What have been some of Al Anwar Holdings' main activities in 2017?
Sanjay Tiwari We completed the merger of one of our subsidiaries, Falcon Insurance, with Arabia Insurance to become Arabia Falcon Insurance Company. In this process of the merger, we divested our partial stake. We also had an opportunity to invest in the Al Ruwad International School. The third transaction was the acquisition of a plot of land, and we are exploring partnering with a hotel operator to manage and construct a hotel building there. The fourth is a cement-grinding unit set up in partnership with Hormozgan Cement of Iran. The joint venture would set up a grinding unit in Duqm, with 60% investment from Hormozgan Cement and 40% by Al Anwar Holdings.
What has been the strategy to position Khimji Ramdas as a leading company in Oman?
Pankaj K. Khimji There has not been one particular strategy or definitive rule or policy; we have sought to address the needs of the people by being customer-centric. We have made sure we are there, as far as our customers are concerned, to meet their daily needs and requirements. We have addressed the core needs of the FMCG and household consumables segments; even in other branches of business, our customer focus sets us apart. Our core business strengths are excellent service, great care, attitude, and trust; these are the main ingredients that we continue to churn out for every new defined product and service we have introduced over the years. These are the focus areas that have ensured our continued growth.
What are the current challenges facing Oman?
ST In last three years, the foreign holding has seen consistent decline. In the GCC region, any adverse impact on the financial market has the potential to affect all GCC markets, and this is where Oman is getting hit. A public relations initiative to explain that the situation in Oman is different would require a great deal of resources. Any GCC country or private sector company cannot justify such huge spending on PR exercises. It is not within the control of any one country to change the perception as the geography and proximity will affect the situation as there are few investors that go for risky investments. This is the time to plan the strategy for the next five to 10 years. We should plan today for the profits that we will be making in 2020 onward. This is why we are diversifying into the education sector.
PKK In the past few years, we have faced more challenges than boom times, given that Oman's revenue streams have taken a major hit through low oil prices, as has been the case with other global hydrocarbon-dependent economies. Having committed to various large-scale projects, Oman was caught on the back foot with regards to cash flow issues. Thus far, we seem to be handling them well, though we still have to fully mend our relationships with various financial institutions. Moving forward, Oman has many opportunities in tourism and logistics. It needs to be a little more conscious about creating an economic environment for businesses to flourish and re-invest themselves. The government needs to make sure we are improving the ease of doing business, and Tanfeedh is a conscious effort to do so.
What objectives do you have for the coming years?
ST In the last four years we have surpassed the levels of profit in the history of the company; however, considering the present economic landscape, things are expected to slow down a little. Al Anwar has maintained a prudent and proactive approach toward managing its investments. The business lines of our group companies are seeking stability in the present challenging market environment.
PKK 2018 will be a challenging year. Our objectives are to make sure we keep our heads above water and remain vigilant in terms of managing our cash flow, debt, and inventory levels in order to remain a lean organization. At the same time, we want to ensure we are in a state of readiness at all times. We understand business will not be as great as it was in 2014 and 2015; however, at the same time, we need to be realistic and pay attention to the requirements of our customers.