Innovation and quality are key ingredients for success

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’m Bashair al Riyami (pictured) Food & Beverages Innovation Consultant at the Industrial Innovation Centre (IIC). Currently, I’m leading the Food & Beverages Sector Innovation Program at IIC where we’re focusing on SMEs and diversified value-added F&B products.
Can you tell us about your OEW19 workshop and what can attendees expect to learn from the session?
Of course, I’m co-presenting with Professor Peter Ford and Angela Hobbs – I’ll be helping lead a discussion on product development. From my side, I’ll be focusing on market trends in different regions, for example in the GCC, Africa and Europe and how we can assist Omani F&B businesses align themselves with these trends and as a result capitalise on the opportunities these exciting markets offer our local F&B producers. I’ll also be reflecting on my IIC experience where I work closely with F&B entrepreneurs on starting their business, and the marketing, branding and packaging steps involved in taking a product from a crude prototype to something the consumer can find on a supermarket shelf.
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?
Given Oman’s abundant natural resources, there are clear F&B opportunities for local firms to tap into. In fact, many start-ups are already leveraging our natural resources and creating added value F&B products. On the export front, highlighting market trends and showcasing F&B success stories is the best way to encourage start-ups and SMEs to consider going international. At the end of the day, if the product meets the customer’s needs, has the right packaging and branding, and the necessary certification and accreditation, then that’s a recipe for success.
How can a small business know when it’s ready to export? What are the boxes they need to tick before taking the plunge?
This all depends on the maturity of the business and the stability of the product being sold in the local market. The next step is to make sure the product is fit for export, that it meets all required production standards and specifications. Sustainability of production should also be considered before going international.
How do you see global trading patterns changing in the future?
Global trading in the F&B sector is influenced by demand for either high volume, low cost or high added value products. For small businesses, they need to be smart, identifying and exploiting sustainable niche markets.
Do you think overseas business leads to fresh ideas and innovation, helping upgrade products and services?
Definitely, we’ve access to some amazing natural resources that clearly lend themselves to innovative F&B thinking. Applying innovation can undoubtedly improve existing as well as new F&B products.
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?
Whether you’re looking to succeed here at home or overseas, innovation and quality are key ingredients.
What opportunities in terms of sectors and markets are there for Omani businesses in the emerging markets of Asia and Africa?
In the F&B sector, healthy, functional snacks and ready meals are really popular, lots of new opportunities in this space. Adjusting product flavours and packaging is something companies also need to address if they want to meet customer needs in Asia or Africa.
What advice would you give a founder or CEO who’s just starting their exporting journey?
Always focus on value-added products when you decide to export. Plan strategically, decide which markets to target and educate yourself on every aspect of the export journey, from finance, logistics, and social media, to marketing, insurance and cash flow. Gaining the trust of your international partners is also key. Solid, honest relationships with buyers are so important to any business looking to export.
Can you share with us what you believe will be the top three exporting trends over the next few years?
1. Innovative products
2. Using clean energy and zero waste for processing
3. Branding, packaging and capitalising on the ethnicity, quality and function of the product.
And if I could add a fourth trend it would be traceability — knowing where products come from will be increasingly expected by customers, and with many business benefits to doing so, Omani companies need to be mapping their value chains.
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 (27 – 31 October 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