The Sultanate is a highly attractive business destination

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 OEW19 we are interviewing presenters and supporters of the five-day initiative. Today, we are talking to Chirag Pittie (pictured), Managing Director, SV Pittie Sohar Textiles and OEW19’s Platinum sponsor.
So, in no more than 30 seconds, tell us your elevator pitch. Who are you and what do you do.
I’m the fourth generation in my family with a degree in Finance & Management from Boston University. The family business started in 1898 and today we’re one of the largest manufacturers of compact cotton yarn globally.
Why and when did SV Pittie move to Oman?
As a part of the company’s expansion strategy we conducted a detailed study and business location analysis and short-listed the Gulf region. We finalised with Sohar Free Zone in September 2017 during a visit of high level Omani government and banking officials to our plant in India.
SV Pittie has recently set-up a hi-tech, state-of-the-art $300 million textile business in Sohar. Why did the company decide to establish a presence in Oman?
We decided to set-up in Oman as it sits at the centre of global trade routes between Europe and Asia. The site is located at the port which minimises road transportation costs and power costs are competitive.
Moreover, Oman has a stable and friendly government with good diplomatic ties with all trading partners. We’re also exempt from duty and income tax. And we’ve access to a one-stop-shop that grants licenses, permits and approvals. All in, it’s a highly attractive business destination.
Your Sohar plant employs over 1,000 women, how did you recruit and train such a large number of new employees?
The response and interest received for jobs at the plant and the training programme we offered was tremendous. With the support of the Ministry of Manpower and the National Training Fund, news of job opportunities with us was circulated via email. And within a short time the Sohar community, particularly women, were sharing those opportunities on social media. We had an amazingly positive response with almost 9,000 applicants attend the selection process.
Applicants underwent assessment and aptitude tests to be further short-listed. For the closing interviews, our Group Chairman, Mr. Vinod Pittie met the final candidates. It’s with immense pride that we’re now employing many of these women in the plant.
I believe it’s important to mention that we chose to focus on high school dropouts, folk that may find it difficult to secure employment. The overwhelming response clearly highlights the eagerness of women in Sohar to work and develop rewarding careers. We couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.
We know smart phones, but intelligent fabrics and fibres? Smart textiles are the new stars of the textile industry. They warn of diseases, transmit data and store energy. What are your thoughts on this new industry development?
Smart textile materials are already being used in medicine and sports. The industry is developing products based on the new modern consumer and their demand. It’s an exciting field to be in.
The future of the textiles industry is more and more determined by Industry 4.0, how are you adapting to these changes?
For Oman, the Group has chosen the highest level of automation and the latest equipment. Our machines are connected wirelessly, constantly sharing information. All machines have touch screens to change settings seamlessly.
Data is monitored by artificial intelligence and faults are corrected automatically. The entire process is driven by robots to ensure minimum human involvement.
We’re beginning to see a new generation of bio-based materials that are lab-grown and engineered, as well as 100 per cent recyclable and biodegradable textiles fit for the circular economy. What are your thoughts on sustainability in the textile industry?
Cotton is 100 per cent natural and sustainable; our manufacturing process is 100 per cent green with no waste, traceability of raw material is all the way till source. Synthetics constitute micro-plastics that are polluting the environment.
It’s a well-known fact that key to sustainability and unwasteful production is the reduction of wastes through recycling — how is your Sohar facility tackling this?
As I mentioned, our Sohar facility is environment friendly, 100 per cent green, non-polluting with almost zero waste. The waste generated is recycled into the process or can be sold as it has economic value. There’s no smoke, no effluent — we aren’t harming the environment, that’s critical.
Since opening on Sohar Free Zone has demand for your product increased? We started our first Unit in December 2018 almost 15 months ahead of schedule. The yarn is being exported to several countries mainly China, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The logistics connectivity from Oman to these export markets is efficient and timely. In fact, we’ve now moved our exports from the Indian unit and will serve existing global customers from Sohar.