The emerging opportunities for Omani businesses in overseas 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 and organisers, giving them the chance to talk about their involvement in the five-day programme. Today, we catch up with Ishaq al Busaidy (pictured), Ithraa’s Marketing & Media Director General and organiser of OEW19.
Can you gives our readers some background on why you started Oman Export Week?
Of course. Oman has long been an outward looking trading nation. At our best, we’ve done business in every corner of the globe. It’s in our DNA to travel, engage, trade and sell. And today, exporting is more important to our economic ambitions than it has ever has been.
It’s our belief that exports are central to Oman’s prosperity, growth and development. Indeed, encouraging new-to-export and new-to-market businesses to pursue exports represents a significant opportunity to foster a more globally-oriented Omani business community. Exports matter because they drive wealth, attract investment and talent, boost productivity and innovation as well as generate sustainable employment. From car batteries, fragrances and fibre optic cables to footwear, marble, ceramics, honey products and more, every day, Omani non-oil exporters are succeeding in international markets. A remarkable success, yet there’s so much more to achieve.
Are there export opportunities for small firms?
From our interaction with local businesses, there are a huge number of Omani firms that have exportable products and services, ranging from confectionary, textiles, cosmetics, automotive spare parts and apparel to technology, design and consultancy. What we need to do is to excite them about the international opportunities that exist. We also need to break down the myths people have about why they shouldn’t export.
You may believe the market for your particular product or service is just local — chances are you’re wrong. If someone in Nizwa, Muscat or Suhar values the product or service you provide, why shouldn’t someone in Nairobi, London, Chicago, Mumbai or Berlin also potentially see the same value? Clearly, exports directly represent an opportunity for Omani businesses to access new customers, increase sales and create sustainable jobs at home.
Will OEW19 workshops appeal to Omani start-ups and small businesses?
Absolutely. Ithraa sees targeting start-ups, younger businesses and those wishing to export for the first time as a priority. The key question is how can we ensure small business owners embrace an international outlook in their thinking from the very start? Perhaps this is one of the key reasons why we launched Oman Export Week last year. Small Omani firms that are hungry for growth should look beyond our borders for new customers. Indeed, I would encourage companies of all sizes to attend OEW19 and take advantage of the support available.
There’s an OEW19 workshop entitled ‘The Global Creativity Market’ that focuses on artisans and Oman’s growing creative industry. What’s that all about?
Let’s start with a definition: the artisan industry is generally defined as small-scale fabrication, preparation, or production of arts, crafts, foods, and beverages. This can include welding, sculpting, arts and crafts, pottery and carpentry as well as local, small-batch bakery, chocolate, cheese and butter. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?
Although this category appears to be relatively new, it actually reflects activity that’s been happening across Oman for generations. From candle makers and metalworkers to small-batch chocolatiers, Oman is home to many of these artisans.
We see three broad trends driving the growth of niche artisan businesses. Globally, there’s a large group of influential consumers looking for unique, unusual, personalised or locally produced products. Secondly, the Internet and online marketing have made it much easier to find or be found by people interested in buying niche products. And thirdly, there’s technology that’s lowering the costs of serving niche markets and making artisans able to compete with even the largest of firms.
In a consumer-driven, throw-away society, owning an item that’s been made to last is something to be proud of. In fact, the OEW19 workshop led by Amanda Lee and Sapna Shah from NEST in New York City is intended to support local artisans, makers of lifestyle products that have been crafted with love and attention, products that are quite simply made to last.
Call them what you will, artisans, garage industry, micro-manufacturers, we like them and OEW19 aims to help them go international.