Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Future of Oman's Manufacturing Sector

PEIE - the government-run organization responsible for the Sultanate’s six industrial estates and the technology park, Knowledge Oasis Muscat - has brought together captains of industry, manufacturing experts, academics and Government leaders for the Third Smart Manufacturing Conference, to be held 29 – 30 November, at the Muscat Inter-Continental Hotel.

Backed by Oracle, Reem Batteries, Oman Cables, Nawras, Al Mudhish, Intilaaqah, Ericsson and Infocomm, this major Conference will explore the critical components for securing and enhancing the future of manufacturing in Oman.

“Our objective is to focus on issues of national importance, and to identify manufacturing areas that have the potential to deliver major benefits to Oman’s economy,” said Hilal Al Ahsani, CEO, PEIE: “These benefits include creating new jobs, enhancing manufacturing competitiveness and making progress towards accomplishing major national goals,” he said.

Competing successfully in today’s fast-paced global community requires rapid innovation, creativity, marketing, research and production methods to bring products to market cost-effectively. With this in mind, the two-day conference will address the significance of each of these critical manufacturing areas, detail the challenges essential for progress, discuss existing public and private sector collaborations and provide recommendations for future action.

Making the keynote address is Michael Kuczynski, a leading international economist from the University of Cambridge. He says: “We should be in no doubt that the success of Oman’s manufacturers is crucial to achieving prosperity for all. Economic development and thousands of jobs in Oman depend upon securing a vibrant and successful manufacturing base to meet the challenges of global competition. This Conference aims to build consensus and identify the steps we must take to achieve a long-term vision for manufacturing in Oman, building on the Sultanate’s manufacturing traditions. I’m delighted to be part of such an important initiative.”

Sharing the stage will be over 40 leading experts from manufacturing, banking, finance, logistics, HR, education, design, environment and ICT. Together, they will be exploring answers to the challenges of creating tomorrow's winning products today; developing manufacturing processes to rapidly respond to ever changing needs, and attracting and retaining talented people.

According to Ibtisam Al Faruji, Marketing Director, PEIE: “Manufacturing matters to Oman, providing over 30,000 jobs right across the Sultanate. In an increasingly competitive global market it is imperative that we all work together to drive up manufacturing’s competitiveness and productivity in the country. Indeed, this third Smart Manufacturing Conference will help set the scene to secure the future of manufacturing in Oman for the long-term.”

His Highness Sayyid Faisal Al Said, CEO, Oman Brand Management Unit and a moderator at the Smart Manufacturing Conference said: “manufacturing is critical to Oman’s economic future. In this regard, it’s the application of information technology that will help us reshape almost all features of manufacturing, from product development and design, through distribution and customer support. IT will also help us to rapidly design and test new products, and link “smart” supply chains to make sure there are always enough raw materials to build products and efficient methods to get them to customers on time.”

According to Sayyid Faisal, IT-enhanced processes are central to Oman’s manufacturing sector, adding: “In my view, it’s through the deployment of technology that we optimize our manufacturing capabilities and enhance Oman’s growing knowledge-based economy. Moreover, technology opens doors to designing new processes and products that increase Oman’s manufacturing sector’s performance and value. This is an important conference that comes at a significant time in history. I’m pleased to be able to contribute to the event.

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Smart Man Starts Saturday

It's estimated that over 30,000 people work directly for manufacturing companies in Oman and this provides the sultanate with a strong platform for its plans for this important sector.

“The diversification of Oman’s economy is tied inextricably to the future of manufacturing — but there is uncertainty about what the future holds. The last global recession hit manufacturing hard, punishing the sector for a glut of capacity and equipment at the end of the 1990s,” says Ibtisam Al Faruji, Director of Marketing at PEIE and organizer of the annual Smart Manufacturing Conference.

Given the recent global credit crunch, maintaining and expanding Oman’s manufacturing base will be a key part of next week’s Smart Manufacturing Conference. Through its six industrial estates, PEIE provides land and services to over 400 companies and takes a strong role in the sultanate’s economic development efforts. “As part of our remit, we hold regular networking events that support cutting-edge manufacturing enterprises. It’s these sorts of collaborations and networking initiatives that can help companies seize a competitive edge and increase manufacturing jobs in Oman,” suggests Al Faruji.

According the Marketing Director, PEIE is also focused on training — and retraining — and encouraging university graduates to consider manufacturing-related careers. Recent studies have found that while traditional production employment may be declining, there has been a significant growth in related occupations — the technical services, IT, research, design, packaging and innovation, financial and marketing jobs that support manufacturing enterprises. While these jobs may not always be classified as manufacturing positions, they should be included in any analysis of total manufacturing employment.

With world-class undergraduate programs in engineering, technology and business on offer at institutions such as Sultan Qaboos University and Caledonian College, “it’s wonderful to see how higher education is supporting career choices within the broad manufacturing sector,” Al Faruji goes on to say.

Since 2005, PEIE has organized the Smart Manufacturing Conference. The two-day event is one of a series of meets that better connect local resources with the specific needs of manufacturers. Al Faruji highlights: “the Conference provides a forum for industry leaders, government and economic development officials and academic experts to discuss their mutual goals of job creation and business growth.”

The Smart Manufacturing Conference will be held 29 – 30 November at the Muscat Inter-Continental Hotel under the patronage of HE Maqbool bin Ali Sultan, Minister of Commerce & Industry.

“This event is a must for anyone concerned about the future of Oman’s manufacturing and our national economy. Progress starts with dialogue, and this Conference starts the discussion,” says PEIE’s Marketing Director.

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Blogging the Killer Application?

The search for the killer marketing tool is still on says Ibtisam Al Faruji, Director of Marketing at Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) and organizer of the quarterly Digital Nation seminar program.

Blogging and other web 2.0 and social media platforms are now maturing to the point where local businesses are really starting to take the medium seriously. Intilaaqah’s Abdullah Al Jufaili will be one of five speakers presenting on the blogging panel at Monday 10 November’s Digital Nation seminar at the Muscat Inter-Continental Hotel. Al Jufaili will be talking about how businesses are turning to blogs to market themselves.

“I’ve maintained for some time now that the best way to use blogging in a business environment is as an architecture and a marketing tool, not a business in and of itself. For example, if you were doing a direct mail campaign, you wouldn’t expect to make money from the mail. You’d expect to make money from the sales that it generates. Blogging is the same. Most businesses shouldn’t expect to make money by selling ads or sponsorships or t-shirts on their blogs. Indeed, they should use blog architecture to make their websites more dynamic and search-friendly. In my opinion, blogs are an excellent marketing tool that can drive interest and sales in a company’s product or service. That’s where I think businesses will get the most use out of blogging. Is it a killer application? That’s something we’ll be discussing on Monday night.”

“But there are danger areas with blogging,” suggests Al Faruji. “One of the big problems with blogging is that it’s too easy. Twenty seconds on and any employee can start posting to the world at large without having to talk to a single person in the company’s IT department. How you blog, the tone, look and feel of the entries all have to be on brand. Say something counter to the company’s positioning and you can damage a brand overnight.”

As Al Faruji points out, “there’s a big difference between simply blogging and blogging well, and that’s why businesses probably aren’t necessarily seeing the kinds of results that blogging hype has promised them.”

“There really is value to be gained from blogging, but it’s all about the kinds of conversations you start and the relationships you build,” suggests Al Jufaili.

Monday night’s Digital Nation seminar aims to provide a forum that will allow Omani bloggers to gather together and talk about blogging and the Omani blogosphere. It also aims to introduce the concept of blogging to Oman’s corporate sector. The seminar is free-of-charge and open to all.
“We’re delighted to have Anwar Al Asmi (pictured), Creative Director of Muscat-based RealityCG moderate Monday evening’s panel, with panelists drawn from e-commerce; telecommunications, oil, print media and education it should be a really lively session,” remarks Al Faruji.

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Attitude Shift in Blogging

Over 100 bloggers, businessmen, journalists, marketers and academics are expected to attend Knowledge Oasis Muscat’s (KOM) free Digital Nation Blogging seminar scheduled to be held 7:30pm, 10 November at the Muscat Inter-Continental Hotel.

Backed by Omania e-Commerce, Nawras, Infocomm and UMS this final Digital Nation seminar of 2008 represents a number of milestones, suggests KOM’s Mulkie Al Hashmi. “As far as I know, this is the first time that local bloggers have been brought together in a public forum to talk about blogging and what it means to local business and academic institutions.”

The four man panel will discuss blogs which are essentially online diaries - personal web pages that can be frequently updated. The panel includes Kishore Cariappa, Abdullah Al Jufaili, Zaid Zabanoot and Raed Dawood. Indeed, with several members of the panel already publishing their own blogs the seminar has been designed to explore the potential impact of blogging on the business and academic landscape.

Al Hashmi was anxious to calm any shimmers of excitement. “There’s a tendency for people who are enthusiastic about technology to get terribly excited about it,” she said. “That could be a particular problem because techno-talk is often lost on most people. But this Digital Nation seminar will be techno jargon-free evening – it’s all about exploring how blogs can benefit local businesses and colleges in reaching out to their online audiences.”

"Given the global growth in blogging I think we’re on the cusp of something very special," said Intilaaqah’s Abdullah Al Jufaili. According to Al Jufaili who is leading the way when it comes to techno-savvy Omani businessmen, “this Digital Nation seminar is about trying to get organizations who are struggling to come to terms with e-mail to think about what they can do next to communicate with their clients and communities - and I think blogs are a way of doing this.”

“There’s no doubt blogs can play a powerful role in business and academic circles,” says Mohammed Al Maskari, KOM’s Director General. “'They can foster great communications. In fact, I’ve also come across stories of new business and research collaborations being formed, careers being advanced and media appearances resulting from conversations on local blogs.”

“We’d like to see an attitude shift so that blogging becomes a more acceptable part of business and academic culture,” says Al Maskari. “It’s happening slowly, but we want to catalyse that change.”

From an academic perspective, successful examples cited by Al Maskari include Stanford University (, which hosts a directory including links to blogs by faculty, staff, students and alumni. The Stanford Blog Directory lists hundreds of blogs by keywords and blogger affiliation. The Oxford Internet Institute ( similarly hosts a network of blogs written by students and fellows.

“By initiating frank and open-minded conversations about shared goals, blogs can certainly help local businesses and colleges communicate with their respective commercial and academic communities. I’m very excited about the 10 November seminar – anybody with an audience on the web should seriously consider coming along to this free of charge event.”

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE