Due to current oil prices, we are always aware of the general macro-economic factors and what is happening across the Middle East. It would not be right to say that manufacturing is not impacted by those factors, and although we are slightly affected, I would still put my money on Oman and encourage companies to establish manufacturing units in the country. There are a couple of reasons for this; firstly its geographical location, secondly its political stability; and finally the cost, especially the power costs. If you look at catering to the fastest-growing economies in Africa, there is no better place than Oman to start a manufacturing unit. In order to make the manufacturing segment more competitive, there is an ongoing discussion. There should be some incentives for companies that are exporting, like in India for example, where export-focused companies benefit from exemptions and inducements. Exporting companies are bringing dollars into the country, which is beneficial for the country's GDP. In Oman, even small incentives would encourage businesses to come to Oman.
CEO, Flexible Industrial Packages Company (FIPCO)
General Manager, Ceramica Al-Hae’l
Al Sarh group is one of the leading diversified firms in Oman. The group has developed successful enterprises in a number of strategically important sectors and integrated them to create a high-quality end result. The group satisfies the needs of consumers in the construction, development, and manufacturing sectors. In the former, Al Sarh Omani International is a strong player in construction services, offering an array of services from small renovations to multi-billion dollar projects using a variety of delivery methods. We also have Middle East Steel Products, serving as a provider of 42 types of the best quality steel with reasonable prices. In the development sector, Resolution Engineering Consultants provides culturally harmonious and contemporary architecture while considering the needs of sustainable development. Meanwhile, Muscat Ornamental is one of the leading specialist interior decoration firms in the Sultanate, with several years of experience and a diverse selection of decorative finishes. In the manufacturing sector we have Oman Dairy Products.
CEO, Reem Batteries
Reem Batteries started off based on two strategies. The first was an export orientation, because Oman is a small market. The second was a technological strategy to create internal technical capabilities instead of depending on external sources. Even though we started in technical collaboration with Johnson Controls, we then became independent and created our own highly qualified team to do continuous R&D and were one of the first companies in Oman to do so. In automobiles, batteries are the most non-standardized component. Toyota Corollas manufactured in Japan, Europe, and the US all have different battery specifications, following national rather than international standards. Because of the differences in these, they become separate products, and so the product range is vast in the battery industry. European battery manufacturers mostly cater to European standards, Japanese, Koreans, and Americans to theirs. However, a battery manufacturing company from our part of the world has to be able to cater to all kinds of models and standards.
Group CEO, Muna Noor
Muna Noor is primarily a manufacturer of pipes. On our manufacturing side, we produce polyethylene pipe, PVC pipe, and polypropylene pipe for all purposes. Our pipes are used for everything from telecoms ducts to water transportation. We do major infrastructure projects that other firms cannot handle and do a lot of work on water mains, sewage mains, and more. We also do large-scale desalination jobs, including bringing water into the desalination plant via large polyethylene intakes and pumping the brine back out to sea via outfall pipes. When desalination first started, they used to use short outfalls, but they discovered that the brine was so concentrated that it was killing the sea life close to shore. However, now is not a great time for us in Oman, because infrastructure spending has essentially stopped. Even the government is struggling with how to work best with industry to tackle this crisis. The private sector has to find new ways to work while we are in this crisis, and that is taxing everyone.
Director & CEO, The National Detergent Company (NDC)
We have a range of products, and in the detergent powder segment we have more than a 35% market share in Oman. We already diversified two or three years ago when we decided to get into specialty industrial chemicals. We recently put up a plant that came on-stream in 2016, but have entered this new sector at a difficult period, with the oil market under a great deal of price pressure and investments slowing down. However, we know this move is part of our long-term plans, and the market will improve at some point. Naturally, we are preparing ourselves for that upturn; however, being a new player we have our fair share of issues and problems. Industrial specialty chemicals are a good industry to be in for the future. On the employment side, we have always supported the government's wish to hire more locals. Certain positions require certain expertise, such as sales and marketing, or fluency in English, so we organize external training to get them these skills.
Managing Director, United Gulf Pipe Manufacturing Company
All countries that have oil-based revenues have realized the need to diversify toward non-oil-based industries. Oman has a significant location advantage to capitalize on the manufacturing industry. In Oman, the government is making significant strides toward improving its infrastructure. It offers various incentives for investors with a focus on free zones and the result is evident in the increasing number of approved projects and high-value investment flowing into the country. A significant advantage is that the government provides land, especially in designated areas such as the industrial parks, where companies may lease on a long-term basis at affordable rates. Although the government has regulations regarding the employment of nationals in line with the other countries in the region, it has created various training programs for them to be absorbed into the workforce. A large, trained workforce will lead to a long-term advantage in the development of industries. In addition, the government is focused on creating appropriate state-of-the-art infrastructure networks in all capacities, thus creating demand for technology providers as well.