ENTREPRENEURSHIP CULTURE

Oman 2018 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Khalid bin Al Safi Al Haribi, Acting CEO of the Public Authority for SMEs Development (Riyada), on instilling an entrepreneurship culture amongst Omanis, key areas for development, and doing more with less.

Khalid bin Al Safi Al Haribi
BIOGRAPHY
Khalid bin Al Safi Al Haribi has over 17 years of work experience. He serves as Acting CEO & deputy CEO for operations at Riyada. He reports directly to the Board of Directors chaired by the Deputy Chairman of Supreme Council of Planning and Minister of Commerce and Industry. He is also a participant in the National Leadership and Competitiveness Program by the Diwan of Royal Court. He obtained his BA in political science from West Virginia University in the US and an MBA from University of Bedfordshire in the UK. He is a licensed legal translator and speaks Arabic, English, Spanish, and French.

What is Riyada's main strategy for 2017-2018, and how will it add in-country value to Oman?

Riyada's main strategic focus will remain the same, which is to inspire success. Everything we do will be governed by whether or not it inspires success. Under this strategy, 2017 and 2018 are years of shifting gears. We consider the first four years of Riyada as the establishment period; now we are moving onto the years of powering up our activities and moving our operations forward. Our main focus is developing SMEs successfully such that the entire country will be inspired. We have to translate that strategic focus and philosophy into everything we do.

How is Riyada promoting entrepreneurship and small business ownership to the younger generation?

We are linking two mechanisms together. Internally, we are focusing on the five pillars of our strategy plan drawn up in 2015. The first pillar is to ensure the decisions and procedures relevant to SMEs that are in place are the best practices. The second is to coordinate and follow up with the bodies that are responsible for those 41-plus decisions and procedures for SME development. Thirdly is to lead in the role of informing the country about the main message of entrepreneurship. The fourth is the offer; there are concrete things we need to offer or support, such as the provision of incubation spaces and land for SMEs. The last and most important of the five pillars is to cultivate. We are in charge of making sure we instill the right entrepreneurship culture. We have to make people understand we want entrepreneurs and SME owners with the right set of values who will add value to the country.

Which sectors are entrepreneurs particularly interested in?

Most are interested in the services sector, though there is some interest in the manufacturing sector as well. In the first cultivation phase, young people are interested in establishing service-type businesses such as co-working spaces and private incubation. In the manufacturing sector, we hope more people will link their businesses with the existing manufacturing plants in the country. In our training programs, we are noticing a healthy mix of SMEs, but we see a dominant trend in the handicrafts industry. They are often already established in their business but need a great deal of training. In the third phase, we see many people looking for contracts. There is much more diversity in the power-up phase, and we have started seeing some medium-sized enterprises. Food and water security projects are more dominant in the third phase because these are people who are naturally entrepreneurs. They are usually people in the fisheries or farming industry with specific expertise and now want to build a business out of it.

Where do you see Riyada in the coming years and the evolution of SMEs in Oman?

Riyada is the facilitator of more than 50 players in the SME development sphere, focusing on education and training, financing and venture capital, and supporting organizations, corporations, and regulators. We work with them on programs and initiatives, such as the Upgrade Program for the ICT sector, the Catalyst Program in contracting and recruitment, and export programs with the Omani Authority for Partnership for Development (OAPFD). As a government entity, the smaller of a role we play in the future, the more value we will add because the spirit of entrepreneurship depends on people motivating themselves, not the government telling them what to do. When we get out of their way and they solve their customers' problems, value is added. If after a decade we continue to play a major role in the entrepreneurship ecosystem here, we have not done our job. By 2027 one of our KPIs is to see how we can do more with less.