organization's systems and networks,” said Mohammed Al Maskari, KOM's Acting Director General.

According to Ibtisam Al Faruji (pictured), KOM’s Open House Co-ordinator, “the seminar will provide attendees with an understanding of what really happens when a network and system come under attack. Attendees will learn the techniques used by hackers to compromise an organization’s IT infrastructure, the different types of hacker and their motivations and solid, practical hacking skills which will help attendees in keeping their organization safe and secure.”

Increasingly, hackers are concentrating their efforts on web-based applications - shopping carts, forms, login pages, and dynamic content. A recent Gartner Group ( study determined that 75% of cyber attacks are done at the web application level. Web applications are accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and are a passageway to valuable data: customer and employee databases, transaction information and proprietary corporate data. “Many organizations have addressed network security issues and have implemented firewall technology but have not yet protected their "crown jewels" - data that can be compromised via web application hacks,” commented Al Maskari.

The most appropriate way of mitigating the risk of attacks on an organization’s IT infrastructure is by knowing the hacking mindset - how a hacker thinks, behaves and what techniques and methodologies are used by hackers to take advantage of existing vulnerabilities. “There’s no better way to secure your system than learning to hack it yourself - whether you already have basic knowledge of hacking and security issues or you are approaching the subject for the first time Bassem’s session will provide attendees with a comprehensive background of hacking and solid practical hacking skills,” remarked Al Maskari.

For further information or to secure your place at the Open House call (+968) 241 551 32 or e-mail

Sunday, April 09, 2006

KOM Pavilion at COMEX

Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) will for the third year running sponsor COMEX (, Oman’s annual flagship ICT exhibition. A KOM Pavilion will be staged at the Oman International Exhibition Centre from 26 to 30 April 2006.

If you’re looking for ways on how to collaborate with firms on KOM; or to find out about e-gaming; web design and web based services; call centres; software design in logistics, education, HRD; oil and gas or manufacturing, then perhaps you should visit the companies exhibiting on the KOM Pavilion. As a sponsor of the four-day event and with a growing modern hi-tech community of over 35 tenants, KOM is gaining momentum as it consolidates its position as one of the Gulf’s leading technology parks.

“We’re totally committed to enhancing KOM’s position and we’re actively seeking opportunities to raise the national and international profile of our tenant community,” commented Mohammed al Maskari, KOM’s Acting Director General. Al Maskari announced that KOM tenants will present a series of technology briefings at COMEX. The briefings will showcase Information and Communications Technology products, services and applications. The briefings will provide an opportunity to hear about developing technologies and their applications.

“Through participating in COMEX, KOM is offered an opportunity to showcase its achievements in the ICT field, and the Government's determination to develop the Sultanate as a leading digital centre in the 21st century,” said Ibtisam al Faruji of KOM’s Marketing Team. “The exhibition is also a golden opportunity for us to reach audiences we may not ordinarily have access to,” remarked Al Maskari.

Karim Rahemtulla (pictured), MD of Infocomm Group ( and one of the Tech Park’s anchor international tenants said: “Our participation on KOM’s Pavilion at COMEX gives us an unique opportunity to show case our innovative range of technology enabled solutions and services to both the business and consumer communities. In fact, we’ve found the event to be the ideal pre-launch pad for some of our services and solutions where we get invaluable feedback from business and the general public. It’s also an excellent networking event that produces new business relationships.”

According to Al Maskari “KOM has several overlapping target groups, we cater for start-ups, SMEs and blue chip multinationals. This year, four companies from the Park’s incubator program – The Knowledge Mine (TKM) – will participate at on the KOM Pavilion.” The Park’s incubator facility has been established for entrepreneurs and/or researchers who seek to establish technology start-up companies. In basic terms, TKM’s facilities are aimed at stimulating and supporting start-ups who are upgrading or developing new technologies, products or services. “TKM offers start-ups support through: high-quality, low-cost office space and technical, business and administrative mentoring services. TKM’s mentor program is supported by Ernst & Young; KPMG; Towers & Hamlins; and Intilaqaah. We’re very excited about the participation of TKM’s eBrain; Sohar Soft; R&D; and Seeb Systems, these are smart start-ups that are beginning to make their mark in the domestic and regional IT market,” commented Al Faruji.

PEIE on Manufacturing, IT & Innovation

With its business reputation built on oil and gas, Oman might seem an odd choice of location for companies whose innovation and ICT skills are shaping the future of the Gulf’s economy. Yet there is a vibrant and thriving ICT sector, benefiting from Oman’s business-friendly environment, one that is being shaped and nurtured by PEIE.

The Sultanate’s ICT sector has recently received a major boost that will see the country become a centre for high-tech, ICT and related R&D and manufacturing developments. The project in question is KOM, a 68 hectare Technology Park located 30 kilometres north west of Muscat. Neighbouring Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) and Rusayl Industrial Estate, KOM boasts 12,000 square metres of high-tech office and business incubator space plus two leading ICT colleges - the Middle East College of Information Technology and the Waljat Colleges of Applied Sciences. Moreover, a second phase of development consisting of 10,000m2 of Class A accommodation will come online in August 2006.

KOM: Oman’s Technology Home
KOM offers state-of-the-art high-tech office facilities for firms operating in the Gulf region as well as grow-on space for new start-ups and spin-out projects from SQU. Apart from office space, KOM provides its 35 tenants with high-speed broadband Internet connection as well as shared facilities, including conference and meeting rooms. KOM is also home to The Knowledge Mine (TKM), a business incubator program – “an initiative supported by business mentors from Trowers & Hamlins, Ernst & Young, KPMG and Intilaaqah. The facility will eventually house up to 25 start-up entrepreneurs,” commented Sultan Al Habsi, Executive President, PEIE (pictured above). “KOM provides not only the launch pad for new and developing technologies emerging from the country’s academic sector, but also a key point of access for established multinationals as well as SMEs to tap into the Gulf’s fast-growing business, ICT and research network. What TKM isn’t is another serviced accommodation provider. The clue to what we do is in our name. We help businesses grow.” remarked Eng. Mohammed Al Ghassani, Executive Vice President, PEIE.

PEIE’s Reach
Rich in cultural heritage, Oman has undergone a radical transformation over the last three decades to emerge as a major manufacturing and technology centre in the Gulf. This is being driven by a growing knowledge sector, nurtured by the establishment of KOM, the research strengths of SQU, and the Park’s membership to organizations such as the International Association of Science Parks, the World Wireless Forum and the UK’s Cambridge Network. Managing and marketing KOM is the responsibility of PEIE. In addition to KOM’s 68 hectare campus, PEIE manages in excess of 5,800 hectares of prime industrial land and oversees the day-to-day operations of six industrial estates in Rusayl (Muscat), Raysut (Salalah), Sohar, Sur, Al Buraimi and Nizwa as well as the Al Mazunah Free Zone situated on the Oman – Yemen border. Attractively priced land and premises on PEIE estates are ready and waiting. “An encouraging factor for manufacturers and ICT companies is that we give more than the usual support and help. For example, we provide site and premises details tailor-made to companies’ requirements; we organize familiarization tours of our estates; we offer information and guidance on issues ranging from planning and incentives to recruitment and supply-chain contacts. Through our One-Stop-Shop set-up we even help tenants in finding homes and schools and settling into the country. These are important factors for firms and executives considering moving into the Sultanate. We’re proactive in attracting new tenants, and once they’re here we want them to succeed and to feel comfortable,” remarked Al Habsi. Indeed, this is an organization that is helping power the Omani economy with remarkable energy, innovation and enterprise. Al Habsi added: “It’s important that we publicise the manufacturing sector, and its successes. Some of the most exciting activities in this country are now happening in the manufacturing sector.”

Oman’s Manufacturers
As much as KOM is a new chapter in PEIE’s history, the manufacturing industry remains the organization’s main responsibility. “Manufacturing” as Eng. Hamad Al Harthy, Director General, Rusayl Industrial Estate pointed out “plays a pivotal role in driving Oman’s economy forward. In fact, Oman’s manufacturers have an enormous impact on the Sultanate’s economy.” Just consider manufacturing in global terms, it is estimated that for every US$1 of manufactured goods demanded, another US$1.50 in other goods and services is generated. And every US$1 million of manufacturing output supports 6 jobs in other economic sectors. By comparison, every US$1 million in service-sector output supports 3.5 jobs elsewhere. From these figures, it is clear that maintaining and developing a strong manufacturing sector is one of the keys to Oman’s future prosperity. Indeed, recently released figures indicate that world trade growth averaged 10.2 per cent in 2004, reflecting rapid increases in industrial production and investment activity. The expansion in trade volumes in 2004 is reminiscent of the increase observed in 2000 and mirrors the rapid recovery in industrial production that began to take shape in the second half of 2003 and continued into 2004. However, manufacturing will remain highly competitive as customers continue to expect more and more. “The use of technology in manufacturing will also increase as customers, partners, suppliers and vendors will all want the transfer of information to be done electronically, from simple e-mails right through to complex 3-D models of components and assemblies. If manufacturers don't have the capability to communicate electronically, then their demise is almost inevitable,” commented Al Ghassani.

Said Al Mashani, Director General of Raysut Industrial Estate, is optimistic, yet not complacent, commenting that "in today’s competitive and highly regulated global market, PEIE tenants have to be able to react to a number of variables, any one of which could affect their business. With worldwide markets, PEIE-based management teams are focusing on quality, price and delivery; our tenants recognize that they won’t succeed if they don’t satisfy customers in all three criteria simultaneously.”

Key Partners
In partnership with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, PEIE works hard to ensure that the best possible environment is provided in which manufacturers and ICT firms can do business. Indeed, since its formation in 1993, PEIE along with other Government organizations has been delivering what matters most to business - a platform of economic stability and a fiscal and regulatory environment that encourages rather than hinders competition, innovation, entrepreneurship and growth. "the future of Oman’s manufacturing sector will undoubtedly hinge upon how a range of different factors interact to create a climate in which businesses can succeed. On one level, there are factors, external to businesses, over which individual PEIE-based management teams can have little or no influence. On another level, it’s the vision and talent of those management teams, linked to a highly motivated workforce, that will determine their future success,” says Al Habsi. In fact, through PEIE’s Training Centre and monthly Open House seminar program (held on KOM, Sohar Industrial Estate and Raysut Industrial Estate) PEIE stresses the concepts of productivity and growth. In brief, it:

o Encourages firms to innovate, reduce costs and provide better quality goods and services to the consumer.

o Promotes enterprise and innovation to unlock the potential of new technologies and working practices, supporting entrepreneurship, risk-taking and management.

o Helps improve the skills base to maximise the contribution of human capital to growth.

“We actively encourage our tenants to take the initiative in areas where they can have a direct impact,” says Al Habsi.

For the Omani economy as a whole, innovation is the key to higher productivity and greater prosperity for all. The Government has already laid the foundations of an innovation-driven economy by creating a stable macroeconomic environment, promoting fair and free trade improving education and skills and establishing KOM. But there’s more to be done. “To hold our own in modern manufacturing and ICT – areas that PEIE is actively involved in – we’ll need to innovate strongly by creating new high-tech firms and light-manufacturing industries as well as helping current PEIE-based firms upgrade,” remarked Al Mashani.

Continuing on the theme of innovation Al Ghassani added: “We need to raise the level of innovation in our service industries. In this regard, PEIE is in the vanguard of helping Oman become a country with a reputation for turning knowledge into new and exciting products and services; a country that invests in business R&D and education and skills, and exports value-added goods and services. As you’re aware, KOM is very much part of this process. Indeed, this is why PEIE is organizing Smart Manufacturing Conference, 23 – 24 January 2006. We feel there’s a real need to bring business people, policy makers and academics together to discuss issues that are impacting on today’s manufacturing sector.

Solid Management
Al Mashani pointed to the Government’s strong support for manufacturing and ICT as delivered through the PEIE network. He emphasised that “we should be in no doubt that the success of Oman’s manufacturers and ICT firms is crucial to achieving prosperity for all. Make no mistake, there are some exceptionally good management teams on PEIE estates, doing successful business in areas of manufacturing and ICT.”

Oman certainly has a strong manufacturing future. But manufacturing the world over is changing. Omani manufacturers - whether they are in automotive spare parts, canning, printing, cables, or car batteries - are being transformed through new technologies and techniques. Computers, information technology, the Internet - all have been harnessed in the pursuit of greater productivity, greater efficiency, better design; making many PEIE-based manufacturers among the most efficient in the region.

So, is there a future for manufacturing in Oman? The answer from Al Habsi is an unequivocal “yes, as long as there is the foresight and talent at all levels in our business operations to capitalise on the market opportunities that will undoubtedly continue to exist.”

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

PEIE's World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship Closes

The World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship was brought to a close on Monday afternoon (3 April). Held under the patronage of His Highness Sayyed Shihab bin Tareq Al Saidi, Advisor to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, the Summit was attended by approximately 600 delegates, including royal family members, ministers, government officials, business leaders, and opinion makers from 56 countries. (Pictured: HH Sayyed Shihab bin Tariq Al Said - Adviser to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said (2nd from left) together with HE Badr bin Saud Al Busaidi - Minister Responsible for Defence Affairs (far left), and HE Maqbool bin Ali Sultan - Minister of Commerce and Industry (2nd from right), HE Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdallah - Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs (far right).)

Delivering the closing remarks, His Excellency Maqbool Bin Ali Sultan, Minister of Commerce and Industry for the Sultanate of Oman and Chairman of the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE), stressed the impact innovation is having on businesses and economies throughout the world, adding that in today's economy, innovation and flexible regulation “are the main sources of profitability.”

Minister Maqbool also stressed his country's commitment to nurturing innovation and creating a suitable climate for entrepreneurship: “We, in the Sultanate of Oman, are fully aware of the importance of innovation, as we believe that the successful combination of innovation and entrepreneurship will contribute directly to the positive transformation of communities here in Oman and around the world.”

“The event has been a resounding success” remarked Sultan Al Habsi, Executive President, PEIE and the Summit’s lead organizer. Adding: “to have attracted speakers such as MIT’s Entrepreneurship Centre Managing Director Kenneth P. Morse, Ireland's Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Minister Noel Dempsey, UNDP Assistant Secretary General Bruce Jenks, Council of Arab Women’s President, HH Sheikha Hissah Saad Al Abdulla Al Salem Al Sabah, PepsiCo’s International Chairman, Michael White, Boeing’s Senior Vice President Richard Stephens and the President and Executive of Telecel International, Miko Rwayitare, we were obviously doing something right. Innovation and entrepreneurship are very much part of PEIE’s corporate culture and we’re delighted to have been involved in such an important and global Summit. Indeed, we look forward to taking this debate forward.”

Monday, April 03, 2006

PEIE's World Summit Kicks Off

The World Summit on Innovation & Entrepreneurship kicked off on Saturday 1 April at the Shangri – La Barr Al Jissa Spa & Resort, Muscat, with an Innovation Society Boardroom meeting that was moderated by Tom Stewart, Editor-in-Chief, Harvard Business Review. Suggesting that innovation and entrepreneurship meant more than the invention of new products and services, Stewart set the talks in motion by requesting that each table consider the various barriers to innovation and entrepreneurship.

Following some 40 minutes of deliberations, participants came back with their views on what they considered to be obstacles to the innovative process. Education was a central theme that many of the participants focused on - saying that education on its own was ineffective unless accompanied by opportunity and a climate favourable to the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. One particular theme that came through from the various groups was the need to encourage the region's youth to take initiative, rather than rely on classic, rote learning techniques. Women's education, or lack thereof, was also highlighted.

Picking up the discussion threads produced at the Innovation Society Boardroom meeting, the Summit continued with the World Innovation Theatre: A Town Hall style meeting on the Innovation Society. It was put forward that many developing countries didn’t have the right ‘climate’ to encourage and develop the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. Participants also highlighted the absence of innovation in some parts of the world while it flourished in others. A lack of supportive infrastructure, in terms of facilities, finance and attitude were identified as the main reasons for this global disparity.

It was noted that over 50% of today’s youth are keen to start their own businesses, and while in many cases funding was readily available from within the family, an overly bureaucratic infrastructure still prevented them from taking the entrepreneurial leap. Restrictive regulations and time-consuming red-tape were said to be strangling the youth’s desire to start new ventures.

Commenting on the Summit’s first day, Mohammed Al Ghassani, Executive Vice President, PEIE said: “The sessions touched on all the right issues – and I look forward to discussing them with fellow participants over the next few days.”