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 Sapna Shah, (pictured) a design and development consultant with over a decade of experience in the fashion industry. From early in my career, I witnessed the impacts of large-scale manufacturing on the environment and the need for more awareness and action on worker’s rights and conditions. I decided to shift my direction and joined Nest as a professional fellow, which led to co-founding Khokho in 2014, an artisan accessories business in Swaziland that elevates the ancient technique of Swazi weaving, while creating sustainable income and empowerment for artisans in the region. I continue to partner with Nest as a consultant supporting artisan businesses and work with sustainable brands offering services ranging from concept and design, to development and production, as well as branding and operations. Through my collaborations and extensive network, I continue to focus on ethical sourcing, creating a sustainable model for preserving artisan crafts and building capacity for continued growth.
Can you tell us about your OEW19 workshop and what can attendees expect to learn from the session?
Amanda Lee and I will be running the The Global Creativity Market session focusing on strategy for artisans and creatives across industries looking to expand their reach into the international market. Global distribution allows businesses to broaden their network of customers and further their brand’s mission. Entering and navigating global markets requires strong product and storytelling, but also processes and logistics to manage and fulfill larger orders. We will provide useful examples from our collective experiences combined with interactive exercises to get each person to think about their business with a global perspective.
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?
Around the world, we are seeing a surge of innovation and creativity most often arising from small start-up enterprises that have the energy and drive to tackle challenging problems. It’s an exciting time to think about a business’s global reach because of technology, social media and accessibility of information. While the prospect of broader distribution can be daunting, it is important to remember what scale is right for your business and product and how your growth can be staged to best suit your needs and vision.
How can a small business know when it’s ready to export? What are the boxes they need to tick before taking the plunge?
First, spending time to analyse the larger market landscape and identifying your product’s unique value add. Is there a need you are addressing? Who are the businesses already in the space and what differentiates your product/service offering from others. Second, creating strong branding and storytelling to communicate your positioning and highlight your product in often-saturated markets. Third, assessing internal processes, such as production, quality control and logistics, as well as capacity and resources to be able to properly fulfill orders and provide transparency to customers on what is within the business’s means.
How do you see global trading patterns changing in the future?
Given the increasing focus on climate change and impact, there is growing attention on a brand’s sustainable practices and ethical values and what they are doing to address issues around environment and resources.
Do you think overseas business leads to fresh ideas and innovation, helping upgrade products and services?
Yes, in this era we cannot underestimate the broader reach businesses can have and that consumers are more aware than ever of how and where products are made. People are demanding transparency and accountability, which in turn drives businesses to innovate and expand their reach.
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?
I believe customers are craving human connection. When it comes to purchases and with the rise of digital technology and virtual transactions, people want to hear a story that is personal and meaningful. I am always looking at new ways to connect the customer more closely with the product and maker. What inspired you to create your product? What is your brand’s vision and purpose?
What opportunities in terms of sectors and markets are there for Omani businesses in the emerging markets of Asia and Africa?
I am a big believer in expanding manufacturing to new areas and creating cross-cultural collaborations. Omani businesses have an opportunity to showcase their expertise in new areas and provide distribution in emerging markets that are looking to participate in the global economy.
What advice would you give a founder or CEO who’s just starting their exporting journey?
Don’t be afraid to say no. This may sound counter intuitive to a growing business, but sometimes it might not be the right time to bring on a larger customer if it is outside your capacity. Or perhaps you agree to smaller quantities to test out the market. In the beginning, it is better to prove you can successfully manage and sell through a smaller order, than take on more than you are capable of producing. Customers will respect honesty and open communication.
Can you share with us what you believe will be the top three exporting trends over the next few years?
Sustainability in all areas of the business, Environmental impact, Material innovations
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’s 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