Sunday, February 08, 2009

Omani Consumers Crave the Authentic

There are huge benefits for all of us in sourcing goods and services from local businesses wherever possible. By supporting one another, we increase the amount of money available for companies to purchase further local services - a really smart way of working.

But do you buy local? “Of course we buy Omani goods and services.” This is the response most us give when asked about our support of local firms. But is this the reality?

On closer inspection, we find that there’s still a lot of groundwork to be done in shifting these supportive attitudes into real and sustained action.

Let’s test this theory through a simple experiment. Are your clothes and furniture from a design house based in Milan, Paris, London or New York? Do you holiday or shop in Dubai? Or do you invest offshore? If you’ve answered yes to two or more of these questions, you may need to reassess your Origin Oman principles.

This is the challenge for Origin Oman, a government-run campaign aimed at supporting the purchase of quality, Oman-made goods and services. “We need to create an environment that fosters pride in locally produced goods and services which in turn increases demand for Oman-made goods and services," says Hilal Al Ahsani, CEO Public Establishment for Industrial Estates.

“The significance of a buy-local campaign is not only national pride and the positive, feel-good relationships it encourages, more importantly it develops a healthy, sustained economic environment that helps create jobs here in Oman,” continues Al Ahsani. The state of a country’s economy is always instrumental in directing a nation’s overall mood and attitude. “A strong economy usually plays well into sustained national pride. It’s a continuous circle which feeds positively into all aspects of our national status.”

The good news is that Omanis, both living in the sultanate and abroad, have an opportunity to make a difference. Everyone can make the choice to buy locally-produced goods and services. “After just 12 months of launching the Origin Oman campaign to local consumers, over 80% of those surveyed in December 2008 support the campaign and its related activities,” smiles Ibtisam al Faruji, Marketing Director of Origin Oman. “We need to maximise this advantage point and convert it into action while our awareness levels are so high. This blazing success is testament to the need for such a campaign and its inherent benefits to Oman and our economy,” argues the campaign’s Marketing Director.

According to Zuhair Al Zadjali, Origin Oman Campaign Co-ordinator, government is ploughing a lot of time and effort into the Origin Oman campaign to promote locally made goods and services. Over the past 12 months the campaign has launched a website (, carried out print and radio advertising, recorded promotional films and organized a series of high profile initiatives.

Businesses who have already signed up to the Origin Oman campaign have urged others to follow their lead. S. Gopalan, CEO, Reem Batteries and a recent winner of His Majesty's Cup for the Best Five Factories, said: “Signing up to the campaign shows a commitment to supporting the local economy. The government has always been highly supportive of small, local businesses but through the Origin Oman campaign has recently become more hands-on, which can only be a good thing.”

Karim Rahemtulla, MD of KOM-based Infocomm said: “It's a campaign that's helping promote local businesses which are incredibly unique. In tough economic times like this, buying local goods is a sure way to get quality products, at a fair price, while knowing that you are also supporting sustainable community and environmental development that impacts all of us positively in the long-run.

Shopper and long-term Muscat resident, Kinda Helmi says: “Shoppers increasingly want to know the source of their food, how it's produced and where it comes from - in other words, the story behind their food.” Kinda went on to explain that: “Buying locally produced goods supports the entire supply chain, from the farmer through to the ad agency who designs the packaging to the guy who stacks the supermarket shelves. Local firms are the lifeblood of our economy and society and they can only gain by working together. I wish this initiative every success.”

According to Al Zadjali, consumer interest in the truly different, the obscure, the undiscovered and the authentic is on the rise. These new status symbols thrive on not being well known or easily spotted. “They don't tell a story themselves, but require their owners to recount the story,” explains Al Zadjali.

“Our research suggests that local consumers will increasingly end up purchasing the ingredients for a story, turning local brands into story suppliers instead of the currently en vogue practice of coming up with stories about brands. Suffice to say, the local aspect of these story ingredients is going to be very prominent,” predicts the Origin Oman Campaign Co-ordinator.

The Origin Oman Marketing Team is not predicting the end of globalization and their campaign will not save incompetent, uncompetitive Omani producers from innovative, global competitors. Indeed, to further downplay its importance, remember that trends rarely apply to all consumers. Origin Oman is no exception to the rule. Some consumers will not care at all about the origins of their purchases, will feel no need to sacrifice money or time for the environment, or have no interest in sharing stories with others. And when it comes to local versus global, never forget that globalization has brought consumers plenty of delights and excitement.

“What Origin Oman does provide local eager and creative marketers with,” says Al Faruji “is a fantastic source of inspiration: those consumers who are interested in something with a sense of place, the local, the storied, want local businesses to bring them innovative new goods, services and experiences that appeal to those desires.”

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