Tuesday, April 28, 2009

KOM's Brave New Media

The territory once dominated by broadcast TV and print media is being swallowed up by subscription-based narrowcast digital television and the Internet says Knowledge Oasis Muscat’s (KOM) Mulkie Al Hashmi (pictured)and organizer of KOM’s quarterly Digital Nation seminar program.

The changing global media landscape will be the topic of discussion at KOM’s 4 May Digital Nation seminar scheduled to be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

According to research from the European Interactive Advertising Association (EIAA), almost half of 15-24 year olds (46%) are watching less TV, preferring instead to browse the web while 22% are listening to less radio. The EIAA research also reveals the extent to which the youth is using the Internet to communicate with friends, with 58% preferring to chat to friends over the Internet. “The EIAA statistics clearly reveal a new media trend – and that’s away from established print and broadcast channels,” suggests Al Hashmi.

“When you talk about the changing media landscape we should be using words like push and pull,” says Al Hashmi. “The established media is a push medium. In simple terms, that means a select group of producers decide what content is to be created, create it and then print or push it down a pipe to an audience. The Internet on the other hand is a pull medium. Nothing comes to you unless you choose it. You're in charge.”

The assumption of the old broadcast and print media model was that audiences were passive and uncreative but with the spread of Broadband Internet that is changing. “Take blogging for example”, says Al Hashmi - the practice of keeping an online diary - “what the blogging phenomenon tells us is that the traffic in ideas and cultural products isn't a one-way street. People have always been articulate and well-informed, but until now few have broken into print or broadcast. Blogging and the Internet has changed all that and given people the platform they needed. In fact, people on YouTube are reaching larger audiences than established broadcasters like the BBC and CNN.”

Keeping secrets is another interesting change, suggests Al Hashmi. “If one of your products doesn’t work properly then it’s going to pop up on a blog somewhere. Today’s consumers, particularly the youth, are tech savvy and better informed and have the tools at their finger tips to search for information on companies and products. That kind of information doesn’t generally appear in your daily paper or on the local news, does it?”

The other interesting media development has been in the use of digital photography. For example, sites like Flickr.com allow people to upload their pictures and display them on the web. The most interesting aspect being that users can attach tags to their pictures and these tags can be used to search the entire database. “This morning, I searched for photographs tagged with ‘Oman’ and came up with 95,402 images. Ten years ago, those images would’ve ended up in a photo album – today, they’re on the Internet and viewed by millions,” observes the Digital Nation Co-ordinator.

”We’re witnessing a remarkable change – the creation of news is being driven bottom-up rather than top-down and it’s the power and reach of the Internet that’s doing that. I’m confident that the 4 May Digital Nation seminar will touch on all these issues – it should be a great evening,” concludes Al Hashmi.

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Monday, April 27, 2009

Meet-the-Buyer Seminar Grand Success

Many of Oman’s top companies turned out on Monday to attend Origin Oman’s Meet-the-Buyer seminar held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel under the patronage of HE Eng. Ahmed Al Dheeb, Under Secretary for Commerce & Industry, Ministry of Commerce & Industry (pictured).

With panellists from Muscat Municipality; The Wave; PDO; Shell Oman Marketing; Reem Batteries; R&D; and The Nejd the event attracted over 20 ministries as well as a host of manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and distributors.

“It was more than apparent from the panel discussion and the questions from attendees that buyers are keen to discover new local suppliers. Indeed, this type of event offers both businesses and government departments an excellent opportunity to network with domestic producers and suppliers. In my book, it was a resounding success,” says HE Eng. Al Dheeb.

Luxury candle and soap manufacturer The Nejd attended the event and took part in the panel discussion. Partner, Shatha Abbas says: “Origin Oman’s Meet-the-Buyer seminar was an invaluable tool in helping us generate new business leads. It was a great opportunity to network and meet other producers, as well as a gateway to some of the country’s leading buyers. Today’s event has been very beneficial to our business.”

“This is the first time we’ve run a Meet-the-Buyer style event and given the feedback we think it will a go a long a long way in helping local producers and buyers boost the sultanate’s economy,” says Origin Oman Marketing Director, Ibtisam Al Faruji.

The day proved to be a major success for Mohammed Al Rasbi, CEO of local IT firm R&D: “In just one day I met potential customers that would take me weeks to go and see. I’ve been to a number of Origin Oman events recently and they’re a great place to meet potential clients. And it was all free, so I couldn’t think of a better way to invest my time.”

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Art for Manufacturing's Sake

Origin Oman’s “Portraits of Manufacturing” photographic exhibition was opened Saturday 25 April at Qurum’s City Centre by HE Eng. Ahmed Al Dheeb, Under Secretary for Commerce & Industry, Ministry of Commerce & Industry.

The exhibition which runs until 1 May includes 60 stunning images showcasing the faces of manufacturing. Taken by local photographers – Abdullah Al Shuhi and Rami Al Lawati – these images present manufacturing as it has never been seen before and give it a human face. “The clarity and power of the photographs on display is outstanding,” observes Bader Al Zadjali of the government-run Origin Oman campaign.

Origin Oman’s Marketing Director, Ibtisam Al Faruji, says: “This exhibition follows months of work by Abdullah and Rami and has ben a true labour of love on their part. It’s a unique collaboration by the two. Indeed, the result is absolutely fascinating. I’m sure the exhibition will provoke a lot of debate and I hope as many people as possible will get along to Qurum City Centre to see the pictures. Also, we hope it will educate people about the vibrancy of what’s happening in Omani manufacturing. Personally, I’d like to think that in the long-term it might encourage some people to consider careers in manufacturing,” smiles Al Faruji.

The photographic approach taken by Al Shuhi and Al Lawati is known as “Record Pictures.” This was the original 19th century, matter-of-fact photography employed by industry for functional applications – showing what something looks like as accurately as possible - rather than for aesthetic purposes.

“Why should a photograph be dressed up to look more interesting? Surely a faithful photograph, made to look as realistic as possible, allows you to see more? suggests Al Lawati, Founder and MD of ProShots.

Zuhair Al Balushi, Origin Oman Co-ordinator said: “This will be an emotional exhibition for many people who are involved in industry. It also offers those not familiar with manufacturing a real insight into this economically crucial and growing sector. Indeed, those featured in the exhibition have been captured in an amazing and respectful way.”

“Having Qurum City Centre come in to support the exhibition has been extremely important”, says Al Faruji, adding: “And it was the Mall’s management team offering us their gallery space that has enabled the Origin Oman Team to take this important photographic exhibition to the public.”

After showing in Qurum City Centre, the exhibition moves to the Department of Commerce & Economics at Sultan Qaboos University and then on to a nationwide tour of PEIE’s six industrial estates.

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Meet-the-Buyer Says Origin Oman

The government’s Origin Oman campaign, an initiative created to promote locally-made products will organize a Meet-the-Buyer seminar at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on Monday 27 April.

“This is a unique one-day program which will give Omani businesses the chance to meet, and find out how to sell to buyers from the public sector and large firms. It will also offer local buyers the opportunity to network with manufacturers and discuss the challenges they face in sourcing locally-made goods,” says HE Eng. Ahmed Al Dheeb, Under Secretary for Commerce & Industry, Ministry of Commerce & Industry.

The seminar panel is made up of a diverse group of buyers and sellers from a variety of sectors – including PDO; Shell Oman Marketing; Lulu Hypermarkets; Muscat Municipality; The Wave; local luxury candle and soap manufacturer, the Nejd; and Reem Batteries.

Omani businesses know only too well how time consuming, frustrating and expensive selling can be even when you know you have the best of products. According to Origin Oman’s Co-ordinator, Hamida Al Balushi: “90 per cent of the battle is just getting though the door – and with some large companies and public sector organizations, it can be a daunting experience, but we hope Monday’s seminar will help attendees connect with one another and lift barriers.”

The objective says Al Balushi is simple: “Get buyers and sellers talking and identifying ways in which we can strengthen the sultanate’s supply chain. Indeed, it’s an event we on the Origin Oman team are really excited about.”

"Taking part in Meet-the-Buyer will open up new ways of working with both the public sector and large firms and give participants the confidence to build relationships and win business,” stresses Al Faruji.

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wrap Up Properly Says Origin Oman

In today’s more sophisticated market, packaging has become a critical factor and can often make or break a product and the company that produces it. It’s generally accepted that 70 - 80% of a consumer's purchasing decision is made at the point of sale. “In supermarkets, for example, research shows that Oman-based shoppers spend less than 10 seconds in any single product category, so decisions are made very quickly and often based on what a product looks like,” says Hamida Al Balushi, Origin Oman Co-ordinator and organizer of the campaign’s Product Design and Packaging Workshop held on Saturday 18 April at the Grand Hyatt Hotel Muscat.

The look and feel of the product, design, colour, labelling, price and the name of the product itself are all things that trigger us to stop and look at items on shelves. “Most of these triggers either are, or can be influenced by packaging,” suggests Rawan Darwish of Landor Associates and one of the workshop’s presenters. “It’s an accepted fact that most consumers rate a product simply based on its packaging. With so much at stake, having a product packaged creatively will undoubtedly increase the odds of it being bought and then re-bought. Today’s workshop explored these issues and I’m sure attendees will have left with ideas on how they can maximize their business by improving their packaging.”

According to His Highness Sayyid Faisal Al Said, CEO of the newly-launched Oman Brand Management Unit (OBMU) and supporter of the Origin Oman campaign: “attention and power of packaging is often overlooked by Omani manufacturers in the rush to get the product to market– it’s an oversight that’s costing many firms dear. The OBMU CEO goes on to say: “Ask yourself, would you buy a plain looking item or something excitingly and attractively packaged. Which do you reach for first?”

Al Balushi agrees: “Everyone knows that packaging attracts attention, provokes and communicates volumes about the product it contains and the brand. If you were buying a gift, would you choose the one with ‘Super Saver Chocs' printed on the box - even if the contents were just as good as those at twice the price? I know which one I’d pick up.”

Packaging is an important marketing strategy and one that Oman-based manufacturers shouldn’t neglect, suggests Peter Ford of De Montfort University who traveled in specifically from Britain to present at the workshop.

“Most consumers” observes Ford, “judge a product by its packaging before buying. So it’s logical to say attractive packaging is crucial in order to get the first time buyer to choose your product. Without good packaging, who would buy it in order to try it? Your first step to enter the market is crushed if the packaging is ugly.”

One of the key messages that emerged from the workshop was that if locally made products are going to appeal to domestic and international consumers then firms need to seriously re-think their approach to packaging and product design. Indeed, economic development has seen the emergence of a growing Omani middle class, which places a growing importance on matters of taste and appearance. This increasing consumer sophistication is satisfied in part by creatively packaged goods, which offer the promise of higher quality as well as status.

Given the current economic crisis and the fact that companies are slashing marketing budgets, “if you're going to get the biggest bang for your marketing Rial then everything from the company’s ads, branding and packaging must carry the same and consistent message,” argues Ford. “let’s face it, attractive and creative packaging doesn’t have to cost any more than unattractive packaging.”

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Avaya Opens Office on KOM

Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) has attracted another hi-tech tenant to its state-of-the-art facility in Rusayl. In its regional expansion bid, Avaya has opened an office on KOM that will primarily manage its business development in Oman, as well as provide support for its existing customers and partners in the Sultanate.

“Oman is a significant area for Avaya, and we are capitalizing on the changing business environment and endless opportunities present in this country. We wanted to develop our presence in Oman as well as expand the services we offer our existing and new clients. Taking up residency in KOM was an obvious choice; the management team was particularly flexible with our requests, so we got exactly what we needed,” said Roger El-Tawil, Channel and Marketing Director, Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.

The move signifies Avaya’s commitment to the Sultanate. The company has recruited local talent to run its office, and is among the few multinational technology vendors to have an operation in Oman. The office will be fully functional in the next two months. Petroleum Development Oman, Oman Mobile, Bank Muscat, Bank Dofhar, and the Muscat Municipality are among some of Avaya’s customers in Oman.

“We see tremendous adoption of Avaya’s call center technology in Oman, and have identified new opportunities. We are investing and growing our channel resources to help crack these new business opportunities and expand our regional customer base,” added El Tawil.

Mohammed Al Maskari, KOM’s Director General said; “It’s always good to welcome another new tenant onto the Park, especially an important firm like Avaya. We are about technology, innovation and incubation and they are exactly the type of enterprise that KOM is designed to attract. We hope that they will be with us for many years to come and utilise our added value services as part of KOM’s commitment to provide support, to assist in the ongoing development and success of its tenants.”

Ibtisam Al Faruji, KOM’s Marketing Director added: “I’m sure Avaya will make an important contribution to the local economy and I wish them every success in the future.”

Avaya are market leaders in Unified Communications, Contact Centres and related services. The company provides solutions directly and through its channel partners to leading businesses and organizations around the world. Enterprises of all sizes depend on Avaya for state-of-the-art communications that improve efficiency, collaboration, customer service and competitiveness.

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Portrait of Manufacturing

A collection of 60 photographs that represent the spirit of manufacturing has been brought together for a special Origin Oman exhibition to run 25 – 30 April at Qurum’s City Centre.

Entitled Portrait of Manufacturing, the five-day exhibition will showcase the work of local photographers Rami Al Lawati and Abdullah Al Shuhi who took photographs of people working in Oman’s manufacturing sector over a period of six months.

According to Origin Oman’s Bader Al Zadjali: “More than 1,000 photographs were researched to find the chosen sixty pieces and we’re thrilled that City Centre Qurum has agreed to showcase this unique collection of images.”

Speaking ahead of the event, Ibtisam Al Faruji, Marketing Director, Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE) said: “The photographs in this exhibition give you a glimpse of the people, firms, environment, machinery and products that make up Oman’s manufacturing community, from Raysut in Salalah to Rusayl in Muscat. It’s a marvelous collection of very moving images.”

All sixty images in this exhibition were taken on PEIE industrial estates. ”Ultimately, this is a treasure trove for any one who loves photography, and clearly presents the extraordinary variety, breadth and idiosyncratic nature of Oman’s manufacturing sector,” says Al Faruji.

“Some of the prints look like fashion photography but are fine art and others look like scientific images but are documentary photographs. All these styles are used by contemporary photographers to make artistic or poetic points,” say Al Shuhi. Adding: “The work that will be presented represents an exciting variety of different attitudes and creative approaches to individual manufacturing themes and ideas. I hope visitors to the exhibition will find our work challenging and inspiring.”

Al Lawati added: “There are distinct groups of photos in this exhibition: some are experimental while others are documentary style images, made on the spot, with great detail and a sense of quietness. And some are elaborately staged like theatre specifically for the camera. They capture the true spirit of manufacturing. In fact, I fully expect the event to generate a lot of interest and discussion.”

According to Al Zadjali, the Origin Oman campaign wanted to mount a photographic exhibition that would reach the public and draw attention to manufacturing and the production of local goods. “The images provide the visitor with a cross section of subject matter in colour and monochrome, reflecting the photographers unique take on Oman’s manufacturing environment. Holding this five-day exhibition at a venue like City Centre Qurum is ideal – we get to reach people when they’re relaxed and out enjoying themselves.”

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE