A WEALTH OF EXPERIENCE

Oman 2020 | SUSTAINABILITY | INTERVIEW

The COVID-19 crisis allowed a revaluation of business practices that, long term, could result in more streamlined, client-centric operations.

Hilal Al Kharusi
BIOGRAPHY

Hilal Al Kharusi is the Chairman of OMIFCO and Chairman of Oman Oil Marketing Company. He has 28 years of experience in the energy sector, including various executive positions. He holds a master's degree in business administration from Henley Management College, UK, and a degree in geology and economic geography from Bedfordshire University, UK.

How is your company positioned during the COVID-19 crisis?
We have continued to serve our customers throughout the pandemic, albeit in ways that look a bit different. From the earliest days, we set out a clearly defined business continuity plan to support all of our business functions and implement all official directives relating to health and hygiene. Our first priority is, of course, the health and safety of our employees, customers, and the wider community. Meanwhile, we have focused on continuing to serve our customers in a dedicated and delightful manner, while ensuring they feel cared for when using our services.

What efforts did you make to maintain your operations during the lockdown period?
We implemented rigorous health and hygiene protocols and a work-from-home policy for all administrative employees while taking precautionary and preventive measures to safeguard the remaining staff and our contractors. This was monitored by our CEO, David Kalife, who, along with his management team, visited a number of service stations to ensure that all health and safety rules are maintained to the highest standards. With our newly launched OOMCO World app and several digital payment options eliminating the need to handle cash, we have continued to offer our customers smarter ways to shop and re-fuel while minimising physical contact, making their lives easier and enjoying their time with OOMCO.

What is your outlook for the post-COVID-19 era?
Our promise—you trust, we care—has never seemed more important than it is now as we face this global pandemic. Building on our customer-centric approach we are continuing to prioritise our customers' safety, while finding ways to support them during this challenging time. At our service stations, customers are provided with four payment options to minimize interaction, including the new Basma Plus prepaid fuel card and the OOMCO World app. We are also offering even greater benefits from using our services, one such example being our collaboration with NBO to offer 15% cash back on fuel for credit card users.

What lessons have you learned from this crisis?
Challenges always arise when applying and following a new work system, and although remote work mechanisms have been applied for more than a decade, it took the pandemic to really see it applied on a large scale. Yet, by being responsive and adaptive, we have been able to thrive. In the fuel marketing sector, the biggest challenge remains maintaining productivity and sales. But through the business continuity system and the various precautionary measures that we are implementing to face the current situation, we hope to maintain the level of productivity and continue to meet the requirements of our customers at all times.

What further challenges do you anticipate in 2020/2021 going forward and how are you preparing for them?
Companies need to develop plans and work systems that ensure the continuity of their business and at the same time maintain the health, safety, and security of their customers and employees. Of course, all companies must think about the lessons learned from the current situation by reassessing the mechanisms they follow and setting future and precautionary plans in order to be able to face such catastrophes and health disasters. For example, companies have to invest in innovative technologies that ensure the continuity of their business through a remote work system and virtual meetings, as well as remote payment technologies and many others.