Sunday, September 27, 2009

Recession Breeds Start Ups

As the worst global downturn since the 1940s forces companies around the world to cut staff, more and more people are thinking about starting their own business.

Mohammed Al Maskari (pictured), Director General, Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) and organizer of the annual TKM – Ernst & Young Big Business Idea Competition says: “Striking out on your own in such times might seem risky but if you’re sitting on a great business idea then perhaps you should give it a go. In a downturn, competition dwindles and office space, stock and advertising become cheaper. In fact, downturns often encourage creativity. For instance, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook were all recession start-ups.”

Launched four years ago, the goal of the annual business plan competition is to encourages ground breaking innovation and problem solving – challenging Omani entrepreneurs to make a real difference through developing new markets and making a sustainable profit.

Working on developing accounting software for the finance sector; creating SMS search engines; and developing web page templates, this year’s selected finalists, will deliver five minute elevator pitches to an audience of 150 invited guests at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on October 13. “The gala dinner is always very exciting and highly entertaining,” smiles KOM’s Director General.

The winners of this year’s competition will take about six months to get their business up and running, by which time the world is expected to have climbed out of recession and consumers should have a new-found confidence. “It’s a great time to strike out with a new business,” suggests Mohammed Al Hinai, TKM Co-ordinator.

Surprisingly, a recession can provide opportunities for business start-ups. “When the recovery begins,” suggests Al Maskari, “people and companies start to spend and look for suppliers. Those new businesses that have made their names known through good marketing during the downturn will certainly be noticed."

Rayan Al Kalbani of Mazoon Environmental & Technical Services and former winner of the Big Business Idea Competition says: “It’s important to keep things simple and not to get carried away with your plans before you know they’re going to work. During the start-up phase, it can be easy to make over-optimistic forecasts, and there can be serious consequences for your business if your projections aren’t realistic.”

The young entrepreneur goes on to say: “Starting a business in an incubator like TKM is a marvelous opportunity. Since winning the competition and setting-up, the incubator staff have been amazing. They’ve arranged a series of mentor sessions for me, they’ve been brilliant.”

As far as advising local entrepreneurs, Al Maskari believes: “It’s all about getting thoughts onto paper and looking at the viability of the business idea. This is where business plan competitions like ours play such an important role.”

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