Monday, July 09, 2007

Big Business Idea Competition Fuels Innovation

The 2nd TKM – Ernst & Young Big Business Idea Competition (BBIC) was launched Monday 9 July at Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) under the patronage of HE Ahmed Al Dheeb, Under Secretary for Commerce & Industry, Ministry of Commerce & Industry.

"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, Nawras, NCR, Infocomm and GroFin Oman, 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.

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.'"

In partnership with Ernst & Young, Ericsson, Nawras, GroFin Oman, Infocomm and NCR, TKM will run a series of pre-competition workshops at the Ernst & Young offices in Qurum and at KOM. “The 10 workshops will cover business plan writing, attracting finance, developing a marketing strategy and the importance of technology in the small business environment. We've also arranged for start up firms operating in TKM to give workshops on their personal experiences, what it means in real terms to set-up and run a business. Full details on these can be seen on," remarked Al Jufaili.

Commenting on their success in the 2006 Big Business Idea Competition, Zawan Al Sabti, Co-founder of tourism portal Qumriyat: "Winning last year's BBIC was huge for us. Since picking up the award we've received a tremendous amount of guidance and PR support from the TKM management. Moreover, we've been contacted by people who want to hear more about our business concept and the technology we're using. The feedback has helped us build an even stronger business model."

"There's compelling market potential for what Qumriyat is doing," said Mohammed Al Maskari, KOM's Director General. "There’s a large tourism market out there, and their technology can be applied to multiple aspects of the industry. It's certainly not a one hit wonder in its potential," he added. "They’re a young, educated and energetic team and they’ve a great plan on how to proceed."

“The three women that make up the Qumriyat team are typical of the hi-tech entrepreneurs we see operating on KOM. In fact, entrepreneurship is a key driver of our economy,” said Al Maskari. “It’s not just wealth but a high proportion of jobs that are created by small businesses – businesses that are started by entrepreneurially minded individuals, many of whom go on to create much bigger businesses. It’s obvious to me that if we foster a robust domestic entrepreneurial culture we’ll maximize individual and collective economic success. It’s with this in mind that we initiated the TKM – Ernst & Young Big Business Idea Competition in 2006. In simple terms, we want to help spread the word of innovation and entrepreneurship particularly among the youth,” commented the KOM Director General.

“We’ve seen from our own experience with manufacturers on PEIE estates and ICT firms on KOM that small firms are dynamic agents of change within the economy,” he added. The creation and growth of small firms helps drive productivity through a competitive spur to other businesses, to improve their efficiency and seek quality improvements. Small firms drive innovation by being flexible and willing to experiment. Nearly half of small firms with between 10 and 50 staff are active innovators. They are a crucial source of new products, services and processes in our economy.

It’s initiatives like the TKM – Ernst & Young Big Business Idea Competition that will help Oman create small businesses, generate employment and show youngsters that it’s perfectly feasible to have an idea and set up a business. "It’s critical for the Omani economy that we get youngsters thinking more creatively about business and getting them interested in the enterprise culture. That’s got to be good for everyone,” concluded Al Jufaili.

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 RO6,000 and 12 months rent free office accommodation in TKM.
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