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Understanding overseas business cultures is essential

Oman Export Week
Oman Export Week

The emerging opportunities for Omani businesses in international markets are immense. To help existing and potential Omani exporters, as well as the wider business community, take advantage of everything the international market has to offer, Ithraa has organised Oman Export Week 2019 (OEW19) during October 27 – 31 at the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre.

In the lead up to this event we are interviewing OEW19 workshop presenters, giving them the chance to preview their workshop themes.

So, in no more than 30 seconds, tell us your elevator pitch. Who are you and what do you do.

I am Peter Ford (pictured), Professor of Design and Director of the Design Matter Group at Nottingham Trent University in the UK. I have over 35 years experience in designing products and have a track record of success in helping SMEs make effective use of design in their new product development and business strategies.

Can you tell us about your OEW19 workshop and what can attendees expect to learn from the session?

Attendees will gain an understanding of the fundamental, generic issues that face all new product developers and how to put these into a coherent perspective, one that fits the aspirations of Omani business to maximise export potential. Angela Hobbs, Dr Bashair al Riyami and I will be facilitating several interactive sessions that span developing a new product idea through to business models, risk and investment. It’ll be a fun workshop.

Do you think there is an awakening going on with start-ups and small businesses?

They’re starting to see there are opportunities out there. How can we encourage people who don’t see themselves as exporters, but have the potential?

Start-ups represent one of the most exciting areas of business in the worldwide economy today; they are challenging, innovative and driven and they know this. We just need to present examples of successful Omani start-up successes and provide help, guidance and encouragement to those who might want to follow.

How can a small business know when its ready to export? What are the boxes they need to tick before taking the plunge?

Simple, if their product fits an international need or if Omani uniqueness is attractive in these markets, then why shouldn’t they export? So, has research identified that the product is addressing an international want or need, is this clear and evident? Or, has research identified that a distinctively Omani product is genuinely attractive to specific international markets; for example, is there a sufficiently exclusive or niche element to the product that is attractive? Either way, the research must be done. And we’ll be showing our OEW19 workshop attendees how to do that.

How do you see global trading patterns changing in the future?

It’s about balancing need and desirability with a sustainable cost-effective approach to new product development and a sound business model; cost effective sustainability is key.

Do you think overseas business leads to fresh ideas and innovation, helping upgrade products and services?

Absolutely. Understanding overseas business cultures is essential. It demands that you gain insights into these markets and in so doing identify at first hand market opportunity. This drives innovation and the upgrading of products and services; you would be operating in a parochial vacuum if you didn’t.

You only have so long to capture a potential customer’s attention and even less before you lose it! So you have to get straight to the point. What advice would you give small firms trying to tell their story in a new market?

Everything you are offering and the way that you offer it must be attractive, engaging and appealing.

What opportunities in terms of sectors and markets are there for Omani businesses in the emerging markets of Asia and Africa?

There are bound to be numerous market opportunities here, but the background work and research alluded to in the answers I gave earlier would need to be done in the context of these markets. Are there generic needs and wants that an Omani product could address, or are there distinct niche, exclusive opportunities for Omani products? What products could be created, adapted or improved in response to working in these business arenas?

What advice would you give a founder or CEO who’s just starting their exporting journey?

Have a passion for what you do, have a passion for your product and have a passion for working with and dealing with others.

Can you share with us what you believe will be the top three exporting trends over the next few years?

Not so much trends as a triple ethos:

n The Circular Economy - to be efficient, sustainable and minimise environmental impact, utilising the latest technologies to enable this.

n Collaboration – the key to understanding international business opportunity – take advantage of the latest technologies to help facilitate this.

n Ethical trading – to be fair and equitable across all aspects of new product development, procurement and manufacture – again, taking advantage of the latest technologies to help facilitate this.

Oman Export Week 2019 (OEW19) is an unmissable event for those working or trading overseas. If you are thinking about taking your business international, or looking to expand your global foothold, then you need to be at OEW19 (October 27 – 31, 2019). In today’s current economic climate, it is never been more important to take advantage of trading internationally. What makes OEW19 even more brilliant? It’s free to attend! To register, visit events.ithraa.om

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