Sunday, May 27, 2007

2007 Big Business Idea Launch

The 2nd TKM – Ernst & Young Big Business Idea Competition (BBIC) will be launched on Sunday 1 July, 8:00pm at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Muscat. This is the largest such competition in Oman and is now well established as a prestigious launch pad for new science and technology businesses.

"Last year's competition attracted over 70 entries from local entrepreneurs, business people and academics, we were delighted with the response and expect a larger number of entries to be submitted this year," said Abdullah Al Jufaili, Director, The Knowledge Mine (TKM) incubator program. Sponsored by Ernst & Young, Ericsson, GroFin Oman, NCR, Infocomm and OER, the competition is viewed by many in Oman’s business and public sector circles as a launch pad for participating entrants to successfully raise investment for their commercial ventures.

The 1 July launch will include a brief on the competition, a presentation by Ernst & Young plus a talk by Dr. Firas Al Abduwani, Founder and CEO of Hussam Technology, a telecommunications start-up firm based in the TKM.

Although the competition is limited to Omani nationals the organizers welcome entries from individuals, teams, students and entrepreneurs. According to Al Jufaili, "anyone with a good, innovative idea for a technology-driven business should think about participating in the Big Business Idea Competition.'" The idea should be original or a significant improvement on an existing business. "The 10 June launch will be an excellent opportunity for people to learn more about the competition and what it means to initiate a start-up company,” remarked the TKM Director.

“If you’re new to business and creating a business idea, you will learn a lot by participating in the Big Business Idea Competition. Entrants will receive high-level feedback on their business idea and the chance to learn more about processes of business. We believe that the competition is a highly-prestigious platform for successful new venture creation – it offers entrants access to networks, training and valuable contacts and it helps further understanding of the investment process and what constitutes a realistic marketable idea,” said Karim Rahemtulla, CEO, Infocomm and a sponsor of the competition.

Dave Pender, Advisor, Public Establishment for Industrial Estates, explained that the perfect business plan doesn’t exist because each business plan has to be designed for its particular function. His advice to BBIC entrants on pitching an idea to investors: "You’re selling futures and building credibility, so if they don’t believe in you they won’t believe what you tell them."

In partnership with Ernst & Young, Ericsson, GroFin Oman, Infocomm and NCR, TKM will run a series of pre-competition workshops at the Ernst & Young offices in Qurum. “We'll be announcing the free of charge workshop schedule on 10 June. In fact, free access to experts from Ernst & Young, Ericsson, GroFin Oman, Infocomm and NCR is an opportunity that doesn’t come along everyday,” commented the TKM Director. The workshops are intended to help would be entrepreneurs look at what it means to research and write a business plan plus how to use the business plan to raise investment for the business.

Entrants have until 9 September to enter their business plan. The four entrants with the best plans will be invited to present at the TKM – Ernst & Young Big Business Idea Competition Gal Dinner on 22 October. The most fundable business plan will earn its writers a prize of RO4,000 in cash and twelve months rent free accommodation in TKM.

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ramping Up Internet Usage And Content

The development of broadband systems and content across Oman is essential if the sultanate is to maintain and expand its profile as a key site for inward investment. Not only are broadband technologies required for companies, particularly those in the media, design, manufacturing, oil and gas, tourism, education and IT sectors, but constant, high quality internet access is also increasingly in demand by the general public for the speedy, efficient internet service it provides.

The Digital Nation Series organized by Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) in partnership with Ericsson (Roger Hage pictured), Microsoft, HP, Infocomm, SAP Arabia, Omania e-Commerce, Nawras and OER will hold a seminar on Sunday 10 June at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Muscat that will focus on Ramping Internet Usage in Oman. The panel will discuss broadband services and the development of local content and their importance to Oman’s economic development.

According to Mohammed Al Maskari, KOM’s Director General, broadband content and applications underpin innovation and skills development in Oman, develop new markets and produce step changes in productivity. Business will need to exploit to the full the potential of broadband applications and content, if it is to remain competitive in the long-term. This is not a single step process – our competitors across the world are seeking to gain the same advantage, so we need to run fast even to stay in the same place competitively.

With regard education and training, Karim Rahemtulla, CEO, Infocomm and a panelist at the 10 June Digital Nation seminar says broadband content has the potential of transforming the learning experience, improving co-operation between educational institutions, maximising their efficiency and the service they offer students and widening access to education. This will only have a positive impact for those engaged in full or part-time study.

It is also acknowledged that the public sector has a major role to play, both as a large customer and as a channel for aggregation of broadband demand, pushing broadband usage and capacity to new levels. In partnership with the private sector there are great opportunities in areas such as e-Health and e-Government to drive up the efficiency of the public sector and improve the service that the public sector provides to Oman’s citizens.

Developing local broadband content can also empower communities stimulating social and economic activity and preserving the vitality and life of local communities, suggests Rahemtulla. Creating and rolling out local content in the community context could be a major lever towards getting late Internet adopters signed up and participating.

The importance of broadband in contributing to Oman’s overall economic and social development cannot be underplayed. The level of investment in Oman’s telco infrastructure has already been substantial. Indeed, with the increasing availability of broadband infrastructure the next stage is take-up and exploitation by businesses, the public sector and consumers, which will in turn drive greater levels of engagement.

According to Al Maskari, awareness of the central role that content and applications need to take in the successful exploitation of broadband is growing and is reflected in the work of the Information Technology Authority. Content, whether a business tool, entertainment, a community portal or e-learning, is neither more nor less important than infrastructure – it is simply integral. It is important that any strategies for further broadband development across Oman fully take this into account, suggests the KOM Director General.

Broadband internet access and content will be the cause of profound economic and social change through the rest of this decade and will impact on all aspects of Oman’s economy, affecting growth, productivity and business competitiveness. This is why KOM has created the Digital Nation series, we want to engage the community in dialogue and discuss the technology issues that are shaping our world and the impact they are having, comments Al Maskari.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

OMG Talks Strategy

Any decision to implement an e-business solution, launch a marketing campaign, re-think logistics or invest in IT hardware should always be led by the company's business strategy. In fact, to get the most from any new business initiative it must fit with the company's overall strategy, says Eng. Hamad Al Harthy, Director General, Rusayl Industrial Estate.

"Developing a strategy is an integral part of starting and running a manufacturing business. Indeed, a clear and well defined strategy will help turn a great idea into a successful business," says Eng. Al Harthy. But how often do we hear owner-managers say they haven't got the time to sort out their priorities and establish a business strategy? Like so many SMEs they're consumed by the day-to-day demands of running a business. As a response to this the Oman Manufacturing Group (OMG) - will hold a seminar on Developing a Manufacturing Strategy, 7:45pm, Sunday 20 May at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Muscat.

According to Ibtisam Al Faruji, Head of Marketing at the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE) "the 20 May OMG seminar is intended to help the ultra-busy manufacturer stand back from their immediate problems and concerns and reflect on the importance of strategy, and show them how a strategy can be built and developed."

Launched by PEIE in March, OMG has been formed to share experience, advice and information to help Oman-based manufacturers achieve and manage business growth; and develop strong and effective partnerships in and outside of the sector. "Through the OMG quarterly seminar program we're aiming to provide manufacturers with the most informative and effective forum possible for all of their growth and management issues," says Al Faruji.

An outstanding array of business talent, as well as leading industry experts will form the 20 May panel. Moderated by Nick Pattison (pictured above), former MD Shell Oman Marketing (, the five panelists include: Mohammed Al Lawati, Oman Cables Industry (; Basil Al Lawati, Bank Sohar (; Chris Clark, Agility Logistics (; Rajeev Singh, Ernst & Young (; and Manoj Manoharan, Jotun Paints (

Uniquely, the OMG seminar program provides insider information allowing attendees to discover practical tips to help grow their business. "Every seminar is interactive offering people the opportunity to have their specific questions answered by experts who are at the leading edge of manufacturing," remarked Al Faruji.

The quarterly OMG seminar program and dinner are free of charge and open to all. To reserve a seat e-mail your name and contact co-ordinates to:

Blog contents copyright © 2007 PEIE

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Talent Magnet

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, Microsoft, Oracle, 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.

Blog contents copyright © 2007 PEIE

Oman Cables Industry Backs OMG

Some of Oman's most prestigious firms have thrown their support behind the formation of the Oman Manufacturing Group (OMG), which promises to have a major impact on the development of the sultanate's manufacturing sector. The latest company to back the OMG initiative is Oman Cables Industry SAOG ( a leading manufacturer and exporter of high quality, special purpose cables and wiring solutions.

Set up by the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE) in early 2007, OMG is designed to help Oman-based manufacturers respond to the rapidly changing industrial world. "We want to work with our manufacturers to ensure they remain competitive. Indeed, we fully recognise the crucial role this sector plays in Oman's economic and social development," says Eng. Hamad Al Harthy, Director General of PEIE's Rusayl Industrial Estate.

OMG runs free of charge, quarterly specialist seminars on practical manufacturing issues. The 2007 seminar series will debate: new product development; manufacturing strategy; lean enterprise; and branding. The first OMG seminar held in March attracted a range of companies from large international organisations to small independent specialist manufacturers from across the sultanate. According to Eng. Al Harthy over 200 attended the March program. "We were overwhelmed by the response. The OMG meets will also help us boost the image of manufacturing among the public, media and Oman's youth," says Al Harthy.

Commenting on the OMG initiative, Mohammed Al Lawati, Assistant General Manager, Oman Cables Industry SAOG (pictured above left) says: "OMG creates a marvellous opportunity for manufacturers to discuss and address common issues and explore ways of improving performance levels. I'm also confident it will increase levels of co-operation, collaboration and communication within the sector. Indeed, the support that OMG has received from the manufacturing sector plus the attendance level at the first seminar clearly indicates the industry's eagerness to come together, exchange ideas and network. "

The next OMG seminar – Developing a Manufacturing Strategy – will be held 7:45pm, Sunday 20 May at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Blog contents copyright © 2007 PEIE

Back on the Radar Screen

We've been off the radar screen for a few months so there's lots to report on. In particular, we've launched two new initatives in Q1: Digital Nation ( and the Oman Manufacturing Group ( Both are peer-to-peer networks. We'll be posting news on these shortly.

We've also just finished PEIE's annual Smart Manufacturing Conference (15 - 16 April at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Muscat. Again, we'll be posting updates and images from this two day event.

contents copyright © 2007 PEIE