Year - 2014

30/04/2014
`Love at First Bite` the Best Trademark in the Gulf

Love at First Bite was announced the “Best Trademark in the Gulf” at the recent Gulf Small and Medium Enterprises Forum held in Kuwait. The event aims at creating more awareness about the importance of local brand and encouraging those brands to expand regionally.

The achievement of Love at First Bite is a great record to the stunning works accomplished by the restaurant in the two years of its operation. Khalid Al Suwaid, The Founder and Owner of Love at First Bite represented Oman in the event where remarkable gulf entrepreneurs gathered to share their own stories, struggles and expertise. “It was a networking opportunity with so many inspiring businesses and business owners. I was so honored to represent my country and it is indeed heartening to have won the best trademarks in the Gulf. This award opens new horizons I believe in terms of considering moving beyond Oman`s Borders especially since Love at First Bite is already involved in Restaurant Consultancy for restaurants in the Gulf.” Said Khalid

This award follows two previous awards which Love at First Bite has won in December 2013 which are The Best Business Concept Award and the People`s Choice Award at the Travelex Oman Tourism Ambassador Awards 2013. “It is a pleasure to be the restaurant of choice for so many and there are plenty more surprises to come!” commented Khalid

The restaurant located in Shatti Qurum acquired reputation and became a favorite place for many due to its uniqueness in terms of the creativeness of its dishes combined with a distinctive atmosphere where guests are invited to choose to dine at any of the three settings at the restaurant. Khalid Al Suwaid will participate as well in the G20 Summit with Entrepreneurs from the Gulf in Sydney, Australia during July 2014 to share experiences and learn from others.

In the span of 2 years, Love at First Bite has won the hearts of so many Muscat-eers with a Fusion menu that focuses on combining the freshest ingredients with mouth-watering flavor twists. The number of employees - expatriates and Omanis- doubled during the first two years and the restaurant is on the way to opening other branches in Muscat and expands regionally.

20/04/2014
`Sahtain` New Project Supported by Sharakah
An agreement was signed recently between Sharakah and E.A.R LLC to provide financial support to a new healthy cuisine café called “Sahtain”. The café will be located in Muscat at the Ice Skating Ring in Fun Zone Mall, Al Qurum.

The project is run and managed by Eman Akbar Rafay, a highly ambitious young Omani who is keen on promoting eating healthy targeted at busy public and private sector employees who prefer to have a healthy meal and quality options delivered at their doorstep every day.

The cafe offers a variety of choices for its customers where they will be served by healthy, nutritious and fresh Food. "Sahtain will focus more on catering services, seeking to deliver healthy meals to consumer’s offices. The plan is to start as an office lunch delivery business for corporates, by taking trolleys of freshly prepared quick service products for a period of one and half hours. The menu shall comprise of Sandwiches, Baguettes, Wraps, Salads, Bakery items, Soups, Hot drinks, Fruit Salads, Hot meal Pasta and Rice" said Eman Akbar, Founder and Owner.

To clarify its objective, Sahtain understands the value of time in today’s busy world and that is why the company believes in going the extra mile to serve customers better. It will target delivery to corporations who do not have canteens on site. Later, the services will also cater for homes and upon request from any location within the Governorate of Muscat.

Ms. Zuwaina Al Badaa’i, Investment Analysis Manager of Sharakah commented "Sahtain is a recent project that has received support from Sharakah. Sharakah is keen on developing the SME market by providing financial as well as administrative support. We ensure the sustainability of these businesses by monitoring their performance and providing continuous guidance. We see that there is an upward trend towards entrepreneurship in Oman. Our objective is for these businesses to be sustainable."

Sharakah aims to support more than 14 projects in 2014 with a targeted investment of RO 720,000. New and existing businesses are encouraged to learn more about Sharakah`s services through the website. Indeed, Sharakah’s ultimate objective is to provide support to SMEs in Oman and help them grow nationally and regionally.
26/03/2014
Sharakah Annual General Meeting 2014
Sharakah held its Annual General Meeting for the financial year ended 31 December, 2013 on 26th March, 2014 presided by Mr. Hani bin Mohamed Al Zubair, Chairman of the Board of Directors, with the attendance of the Board of Directors, Shareholders and officials from the concerned authorities.

Mr. Hani commenced the meeting by welcoming the attendees and presenting Sharakah`s achievements during the year 2013. He Mentioned that Sharakah participated actively in the SME Symposium that was held at Seih Al Shamikhat, Willayat Bahla.

“We believe in the importance of having strong ties with other organizations supporting SMEs. Thus in 2013, we renewed the agreement with Grant Thornton Abu Timam. The agreement aims at assisting entrepreneurs in developing their business plan, market study and perform financial audit. In addition, we have signed agreements with the National Business Centre, Zubair Small Enterprises Center and Jusoor. All with a common objective of providing more services to budding and aspiring entrepreneurs.”

Maintaining a clear and open dialogue with community members at large and beneficiaries at a more specific level is very important. Sharakah have adopted a strategy to diversify its communications channels to spread more awareness about Sharakah and encourage entrepreneurship amongst nationals. 2013 witnessed a dramatic growth of the active followers to Sharakah`s social media channels. Aside from online engagement, Sharakah delivered 9 Dynamic Entrepreneurship Workshop to more than 300 participants.

Commenting on the financial performance he added: “In 2013, we have sanctioned 9 projects at a value of RO 427,500. Despite challenges in an ever changing socio-economic environment, Sharakah`s clients performed very well. Ice Cream Mama, a local company has expanded to 4 branches during the year and in the process to develop its own Franchise Brand. Wadi Samail Equipment has made a 73% increase in sales from the previous year. Jadawil Muscat expanded their market reach by opening two new outlets of Paparoti in Sohar and Salalah. And Five Oceans is exporting 80% of its goods to markets in Europe and USA. Indeed, we live by our word to help these businesses expand nationally, regionally and have access to international markets.”

Sharakah values the changes that have happened to the SME market lately and strive to accommodate the need of local SMEs. As a step towards redeveloping the next 5-years strategy, Sharakah launched an online survey backed with relevant social media channels to get a better understanding of what SMEs really want of Sharakah to be. The time is now for Sharakah to take the next leap. "We are excited about how the SME ecosystem has developed and we look forward to play pivotal role in shaping the future of SMEs in Oman." Said Hani

The AGM as well discussed and approved the Audited Financial Statements for the year 2013 and the appointment of Statutory Auditor for the financial year 2014.

At its meeting, the board of directors re-elected Mr. Hani Mohammed Al Zubair as Chairman of the board and Mr. Said Salim Al Sahib as Vice Chairman for the period 2014 - 2016. The other board members are:

Mr. Pankaj Khimji – Director
Mr. Rashad Jaffar Al Shaikh – Director
Mr. Qais Mohammed Al Khonji – Director
Mr. Hani Habib Abdul Nabi Macki – Director
Mr. Moosa Masood Al Jadidi – Director

Mr. Hani concluded by emphasizing the importance of the role His Majesty the Sultan plays in supporting Small and Medium Enterprises. He praised the decisions that emerged from SME Symposium held at Seih Al Shamikat and confirmed that this will pave the way for more locals to consider establishing their own enterprises. Further, this will create a favorable environment for SME`s. Mr. Hani greatly appreciated the support that SME`s in general and Sharakah in particular received from His Majesty. He also thanked the shareholders for the support they have shown.

12/03/2014
Assessment of the Entrepreneurial Capabilities for Locals

From the time when the SME Symposium that was held in Seih Al Shamikhat in the Willayat of Bahla, number of initiatives emerged from the private and public sector to promote SMEs in Oman. The underlying objective is to leverage on the skills and capabilities of Omanis and help create an economy that is less dependent on Oil and Gas sector.

Supporting Entrepreneurship and SMEs is on the agenda of many organizations now. A greater emphasis is laid on embedding entrepreneurship at schools and academic institutions so that the students at schools are ready, willing and made capable of establishing their own enterprises in the future.

A recent collaboration between Sharakah and Lighthouse might provide the starting point for assessing the current status of the readiness of young Omanis to successfully manage their own enterprises tomorrow. The results of the collaboration are mainly twofold. First to develop a tool that will assess the entrepreneurial capability of an individual. Second is to establish and identify the gap between the capabilities of students with respect to the required skills and traits to become successful entrepreneurs.

The research was focused on the following objectives:

1. Assessment of entrepreneurial DNA of Omani Entrepreneurs and identifying reasons for their success in terms of individual skills and competencies

2. Develop a tool that can assess the capabilities of potential entrepreneur and identify success rate based on entrepreneurial DNA of Oman.

Says Ajay Singh CEO of Lighthouse

During the first phase of the study Lighthouse consultants interviewed 103 Omani entrepreneurs and also carried out their psychometric profiling using their proprietary tool – TLH Profiler. TLH profiler is capable of defining behavioral characteristics that leads to good performance using clusters of responses made by the participants.

“It took us more than 1 year to conclude phase one of the research. There were many challenges faced by our team during data collection. No two businesses are same. The skills required to be successful in a small business is radically different than managing a large corporation. Skills required to manage a traditional family owned business is completely different than that of a first generation entrepreneur” said Mr. Abdullah Jufaili, General Manager of Sharakah.

In order to address this issue Lighthouse employed its proprietary enterprise classification tool that can classify business into different categories using point ranking method.

“It is to be understood that SME’s vary in size, complexity and the nature of their business and each category of SME will have its own set of needs that needs to be addressed and skills required to be successful. A one size fit all approach may not be completely successful in understanding them and nurturing them. Another reason to classify SME’s into specific categories is that it will help the respective agencies like SME funds, banks, SME incubators etc. to provide a concerted and tailor made effort to suit the needs of a particular category. By classifying them into various clusters, concerned authorities in the government will be able to focus on each cluster and support it with specific solutions aimed to nurture and strengthen them. This will also help SME’s in those respective sectors to develop a roadmap for success and achieve their milestones” said Mr. Ajay Singh CEO of Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse classified businesses into following categories based on point ranks:

Total Point Range

Enterprise class

Enterprise type

Enterprise type

Number of companies surveyed

51 – 175

LEC 1 – LEC 5

Micro business, Sole proprietors, Sole trader, Professionals, Self-employed individuals

Micro organization

14

176 – 250

LEC 6 – LEC 8

SME – 1

Very small

30

251 – 325

LEC 9 – 11

SME – 2

Small

13

326 – 400

LEC 12 – 14

SME – 3

Small – Medium

16

401 - 475

LEC 15 – 17

SME – 4

Medium

11

476 - 550

LEC 18 – 20

SME – 5

Medium - Large

19

551 and beyond

Large companies

 

“Once the businesses were classified then data collection became more focused and assessment of skills that made entrepreneurs successful also became very relevant to their categories. Further analysis of these skills was carried out to arrive at top skills based on cluster of behavior identified.” Said Mr. Ajay Singh CEO Lighthouse.

The common skills required to be successful conducting business in Oman across all categories of businesses are:

  • Ability to take risk and spot opportunities
  • Timely decision making
  • To be resilient to vagaries of business
  • Aggressive approach towards performance
  • Heroic customer service
  • Ability to build and lead teams
  • Cost consciousness
  • Keen eye on quality delivery
  • To be patient with results

“These common traits are easily assessable in any individual who is running a business or wants to start a business, through our proprietary tools. These tools are online and the tests can be taken in Arabic and in English and reports can be downloaded instantly.” Said Mr. Ajay Singh

The report is helpful in ascertaining the gaps and the steps that needs to be taken by the individual to equip themselves to be successful entrepreneurs.

“The tool is not only helpful for anybody who is doing a business or want to start a business. It is equally helpful for funds engaged in providing financial assistance to SMEs, incubators can tailor-make their courses to suit the need of the SMEs, universities and colleges to align their courses to the requirement and promote entrepreneurship amongst students and above all the Government to align their policies to develop entrepreneurs.” Said Abdullah

He also mentioned that Sharakah and Lighthouse will now increase the sample size of the entrepreneurs to 500 in next phase of the research. They will profile entrepreneurs in Sohar, Nizwa, Salalah and Sur to further strengthen the data and align it with the assessment tool. The phase two of the study will be concluded in next 6 months and the report will be shared with all the key players in the ecosystem.

Lighthouse has also launched a dedicated website (www.smeadvise.com) to promote and impart advice to SMEs. The website provides information on key players in SME ecosystem, free usage of Lighthouse Enterprise Classification tool and unique business ideas. Lighthouse & Sharakah invite businessmen who are willing to be profiled during the next phase to register themselves online. They will be provided with a complimentary enterprise classification summary and behavioral report.

03/03/2014
Italian Barista Café is now open in Al Mawalih Supported by Sharakah

Italian Barista Café was launched recently under the auspicious of Mr. Khalifa bin Saeed Al Abri, Acting CEO of the Public Authority for SME Development. Managed and owned by Ismail Al Toobi, the café is one of the projects that have received support from Sharakah.

The café located in Al Mawalih, Al Mouj street, Ground floor of Al Thabit building. It offers a variety of choices for its customers in an enchanting atmosphere. Commenting on this occasion, Mr. Khalifa bin Saeed Al Abri said "The government places a great emphasis in developing the SME sector. Recently many initiatives were introduced by both the public and private sector. Indeed, SMEs play an important role in job creation and diversification."

"Italian Barista Café has a seating facility of over thirty people to have a combination of Italian and American cuisine in addition to enjoying the finest types of Italian coffee that have been carefully selected to suit all tastes. It has inside and outside seating. We also offer take away and home delivery facilities. The menu has more than fifty food items that we invite our guests to try." said Ismail Al Toobi, Founder and Owner.

Present at the launch ceremony Ms. Umaima Al Ghadani commented "Italian Barista Café is amongst the recent projects that have received support from Sharakah. Sharakah is keen on developing the SME market by providing financial as well as administrative support. We ensure the sustainability of these businesses by monitoring their performance and providing continuous guidance. We see that there is an upward trend towards entrepreneurship in Oman. Our objective is for these businesses to be sustainable."

Sharakah aims to support more than 12 projects in 2014 with a targeted investment of Rials 720,000. New and existing businesses are welcomed to learn more about Sharakah`s services through the website. Indeed, Sharakah’s ultimate objective is to provide support to SMEs in Oman and help them grow nationally and regionally.

12/01/2014
Hamadn Al Ruqiashi of Abu Luwaidha Transportation Exists Sharakah`s Lending Program

Hamdan Al Ruqaishi of Abu Luwaidha Transportation has recently exited the funding program of Sharakah by honoring the outstanding financial support provided. Hamdan is a 44 years old retired military services Omani who has approached Sharakah in 2009 to get financial support for purchasing a 50 Ton truck. He won a contract in 2009 to provide logistics services to a major supplier to Petroleum Development Oman (PDO).

"Leaving a job with steady income and taking the leap to start my own business was one of the most important decisions in my life. It was not an easy step and I would not invite anyone to think that it is. When I was introduced to Sharakah and got a better understanding of their services, I felt at ease that I would be receiving the much needed guidance and financial support. Sharakah has helped me to run my business and I was able to honor the loan amount in three years, two years less than the loan tenure." Says Hamdan Al Ruqaishi.

Sharakah`s support is not limited to financial support, it goes beyond that to ensure that businesses sustain and grow. "We welcome businesses from most sectors. To avail financial support from Sharakah, we request the business owner to submit a business plan that includes a brief about the business, the products or services offered, a review of the market, and financials amongst other things. For existing businesses we would like to get a better understanding of their financial performance so we request them to submit their audited financials."

Sharakah aims to support more than 12 projects in 2014 with a targeted investment of Rials 720,000. New and existing businesses are welcomed to learned more about Sharakah`s services through their website. Indeed, their ultimate objective is to provide support to SMEs in Oman and help them grow nationally and regionally.