MUSCAT: Small companies are most vulnerable during an economic crisis, in part because they have fewer resources with which to adapt to a changing context.
According to the data provided by the International Council for Small Business (ICSB), Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) make up over 90 per cent of all firms and account, on average, for 70 per cent of total employment and 50 per cent of GDP.
The United Nations’ General Assembly declared June 27 as Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day, to raise public awareness of their contribution to sustainable development and global economy.
The start of the pandemic due to COVID-19 earlier this year offered MSMEs a new set of challenges beyond the normal challenge small businesses deal with daily. And the Sultanate was no exception to this.
Businesses had to adapt to new norms as quickly as possible amidst following regulations for health and safety.
Booma, a local photo and video production company, launched a CSR-based project at the start of business closures in March to mobilise the MSME community in Oman.
On Instagram as @COVID19preneurs_oman, many local business owners shared stories in the hope of alleviating the impact on Oman’s MSME community by bringing fellow entrepreneurs together, and informing the wider society of the diverse MSMEs in Oman that need support.
Sarah Hale, co-founder and photographer at Booma, says, “Upon hearing of the closures that our business and many others were in grave danger for the next many months, I thought to create a platform with my skills as a videographer to share local business owners’ stories.”
Many of the business owners in Muscat revealed their real stories and called for urgent attention from the industry and government for help.
Ali Husain, owner of Husaak Adventures, says SMEs have taken a huge risk and it is not an easy way out, from their comfortable lifestyles but now feel left alone. “SMEs are a major shareholder of the economy providing stability, but now it is a major cripple to the eco system,” he reasons.
Haneen Suhail Musa, owner and event consultant, who founded Krafters Events in 2017, says their biggest set-back was overheads and as service providers their income is generated to the service they provide.
“We need to be prepared once the pandemic is over and the marriage event begins. The event planning or business industry events are not down completely but only stagnant and the community can help us look out for the local event planners by renting it out from them for decent rates.”
Regarding importance of solidarity between property owners, tenants and property markets post COVID-19, Fahad al Ismaili, CEO, Tibiaan Properties, says we are all part of the same cycle and all sectors are together in this situation. “If we all help each other’s it will increase the level of doing business in Oman,” he explains.
Raif al Harthy, CEO of Wareedco, a platform that aims to improve patient care in the Sultanate using technology, had received support from Oman Tech Fund and launched delivery of medicines from Royal and Khoula Hospitals within Muscat, and plans to expand soon.
However Rebecca Olson, Executive Director, Oman American Business Centre (OABC), suggests it is time to innovate and feels that any strong economy needs strong SMEs. “Buy things, hire SMEs to reach out to them in this hour of need,” she counsels.
Based on Royal Orders announced last week, issuance of interest-free loans has offered some respite to SMEs and entrepreneurs who have faced particularly difficult circumstances.
Business will not go back to ‘normal’ so businesses need to adapt to local market conditions while keeping staff and the public safe and healthy.