NEW FRONTIERS

Oman 2016 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Sheila H. Jamal, CEO of Al Madina Group, on expanding operations, e-government, and the company's competitive advantages.

Sheila H. Jamal
BIOGRAPHY
Sheila H. Jamal’s career has had many interesting aspects over time, starting with the Gulf War in 1990. She took over Al Madina in 2004 with the goal of creating the most innovative IT and security documents organization in Oman. As a result of her educational background in Industrial Engineering, she has emerged as one of the most successful businesswomen in the Sultanate of Oman. She is globally recognized in the field of documents security in addition to the recognition she has received from the Al Mara Women in Excellence Awards. Over the past year, she has traveled to 31 countries, promoting Al Madina in addition to mentoring young ladies that are starting higher education or careers.

How has Al Madina Group continued to diversify its operations over the past year?

We are progressing well, and as our printing press is privately owned, it is convenient for government agencies to work with us. Given the rising concern for confidentiality, we have increased exports of our security document products to other emerging countries, where rapid development is evident. As companies travel further afield, they become more demanding in light of practices and services observed abroad. This is a welcome development for a company such as ours.

How would you assess the transition to e-government, and how is Al Madina supporting this process?

Under the direction of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said's wise vision to further develop the e-government services electronically, we have participated in several projects whereby promoting efficient, reliable, and secure eservices to benefit the public. We are committed to the vision of His Majesty to support the national initiative of developing national human capital in the transition to e-government.

Where do you see Oman's position in terms of the evolution of e-commerce?

There have been many e-commerce projects awarded in the last few years. We have been successful in our e-solutions and as a result have received an award from Bank Muscat as the best e-commerce merchant for 2014. We are also excited about other e-solutions such as smartphone solutions. Though more will be disclosed in due course, we are tying up with international technology providers in certain countries for other markets.

Which industries have the greatest demand for your services?

Governments provide the most demand for our services. We have created platforms for many sectors such as energy, education, health, insurance, and securities. Many projects are related to portals with electronic data management systems in order to implement different types of statistical data analysis systems.

According to industry data, 19% of students in Oman are engaged in IT-related majors. How is this impacting your ability to recruit and train staff?

We have received requests from colleges and members of the general public requesting the provision of training, which we are more than happy to provide. However, when it comes to some of our projects, there is such a short timeframe to develop and deploy a solution that we don't have the luxury of time for the training and learning curve period which can sometimes be quite long. As required, we do send our staff abroad for training with our international partners for specific projects.

What are Al Madina Group's competitive advantages?

Within our company we have 11 nationalities, each with its own unique culture; each employee brings something different to the table. This diversity makes our company unique and strongly placed to arrive at solutions, and this has helped us penetrate new markets. For example, we may likely have an employee from a particular country we want to do business in. This can dramatically ease communication and increase access to markets.

What parts of the world are important for medium-term growth?

All countries in the world are important, and with the internet it has become very easy to connect with others to create business opportunities. I have personally travelled to 31 countries for collaboration, conferences, and meetings with suppliers and customers. We have been approached by delegates from abroad, most recently South America and Caribbean countries, so there is always a way to work together on small- and large-scale projects.