Friday, September 28, 2007

2006 BBIC Winners Talk Shop

Can you give our readers some background details on the Qumreiyat idea and the people involved in the start up?

Qumreiyat is a portal that provides information on Oman. In simple terms, it aims to answer all the questions a potential tourist may have before heading to the sultanate – the portal will enable and empower interactivity between potential tourists and organizations – in both the public and private sectors – working in the tourism industry. The Qumreiyat team is: Majda Al Hinai, Maha Al Bulushi and Zawan Al Sabti.

How and why did you come up with the idea of the Qumreiyat?

From an international perspective, there is still a lack of awareness of Oman as a tourism destination – though with full credit to the Ministry of Tourism, this is changing rapidly which makes it a particularly good time for Qumreiyat to be launched. We see a niche in the market for a portal such as ours and we want to fill that gap.

Why did you enter the TKM- Ernst & Young Big Business Idea Competition?

As soon as we heard about the competition we decided to enter – we thought that even if we didn’t win the feedback from the judging panel would be invaluable. We were also keen to attend the business plan workshops that were offered by Ernst & Young staff at Knowledge Oasis Muscat.

To be honest, we’d had the Qumreiyat idea for quite some time, kicking concepts around and discussing how to take it forward. But the main obstacle was start-up finance and with RO6,000 on offer to the BBIC winner we decided to enter.

You’ve won RO6,000 in start up finance and 12 months rent free office space in the TKM incubator program – what impact is this having on taking your company forward?

The RO6,000 in start-up funds and the 12 months rent free office space in TKM is pushing us on and up. It’s been an ideal start for us. We're already networking with start ups in the TKM program as well as other tenants on the tech park.

A survey carried by the TKM incubator program shows that – at college age – a high proportion of Omani students want to become entrepreneurs. But the reality is that, later on, few actually do it. Why is that? What were the key factors to sustain your motivation?

Being an entrepreneur is all about taking risks and perhaps young people don’t have the necessary skills or experience to manage risk – this is an issue we should be addressing in schools and colleges – switching young people onto the enterprise culture – preparing them to think about starting their own business.

Finance is another obstacle that fresh business-oriented graduates face. Naturally, graduates are looking for a secure job and a guaranteed income. This brings us back to the issue of risk and what people are prepared to do with their careers. We’re looking for a challenge and an opportunity to fulfil a dream – we want to run our own business, this is what drives us forward.

What obstacles or challenges do you expect your start up to face over the next 18 – 24 months?

Time – there are never enough hours in the day.
Building creative and interesting content for the site that will appeal to all nationalities.
Getting clients to join the portal and believe in the concept.

Did you accept any advice along the way? Do you believe start ups should be open to advice?

Yes, we’re always open to advice. The BBIC business plan workshops were very helpful and so were staff at KOM.

Start-ups need to be patient – it isn’t going to happen over night. Perhaps most importantly, you’ve got to be willing to take criticism, no matter what shape or form it comes in.

What kind of relationship do you expect to establish with your customers?

Customer is king, right? Our relationship with customers will be highly professional. Responding to their needs quickly and appropriately is imperative. We’re here to solve a problem and that’s what will differentiate us from other tourism websites.

What advice would you to pass on to our young entrepreneurial readers?

Never lose your enthusiasm or sense of humour.

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