NICHE MARKET

Oman 2016 | ENERGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Qais Mahmood Al Khonji, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, and Ajay S. Upadhye, Director of Operations and Business Development of Genesis Projects and Investments, on the challenges start-ups face in the Omani oil sector, and adapting to changing market attitudes.

Qais Mahmood Al Khonji
BIOGRAPHY
Qais Mahmood Al Khonji has adopted a business strategy in which he and his fellow entrepreneurs will attempt to start a new company every year. He is currently in the process of starting his third business, Genesis Projects and Investments, which will be in the Upstream Oil & Gas Lab support Service field.
Ajay S. Upadhye
BIOGRAPHY
Ajay S. Upadhye is an engineering graduate with a degree in Management. He has over 22 years of success in the fields of technical support, sales and marketing, and administration. He is one of the working partners of Genesis Projects & Investments LLC, and is the head of Business Development and Operations.

You have identified yourself as the only existing local player in the Omani market. Can you describe your business segment?

Qais Mehmood Al Khonji This is a specialized niche market related to reservoirs and oil. Time, accuracy, and money are the most important elements to starting a business, and international players face a huge time gap. In the case someone requests samples from an international company, results can only be acquired after collections are taken and sent abroad, which can sometimes take up to seven months. In that time, needs can change. It is a dynamic time for the segment. We are dealing with a reservoir that can be optimized through research. The formation is continually changing, and many things are happening. We are continuing what we have established, and we are competing with the internationals.

Ajay s. Upadhye Multinational companies are doing the same work we are doing, though we have the advantage because we are a local Omani company with maximum routine and extraordinary (SCAL) lab services. Multinational Companies have to send the samples to outside Oman or the region at some point.

At this point, what are your biggest challenges moving forward?

AsU Our biggest challenge is recruitment. The company is two years old, and we are still in the setup phase, moving forward accordingly. When it comes to manpower, it takes a lot of time to get clearances. Attracting skilled labor has definitely been a challenge. Finance could be a problem to an extent. Banks have not been as keen to facilitate startups because oil prices have been dropping, which is another issue. We are in discussions with the banks, and hopefully things are moving forward.

What adaptations have Genesis adopted to participate in the current market?

QMAK As a very young company, it has been a major challenge to move in this market due to attitudes. If you are Weatherford, people automatically trust you. It is more difficult to build a local presence from scratch. As people realize what we are doing, we are advancing and developing relationships with people. We are seeing developments lately as we answer people's queries with proposals.

AsU It is about building trust and gaining the confidence of local market. We have offered free tests, so our results can be tested and we can build a client base. Though we have reached that stage, we are still going through a continuous process.

What will it take for mentalities to change, and how are you sustaining your business in the meantime?

QMAK This is the opportunity for people and the government to call on operators to think about how to restructure the price strategy as oil prices are declining.

AsU It will take time to establish a client base in Oman, and we are sustaining ourselves with jobs from outside. Our first job is from Dubai. Our second job is expected to come from Abu Dhabi. We have a small job expected locally, and there are openings in both the Saudi market and in the Malaysian market. We are building our CV with outside projects at the moment.

QMAK In the case of the services, we approach the customer and give them a guarantee. If they are unsatisfied with the services, they will not pay. We are confident in what we are doing, and our work is important. We are conducting crucial and critical analyses that allow us to suggest to the customer what chemical injections would maximize the resources of their reservoir.