Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Top 10 Local Business Ideas

An attendee at a recent Big Business Idea Competition Workshop asked us for our top 10 local business ideas for the future. This is what we came up with.

1. Mobile lifestyle centres – these can be night-spot venues or gaming centres created out of old shipping containers that can be constructed at any location across Oman complete with electricity, audio-visual and hospitality equipment. It's all about surprising and entertaining consumers with fresh, engaging experiences in what many would consider to be ‘alternative’ locations.

2. Asset sharing - With more and more opportunities for leasing and other forms of partial or temporary ownership on the rise, how about a local website that offered Oman-based consumers an extensive asset sharing scheme ranging from handbags, watches, racehorses to classic cars to helicopters, all of which would be available in shares or time-slots.

3. New life-style magazine - Even as people spend more and more time online, they still crave the comfort of the printed page. However, given time pressure, most folk need help with keeping up-to-date with the ever-increasing number of print titles. A local bi-monthly magazine that brought together the best content from lesser-known fashion and lifestyle publications from around the world, enhanced by commentary from renowned creative figures would be an excellent initiative.

4. Hour-long MP3 audio guides to Omani cities - for example, Muscat, Salalah, Sohar and Nizwa - designed to give tourists a vibrant portrayal of Oman. The hour-long tours would blend walking instructions with historic story-telling, accompanied by the signature sounds of each city. They should be made available in Arabic, English, French, German, Russian and Japanese.

5. Finding the right teacher or course - A local portal that would help people find classes taught by Oman-based teachers, trainers, tutors, instructors and coaches.

6. Kids, the web and local issues - There are government-run websites aimed at collecting feedback and generating involvement among local residents, but we don’t have any aimed directly at Oman’s youth - nationals and expatriate. Operated by ITA or KOM perhaps, the site would be geared towards kids aged between 9 and 18 living across Oman, offering them local information and getting them involved in local community issues.

7. Green pedal-power – eco-friendly taxis have been around for generations, but what about introducing free eco-taxi rides throughout the streets of Muscat? The eco-taxi would be pedal-powered - but battery-assisted, when necessary - tricycles that could accommodate three people for emissions-free transit through Muscat. They would offer short-distance travel within Muscat from 10 am to 7 pm, seven days a week. Rides on the vehicles would be free, of course, through the power of sponsorship. Vehicles would be wrapped with brand-specific colours and imagery, and drivers could also hand out leaflets, wear branded clothing or target particular areas of the capital.

8. Locally funded Cultural Cafe - Get 12,500 people to pledge a donation of RO20. The pooled amount of RO250,000 will be used to launch a platform for local creative talent – from graphic designers, to musicians and artists. A coffee shop by day and a bistro by night, the Omani Cultural Cafe would be staffed by 12 trainees from low opportunity backgrounds, who would be trained by local businesses. Oman’s Cultural Cafe's RO250,000 investors will be able to influence the venture's development through an online community developed for the project.

If the initiative doesn't work out, not much is lost, since investors don't hand over their twenty Rials until 12,499 others have agreed to do the same. If it does work, this could be a model for other civic groups to follow to get ventures off the ground without relying on government subsidies.

9. Buy local - we’ve all seen the new Origin Oman, buy local campaign. Indeed, consumers right across the globe are demanding items that are produced locally, ethically and authentically. What about a locally manufactured range of logo-free clothing items and accessories for men, women and children with the goal of creating Oman-based jobs and promoting local creative fashion talent. Everything from design, fabric manufacture to dyeing, cutting and sewing would be performed in Oman, and through a wholesale service, retailers could customize items with the colours, fabrics and formats of their choice.

10. The Green Workout Room - a gym that generates a significant portion of its own electricity through the sweat-producing efforts of its members. Fully equipped with name-brand cardio equipment, a full weight room and a room for yoga/stretching, movement and core training, The Green Workout Room would uses a combination of solar and pedal electricity for a large portion of its energy needs. The Green Workout Room would aim to use less resources than the average health club. For example, floors would be made from recycled rubber, marmoleum and eco-friendly cork flooring; billing would be paperless; and the gym’s bathrooms would use non-toxic soaps and cleaning supplies.

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