Having been to Muscat twice, recently end of 2017, I had an opportunity to meet the owner of a newly-founded restaurant in Qurm called Hayat’s Restaurant, which caters to a clientele looking for a healthier food option. I was pleased to hear recently via a recent follow-up that the restaurant was doing well and actually had increased the number of staff. This is very promising for any new business owner as, using a statistic from America for example, 50 per cent of all US businesses fail within five years and increases to 70 per cent within ten years.
An interesting new development with the restaurant Hayat’s - they recently started having a fully-dedicated menu for vegans, which potentially can be the first in Muscat and maybe all of Oman. For those that don’t know, veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products (which includes dairy) - which is different and more selective than vegetarianism.
According to Haytham al Bulushi, an Omani, a Muscat resident and partner of Hayat’s, alongside Nabil al Bulushi and Bassam al Bulushi, “Over the last year we’ve seen an increase in numbers of those in our clientele seeking vegan options - so we simply are following demand and offering a service to a market that doesn’t have that yet.”
It is this drive and search to fill a gap in the market that resembles the changes that are happening in the economy in Oman and the wider GCC. Economic development changes are happening across the region - which is preparing the region for a future that will be driven by entrepreneurship, local empowerment and innovation, as well as one in a diverse economy that isn’t reliant on oil and gas.
I wrote about Omani diversification earlier this year, where I highlighted the fact that Omanis, like the rest of the GCC, are undergoing their own economic diversifications and transformations and that entrepreneurship and innovation are key to that. In other words, to not only encourage more at present to start their own business, but, to inspire the next generation of Omanis to do the same.
Oman’s SME Development Fund (SMEF) is one of many grassroots development organisations that are leading the economic and social growth of the sultanate, many thanks in part to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
Established in 2014 in collaboration with the Omani Authority for Partnership of Development, the SMEF has, so far, gone on to inculcate the culture of SME development across not just the current crop of professionals, but the next generation as well.
Under SMEF, 7,500 entrepreneurs are hoped to be created and to see some of them grow to be large firms, as well as adding over 50,000 new jobs and to help create a cluster of external capabilities in the form of ‘entrepreneurial’ educational institutions.
There are increasingly other Omanis who have started their own businesses and have found success. One of them is Qais al Khonji, who started his own business in 2013 called Genesis Projects and Investments, who last year made it on Gulf Business's Top-10 Talented Entrepreneurs list; to note Al Khonji was the only Omani in the top ten.
It is important to also highlight the expats in Oman who also contribute to the economy with their own businesses, as well as the importance that foreign direct investment (FDI) play in the Omani economy and wider GCC. From large multinationals such as from America or the UK to small-run businesses, expats too in the spirit of entrepreneurship have played a role in the business-owner economy.
It is very liberating to not only be your own boss, but, also to contribute to the economy via a personal niche and passion during times of economic transformation in the country.
Going back to Haytham in Qurm, he and his business partners saw a niche in trying to find a healthier food option. So rather than wait until a restaurant popped up one day dedicated to create their own (and now having a new vegan menu to compliment his regular menu), having identified the gap in the market. That in itself is the universal language of an entrepreneur - not just for both Omanis and expats but across the world.
Richie Santosdiaz is a UAE-based economic development expert with focus on internationalisation. He has worked with various governments and multinationals in this realm, and, in addition, comments or contributes to the media about his expertise. He is also an advisor to London-based Pax Tecum Global Consultancy.