What is your growth strategy for the next few years, and what challenges are you expecting to face?
In 2020, we are planning to expand from two outlets to four or five. That was supposed to happen in 2019, but we couldn't achieve it as we required investment in infrastructure for the business itself. In 2021, we are planning to expand beyond Oman. The plan is to penetrate India, for example, given the huge population and demand for dates. Historically, there is also a long tradition of exporting dates to India and importing spices to Oman. The booming middle class in India is another factor why we are targeting the sub-continent. Expansion in India, Malaysia, or Indonesia is feasible because of large local populations and lack of supply. Meanwhile, our product range stretches to date molasses, vinegar, soap, halwa, and chocolate products.
How do you research new tastes and trends that potential consumers are looking for?
We always get feedback from customers at our two points of sale in Muscat Opera Gallery and Muscat City Center. We also gather the opinions of our employees, who are trained to always ask customers about their perspectives and expectations.
How do you expect Oman's luxury goods sector to develop over the coming years, and how will these events impact the food segment?
At Opera Gallery, we have a mixture of Omanis, expatriates, and tourists. Globally, luxury brands are always booming because quality is always a guarantee. The location also helps a lot in the luxury segment. We plan to expand because we believe there is a huge demand for good quality. I would argue that our prices are also reasonable, as we focus mostly on quality. In 2016, when the economy dipped, the date industry suffered badly as corporates stopped buying. Usually they buy in Ramadan or Eid, but in 2016 this practice came to a halt. However, top-quality and luxury products continue to be sold regardless of the phase of the economic cycle. In 2017, business started booming again, and it only got better in 2018 and 2019. We hope 2020 will also end on a positive note.
What locations appeal to the luxury food segment when considering future openings?
In the future, we are planning to open in Salalah, as a new mall will open there. We will also be present in Muscat duty free and in Nizwa, since there is a good location close to the Nizwa Fort. These are all premium locations and compatible with the luxury segment. We also deal with five-star hotels such as Al Bustan Hotel, Crowne, Intercontinental, and Kempinski. The majority of five-star hotels buy from us because 90% of our dates are Khalas, the finest in Oman. Moreover, Oman Air now offers them to their business-class and first-class passengers.
How important will e-commerce become for the luxury industry?
We are now in the process of developing our website so you will be able to order through it either from Oman or outside of Oman. We plan to send products abroad and we have learnt that Europe may become a great market for us in this regard; therefore, e-commerce is of paramount importance for the success of our growth strategy.
How does the luxury industry deal with the balance between innovation and tradition?
We always try to mix both innovation and tradition. In our workshop, we try to be more traditional in the way we produce our products. Regarding innovation, for example, we apply it to new products that we elaborate in a traditional way. Regarding innovation, for example, we use halwa instead of sugar. The innovation comes also in the form of different flavors. For example, we combine rose water with a date paste to be more creative. The key is to offer new innovative flavors and products while respecting the traditions and cultural heritage of Oman. Maintaining top quality is a key toward success.