How do the major highlights of the past few years reflect the strategic path Madayn is undertaking within the broader Oman industrial development plan?
The brand identity change to Madayn (“cities" in Arabic) in 2018, was the result of a major strategic change made in 2008 and its fulfilment, wherein we had decided to follow a live-work-play model for subsequent developments, building adequate social infrastructure around all our business agglomerations. In other words, we declared that we would build little business cities with inter-dependent economic activities—not just manufacturing. This unleashed many investment opportunities in the built environment, such as housing, shopping, education, recreation, facilities management, and so on. We also made PPPs part and parcel of this strategy. With the setting up of our own investment arm—Shumookh Investment and Services in 2010 and most recently Oman Investment and Development Holding Company (Mubadrah)—we have created a new generation of related companies engaged in anything from facility management and smart metering to renewable energy. Al Rusayl Industrial City is now a private company that is free to pursue its own strategies for further growth and development. We are set to privatize certain other industrial cities as well. The masterplan for the development of these industrial cities is done holistically to ensure top-class integrated urban infrastructure that supports a community.
How do you expect demand from investors to evolve in the medium term, and what further incentives, packages, and infrastructural developments will you attract them with?
Every year, we receive around 100 new tenant firms, and we expect this trend to continue over the coming years. For this to occur, we need to understand what investors require and capitalize on our business model to meet those demands. In this sense, as a result of the Royal Decree No. 32/2015, Madayn became more autonomous to match the speed required to facilitate setting up new industrial projects, and more so in attracting foreign investments. This decree empowers Madayn to offer sector-specific and cluster-specific incentives and benefits as needed. Madayn has established a one-stop shop facility called Masar Service Centre in Al Rusayl and Sohar to provide all government services, including issue of licenses, approvals, visas, and activity registration. Madayn can also attract local and international developers to develop, establish, and operate some of the new industrial cities, expand existing cities, and offer other value-added services to meet the needs and requirements of new investors. The newly announced Foreign Investment Law will augment the flow of FDIs into the country, and Madayn has to be ready to provide smart facilitation to such investors.
What are your strategic priorities for 2020 and the main drivers behind them?
Madayn is focused on enhancing the quantity and quality of Omanization in the manufacturing sector and has already taken steps to augment the employability of job seekers through the Training for Employment program. For the long term, we have set up Madayn Industrial Academy to offer this on a continuous basis through internationally accredited vocational certification. The effort will be successful only if we also sustain existing businesses and rapidly create new ones. Therefore, Madayn has to transform itself into an organization where setting up and running business is absolutely hassle-free. Our systems must be reengineered, and our own staff need to be retrained to be pro-business and proactive. At the same time, we need to engage with other government bodies like the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, Immigration, and so on, to ensure a unity of direction in facilitating investments and investors.
What is the role of Industry 4.0 in Madayn's vision for the future?
The industrial sector and academia are aware of the need to adopt Industry 4.0. The new industrial strategy formulated by Ministry of Commerce and Industry under the guidance of UNIDO articulates similar strategies. Shumookh already has a subsidiary company poised to concentrate on IoT. But we would like to have the manufacturing sector adopt IoTs and other means of automation to enhance productivity.