CHARGING AHEAD

Oman 2020 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

MHD LLC has its eyes on logistics, solar power, and electric charging stations for Oman's changing landscape.

Areej Mohsin Haider Darwish
BIOGRAPHY

Areej Mohsin Haider Darwish is widely recognized for her role in growing MHD LLC as a leading business house in Oman and has been central in streamlining its operations. She began her career with MHD LLC in 1994 and has gradually moved up the ladder to her role as Chairperson. She represents the boards of many private organizations in Oman namely Areej Vegetable Oils & Derivatives SAOG, Duqm United Logistics, Muscat University, and UNICEF Leadership Circle. Her entrepreneurial lead from her father motivated her to establish her own business venture under Areej Mohsin Haider Darwish LLC in 2014. She also launched and spearheaded two brands: BLESSING Chocolates & Gifts and First Impression Artwork.

What have been the major highlights in 2019, and what are the expansion plans?
Due to the low oil prices more recently, the economy in general has been restrained. However, Oman is building for the future and pursuing a development plan focusing on diversification, privatization, and industrialization, with the objective of reducing its reliance on the oil sector. Leveraging on its strategic location, Oman's seaports are an integral part of the economy and are poised to drive growth and contribute to the Sultanate's diversification. In line with this, MHD recently entered the logistics space through a JV partner with special focus on Duqm. We are also looking into solar energy and are in discussions with various key partners. Oman is undergoing a process of restructuring and innovation in its transition of the power sector, and electric vehicles play a role in it. Electric charging stations have huge potential, and we are working on expanding in this sector. Besides this, we are also looking at the addition of new agencies to our current product line. The most recently acquired agency in automotive is McLaren, which caters to the super premium and luxury segment, challenging new technology and building cars for the future.

What factors can Oman leverage to attract foreign investors?
Oman has many factors that it has leveraged to attract foreign investors: Oman's geostrategic location, expanded logistics network, cultural diversity, and investment-friendly policies will greatly encourage new investments in the country. Most importantly, its friendly policies have enabled the Sultanate to forge strong bilateral ties with countries around the world and integrate with the global economy. Furthermore, Oman has invested in infrastructure with the goal of becoming a global logistics center. Oman's seaports, airports, and road network are constantly being expanded and improved. In the last decade, free zones have been the primary inducement for foreign investors to enter Oman. These include the Sohar Port and Free Zone, Salalah Free Zone, Al Mazunah Free Zone, and the Duqm Special Economic Zone (Duqm SEZ). Oman has also strengthened its legislative framework, and the new laws will further improve the business and investment environment, giving a much-needed thrust to the diversification and private sector-led growth in the Sultanate. One of the most important initiatives in this regard is a comprehensive privatization and PPP platform. The new laws make it easier to carry out the sale of state companies and sets out a clearer framework for private companies to work with the public sector. The new Foreign Capital Investment Law that went into effect in January 2020 aims to promote the Sultanate as a leading investment destination and provide a favorable environment for attracting foreign investments into the country.

What does innovation mean for you, and what role can technology play in facilitating this innovation in companies?
In the business world, innovation involves developing new products, improving existing technologies and processes, increasing efficiency, reaching new customers, and increasing profits. As an organization, in order to have an edge over our competitors, we need to adapt and innovate our processes to the changing trends and a new generation. The purpose of innovation is to come up with new ideas and technologies that increase productivity and generate greater output with the same input. Technology plays a critical role in facilitating innovation by making it possible for enterprises to experiment with ideas and concepts in a whole new way at a low cost. Prototyping has become available to all through easy-to-use software. Through technology, one can simulate various market scenarios based on available real-life data. Virtual reality makes it possible to create new blueprints that make products and services come alive, thus making it possible to evaluate them prior to building or manufacturing them. Technology brings automation that decreases manual, repetitive work, freeing up time for more value-creating tasks that directly impact the business. Spending time on these tasks helps reduce costs, increase turnover, and provide customers with solutions that truly benefit them.