Living the ‘new business normal’ amid Covid-19 pandemic

AlKhonji Majlis held the first virtual videoconference (via zoom) with the participation of a number of businessmen and interested parties, where the guest was Michael Hansen, CEO of Al Khonji Holding Group, who discussed the business leadership and standard of new work practices in light of the COVID-19 pandemic in Oman.

Hansen addressed a number of points, including his experience and leadership of the new standard of work in Omani society and learning from other societies in the context of the global crisis resulting from the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic.

The official spoke at the beginning of the session about the changing landscape influenced by the epidemic witnessed by a number of foreign countries such as China (exponential transmission increase), European (high mortality rates) and Asian countries, America and now in the Middle East region, stressing that it is a global dilemma in the context of massive disruption in our communities and not completely a disruption at work, and that many economic sectors and individuals have suffered human and material losses as a result.

“We have to look at the benefits of people and society which will result due to the spread of this disease, pointing out that the individual business or community leadership, the Omani government, the ROP, military and other institutions have shown a social responsibility which has been proactive and measured, and what the individual has in the Sultanate will inevitably lead to facing the negative consequences of the disease and turning this to a positive image,” he said.

Omani government bodies led by the Ministry of Health have demonstrated clear leadership in taking proactive and measured actions in coordination with the ROP/military, Muscat Municipality, Consumer Protection, Oman Chamber of Commerce and Ministry of Manpower. There is a clear crisis action plan in place led by the Health Ministry and supported by the various economic institutions, the Supreme Committee, the Royal Oman Police and the security authorities that it is necessary to push people to stay at home whilst opening some institutions that work in providing essential foodstuff and medical supplies, stressing the importance of this in tackling the pandemic, as well as working to enable people to access their funds, and so on.

Banking transactions, for example, have changed so much that money transfers between people have now become electronic in exchange for certain fees, at a time when bank cheques are declining.

Al-Khonji Group, which has been operating for nearly 100 years, will continue its work for another similar period, indicating that there are many risks in the commercial world at any time, while the institutions are required to take the necessary precautions and warnings about the factors that affect the conduct of business both in terms of providing the necessary human cadres or cash resources.

He said this requires organizing things and setting a practical plan so that it is sometimes phased for certain months, and renewed with the end of each period until the end of the crisis.  For example, institutions must educate their workers to know the matters that concern them in the process of communication, daily or weekly production, and send instructions to them up-to-date through the available electronic means.

He said, “We see today the flow of information regarding oil prices and financial markets, developments in the epidemic, the local conditions of economic sectors and other information, which gives the opportunity for people to carry out their tasks assigned to them according to the desire of the institutions.”

We also see that most financial transactions take place today through electronic transfers with institutions and individuals and between them, whether in real estate, commercial or banking work, at a certain cost, he noted.

Hansen stressed the need to reduce the cost of business and find new people competencies that can deal with modern technologies in the business, so that people who can continue to work with modern electronic systems are appointed, which requires government institutions and the private sector to find the required competencies in light of changing roles to meet the challenges ahead in institutional work, and to continue and sustain it.

Hansen believes that competition will change in the future in the corporate sector, but with a young, educated and IT literate Omani generation, the institutions are open to all, and the institutions must keep their good human talent, and that all institutions are thinking today about how to deal with the issue of daily exchange and payment of salaries, but this matter will inevitably lead to some sacrifices and change the concepts of work. The pandemic is pushing the country to adopt new approaches in the sectors of education, production and the orientation towards electronic work, he said.