Year - 2012

31/12/2012
Oman Daily Observer - Questions and Answers

What have been the key achievements of Sharakah during 2011 and 2012 ?

In 2011, 7 projects were sanctioned with the amount invested of Rial Omani 491,679. These projects have created 26 additional job opportunities in the market. In 2012 Sharakah supported 10 additional projects with an investment amount exceeding Rial 520,000.

Further, we are now an ISO certified organization applying best practices to ensure that we serve the entrepreneurs in an efficient manner. Part of our contribution to capacity building and skills development, we have conducted 8 workshops titled "Dynamic Entrepreneurship" to more than 200 participants most of which are college students. The objective of the workshop is to develop a deeper understanding of cash flows statements and enlightening the participants of different factors that could affect business performance.

In its effort to equip aspiring entrepreneurs, Sharakah and Grant Thornton Abu Timam inked a deal on March 2012 to support the development of Small and Medium Enterprises in Oman, where we work closely to help entrepreneurs who are seeking to establish or grow their businesses to learn how to develop viable business plans.

Likewise, Sharakah signed an agreement with Jusoor, a corporate social responsibility entity targeted at developing the community in North Al Batinah Governorate.The objective is promoting leadership amongst Omanis in North Al Batinah Governorate and to contribute towards developing a positive impact in the targeted communities.

What are the key goals of Sharakah ?

Sharakah’s main objectives are to:
Support Oman’s vision 2020 to diversify the economy
Encourage the creation of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s)
Develop the entrepreneurial capacity of Omanis
Assist in creating sustainable SME’s
Create job opportunities for locals

Please give a brief overview of some Omani SMEs started recently with your support ?

Over the course of 13 years, Sharakah supported more than 50 businesses in different sectors and from different governorates in the Sultanate. Some of these businesses include Love at First Bite multi cuisine lounge in the Wilayat of Bowsher, Salim Al Mawaly Trading a Bricks Factory in The Willayat of Suwaiq, WadiSamailEquipments renting construction equipment in the Willayat of Samail, Mazoon Environmental & Technical Services in the Willayat of AsSeeb and many others.

What are your future plans for 2013 and beyond? What is your strategic plan for micro and SMEs ?

It is worth stating that Sharakah`s concentration is on Small to Medium size enterprises not Microbusiness. While the definition is debatable, we consider Micro business those which require an investment amount less than Rials 10,000 apart from other parameters.

We have an ambitions 5-Years strategy that looks at our internal operations as well as what we deliver to the SME`s. Indeed, we are planning to support more businesses not only financially but also through guidance, mentoring and consultation.

For instance, we are developing a Business Performance Monitoring Tool that will enable us to monitor the progress of businesses that we have supported and ensure that they are on the right track. This rigorous approach insures that we evaluate the business from all aspects including operations, finance, marketing, branding to name a few.

Along similar lines, we have signed an agreement with LightHouse Consultant to develop a tool that will help us asses the entrepreneurial capacity of applicants and would ensure that we bench mark aspiring entrepreneurs against clear criteria.

We will continue to deliver workshops on voluntary basis to students on how to manage business and educate them of the responsibilities that it brings.

Lately we have been active on various social channels (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter), we plan to engage more with youngsters and help spread more awareness about entrepreneurship and our services.

Further, we are working on introducing a scheme that is Sharia compliant to serve the needs of entrepreneurs who are seeking sharia complaint financial support. In fact our equity scheme "in principle" follows the guidelines of Islamic finance.

Do you think bureaucratic red tape and others hurdles are challenges in start-up ventures ?

Lets say they are part of other challenges that SME`s face. SMEs generally face common challenges. Some are related to investment environment and incentives, and other are related to managerial capacity of the Owners themselves.

I classify the challenges into three general categories

Cultural Challenges

These are a set of challenges related to factors in the community that have an effect on nurturing entrepreneurship.

Challenges related to the Business Environment

These challenges are related to the policies and regulations that govern the operation of business entities in the Sultanate as well as the support provided by large private and public sector organizations.

Challenges Related to the Entrepreneurial Capacity of Locals

The last set of challenges looks at whether locals have the entrepreneurial skills and capabilities. Financial institutions claim that the quality of business plans coupled with the skills of the business owners that represent them ispoor.

30/12/2012
Sharakah conducts `Dynamic Entrepreneurship` workshop to businesswomen in Omran`s Income Generating Project `Zaree`

Intending to educate entrepreneurs and give them an overall idea of developing and managing business cash flow, Mr. Abdullah Al Jufaili, General Manager of Sharakah, delivered a workshop entitled `Dynamic Entrepreneurship` to a number of businesswomen in Khasab. The attendees included five women from Omran’s income generating program `Zaree`. The one day interactive workshop used games and case studies to further develop a deeper understanding and planning of cash flows and evaluating real life scenarios that may affect any business.

"It is one thing starting a business and it is another managing it through turbulence and a changing environment. Aside from promoting entrepreneurship, we believe that it is important for business owners to understand how to manage cash flow," commented Abdullah Al Jufaili

Abdul Wahid Al Farsi, VP External Affairs at Omran said, "Based on a needs assessment, we realized that while the women of Zaree had the skills required to ensure the program is a success, we also realized that they lacked the financial experience. As a result, we identified Sharakah to conduct a workshop that equipped the women with the know-how on financial management fundamentals, budgeting and book keeping. They are now able to make important decisions that will enhance their business and encourage its organic growth in the right direction."

Iman Al Salti, Zaree Team Leader commented, "Before this workshop, I had little knowledge on developing cash flow statements for a business, now I understand that every transaction counts in a business. I also learnt that managing a business is not an easy task, there are so many internal as well as external factors that keep on changing and they in turn affect the business performance"

Established by Omran in association with the Ministry of Tourism and a group of local women, Zaree is a program that aims to empower communities in Wilayat Khasab to become economically self-sufficient and self-employed through selling special tour packages exclusively to female tourists who wish to visit Khasab Castle and embark on a cultural experience of a lifetime. Prior to the launch of the Zaree, Omran conducted a series of trainings programs that empowered the women to lead and implement the program successfully.

22/12/2012
Jusoor and SharakahTie-up to Support Community Development

Fund for Development of Youth Projects, SAOC (Sharakah), premier organization involved in development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME`s) has signed an agreement with Jusoor, a corporate social responsibility entity targeted at developing the community in North Al Batinah Governorate. The agreement aims at promoting leadership amongst Omanisin NorthAl Batinah Governorate and to contribute towards developing a positive impact in the targeted communities.

Jusoor is a non-profit social responsibility organization founded by Orpic, SoharAluminium& Vale in Oman and it aims at the development of the community through implementing sustainable social projects in North Al Batinah Governorate. Jusoor is a clear manifestation of the founding companies’ commitment towards its social responsibility.

The signing parties agreed to coordinate for one year to deliver learning sessions in the forms of workshops for the public and college students from North Al Batinah Governorate. Sharakah will deliver a workshop titled "Dynamic Entrepreneurship" which aims at making the participants understand how to establish and manage a business in changing economic and social environment.

Affirming on the need of boosting the young Omanis awareness of leadership, Abdullah Al Jufaili, Sharakah`s General Manager said “We believe that by working with Jusoor, we will be able to increase our customers base in North Al Batinah Governorates. Sharakah is keen and active in creating partnership opportunities with leading initiatives and organizations. We very much value what Jusoor is doing and we are delighted that we will be working together in developing the community.”

Fahad bin Salim Al Adi, Executive Manager of Jusoorsaid:“Ourcollaboration with Sharakah and the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding will undoubtedly add a lot to us in Jusoor through close cooperation to enhance the efforts of Jusoor in the field of entrepreneurship. Jusoor within their areas of work will contribute to the promotion of creating a culture of entrepreneurship and support the sector of small and medium-sizedenterprises which integrates with the roles played by the government and all interested partieswho are involved in the development and support of this sector.”

"This cooperation will allow Jusoorto exchange experiences and knowledge with Sharakah, under this MOU, Sharakah will provide a number of specialized workshops within the Enrichment Program which Jusoor will begin to implement early next year and will continue for a full year." Added Al Adi

"We hope that this will be the beginning of further cooperation opportunities with Sharakah in the field of entrepreneurship and development of small and medium-sized enterprises. We thank and appreciate the wonderful efforts that Sharakah contributes in the development of entrepreneurship." Said Al Adi

Implementing this social educational project for the college studentswillenhancetheir abilities and knowledge of understanding the market.

Jusoor Enrichment Program is one of Jusoor’s initiatives that are aimed at cascading knowledge among the Omani youth in North Al Batinah in the entrepreneurial field as well as career guidance and work ethics with the objective to contribute to the graduates readiness for joining the labor market.

04/11/2012
Sharakah is ISO Certified

In its efforts to improve the level of services offered to Small and Medium Enterprises (SME`s) in the Sultanate of Oman, Sharakah has achieved another milestone becoming ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management System certified. Sharakah was incorporated by a Royal Decree in 1998 to promote and encourage entrepreneurship and SME`s by providing both financial and administrative support.

The final review was conducted on 29 August, 2012 by Intertek Corporation, one of the world`s largest ISO 9001 registrars. Sharakah underwent a rigorous evaluation process that included quality management system development, documentation review, pre-audit, initial assessment, and clearance of non-conformances, all of which work to identify corrective actions that eliminate non-conformance to the quality management standard.

The certification recognizes that Sharakah have standardized processes and procedures that adhere to international quality systems standards. "Indeed, our aim is to continually improve our internal processes and to ensure that our staff are developed to meet and exceed work requirements." Commented Maher Al Mahrouqi, Project Specialist and ISO Management Representative.

"We strive to improve our services and to ensure the sustainability of the businesses we support. This year alone we have supported 7 projects to date with an investment amount exceeding Rials 300,000. Becoming ISO certified means that we ensure more transparency in our operations." Add Maher

01/11/2012
Q & A - Sharakah`s Chairman - Mr. Hani Mohammed Al Zubair

What is Sharakah? What are its objectives? And what does it provide?

Sharakah was incorporated in 1998 by a Royal Decree as a Closed-Share Holding Company to support the development of growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME`s) in Oman.

Sharakah’s main objectives are to:

  • Support Oman’s vision 2020 to diversify the economy
  • Encourage the creation of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s)
  • Develop the entrepreneurial capacity of Omanis
  • Assist in creating sustainable SME’s
  • Create job opportunities for locals
  • We do this by providing three main services:

    Creating awareness about the importance entrepreneurship

    We do these by delivering seminars and workshops in schools, colleges and on various communities` related events. In line with the growing interest of community members to online social networks, Sharakah launched its social network channels through LinkedIn and Facebook. Indeed, the number of members and followers is increasing.

    Administrative Support

    Sharakah provides continuous guidance and support for SME`s. Our specialized staff review the operation of the business and its financials. We also help them in promoting their services or products through our business network.

    Financial Assistance

    We provide customized financial solutions to suit your need and we have three different schemes

    :
    • Loans : Assets based funding and working capital
    • Equity Finance : for high growth sectors
    • Bill Discounting : for short term requirements
    • You have mentioned something about financial support and you specified that there are three different schemes. What are the conditions and who is illegible to apply

      ?
      Loan Scheme
      • Term Loan for Assets Based Funding & Working Capital
      • Loan Amount between Rials 10,000 to 200,000
      • Minimum Client’s Contribution – For New Projects 33% & For Existing 20%
      • Interest rate 5%
      • Risk rate up to 2% depends on (project viability, clients capability & commitment)
      • Loan Period Maximum 6 years, including Moratorium.

      Equity Scheme

      • Equity participation in projects that are in high growth sectors
      • Investment amount between Rials 10,000 to RO 200,000
      • Shareholding between 25% to 49% dependent on the contribution amount
      • Minimum clients contribution 51% & the company should be an LLC Clear exit route within 6 years through buy back of shares or sale to third party
      • Bill Discounting Scheme – Seller wise

        • Customized to meet short term fund requirements
        • Aims at Improving the cash flow and liquidity of the business
        • 90 Day’s credit period
        • Facility for SME’s providing products/services to large public/private sector organizations
        • Investment amount between Rials 10,000 to 50,000
        • The business has to be in existence for at least one year
        • An audited balance sheet
        • Revolving limit to be renewed annually
        • Bill Discounting Scheme – Purchaser wise

          • Customized to meet short term fund requirements
          • Aims at Improving the cash flow and liquidity of the business
          • 90 Day’s credit period
          • Facility to large organizations who wish to purchase from SME’s
          • Limit between Rials 50,000 to 250,000
          • The supplier has to be from the SME Sector

          Generally we welcome most sectors, but we are targeting business in these sectors:

          • Hospitality Industry (Restaurants, Coffee Shops)
          • Leisure & Entertainment
          • Manufacturing Sector
          • Information Technology
          • Education and Training

          And we are targeting

          • Total project cost (New or Existing) should not exceed Rials 1 million
          • Sharakah’s contribution is between Rials 10,000 to Rials 200,000
          • Entrepreneurs with viable business plans
          • Businesses that will provide employment opportunities and contribute to community development
          • Clients who have adequate skills to manage the business

          Speaking of projects, how many have you supported to date? Can you provide examples?

          Since 2007 to date, we have provided support to 25 projects of which only 1 project has failed. The breakdown of the other 24 is as follow:

          • 3 projects were sanctioned but decided not to avail financial assistant at the time. However, they appreciate the administrative support that we have provided.
          • 3 projects have performed very well and paid off the loan amount. One of these projects has approached us again for refinancing and expansion.
          • 4 projects have just been established, they all look promising.
          • 5 projects are honoring their financial obligations but they are facing other operational challenges.
          • And 9 projects are operating well
          • All of these projects have created to date 95 job opportunities in the market. Some of these projects have expanded their customer base from their respective Willaya to reach customers in other Governorate and Williyat. Others have grown from 2 wemployees to 5 within less than 2 year.

            Some of our clients are:

            • Wadi Samail Equipments – renting construction equipments – Samail - Khalid Al Rawahi
            • Al Maghza Cement Products – tiles factory – Sur – Abdul Aziz Al Mukhaini
            • Mazoon Environmental Services – Muscat – Rayan Al Kalbani and Yaqoub Al Mahrouqi
            • What are the reasons for failure?

              There are many factors that could lead the business to fail. Some are related to changes in economic environment and others are related to the entrepreneur commitment and capabilities.

              In general, business owners need to stay alert with what is happening in the economic environment. The entry of a new competitor in the market will have an effect on the business performance. Also, lack of a proper marketing plan could lead to inability to reach the intended customers. Business owners should also exercise proper monitoring of the business performance by reviewing the cash flow statement.

              In light with changes happening in the community, what are Sharakah`s future plans?

              The board has just approved a comprehensive 5-Year strategy for Sharakah. Indeed, the overall emphasis is to increase our support to SME`s in Oman. The strategy took a holistic approach to improve all functions at Sharakah. In administration, Sharakah is working on implementing quality standards for its operations. In Human Resources, the emphasis will be on developing staff skills and building a stronger team to support the growing number of SME`s. In Marketing, we are planning to build more awareness through organizing seminars and participating in relevant events.

              In operations, we are planning to increase the average investment size as well as the number of projects. Additionally, we are working on introducing IT systems to enable the Project Specialists to properly monitor clients` performance. These are just few examples of many initiatives that we are looking forward to introducing and implementing in the coming 5 years.

              Do we need role models to encourage others? Is the community promoting entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship enough?

              Indeed, public sector jobs are perceived to be more attractive. If this mindset is to change, there is a need to promote and probably even glorify business leaders in the community, especially those who have established their businesses on their own. Many success stories in SME development in the Gulf are not sufficiently advertised

              Organizations that support SME`s should be more forthcoming with success stories and these stories should not only focus on the positive side rather give an overview of the hurdles one has to go to achieve success

              How can we create the right environment for SME`s?

              Before anything we need to clearly define the target group we would like to help. We need to have a unified definition of SME`s and not to forget Micro Businesses. We then need to identify all challenges that hinders SME growth and work with decision makers to minimize those challenges.

              Why should entrepreneurs approach Sharakah for funding rather than go to a bank? What advantage do they get from you?

              There are many initiatives that support SME and startups and each of them offer services that are unique to their targeted market. Sharakah is the only fund that offers equity financing options and we further customize the scheme to suit the requirement of the business. Most banks request a minimum of 100% of the investment amount as collateral. Apart from finance, we offer administrative services and guidance to ensure sustainability of the business.

              What are the basic qualifications you look for in a partnership venture?

              Generally we look at three areas: viability of the business plan; capability of the owner and his/her commitment to the business. We evaluate the business in terms of its competitive advantages, ability to grow and generate income and ability to compete.

              If a company in which you are involved is not doing too well, what do you do about it?

              As I explained earlier, our role is to ensure that sustainability of our clients. Each of our clients gets an assigned Project Specialist who reviews the progress of the business on a periodic basis. We try to look at ways in which we can minimize failure and it requires a great level of cooperation and transparency from the business owner.

              Indeed, when all actions to prevent the business from failing are exhausted, Sharakah follows the normal legal procedures.

              How do you gauge when it is time for you to pull out of a company, say if it is not making a profit?

              Our objective is not commercial, so No we will not pull out if the business is not making profit. Instead in that case, we put in more emphasis to help the business get out of the difficult situation.

              Do companies that are successful keep in touch with you after they take full ownership?

              Yes they do, we have three companies that have paid in full the loan amount. One of these companies has come back for additional investment. Moreover, whether a business has received financial support or not, we maintain an open dialogue with business owners to provide guidance and support.

              What kind of mentoring, social networking and other value additions do you offer to your partners?

              Very recently we launched a facebook and a LinkedIn page, the number of members in both pages exceeds 350 and its growing. Social media has proven to be a economical and widespread tool to enable us to reach to our targeted audience. Apart from that, we participate in different events and conduct our own seminars to build more awareness about our services.

10/10/2012
"Dynamic Entrepreneurs" workshop delivered to MCBS students by Sharakah`s GM

Intending to educate potential entrepreneurs and give them an overall idea of developing and managing business cash flow, Mr. Abdullah Al Jufaili, General Manager of Sharakah, with assistance of Maher Al Mahrooqi, Project Specialist of Sharakah, delivered a workshop titled "Dynamic Entrepreneurs". The attenders were 30 students from Modern College of Business Studies (MCBS). All targeted outcomes of the workshop transferred to the students through interested games and related case studies.

The students were highly engaged in discussing terms about entrepreneurship and SMEs, as well as risks associated with businesses. The students were asked to make their own cash flow analysis by using MS excel, developing company logo, teambuilding exercises, calculating loan, among others.

Commenting after the workshop, Dr. Venkat, Lecturer at MCBS said: "The exercises helped the students understand key aspects such as planning cash flows, evaluating business scenarios, team building, etc. The student gained a practical perspective of small business management. It was a highly effective skill enhancement workshop. Vital principles relating to entrepreneurship and small business management were embedded in various sessions that lasted around six hours."

 

The workshop was highly appreciated by the students and the College Administration asit was interesting and knowledge filled.

07/10/2012
Research to Assess the Entrepreneurial Capacity of Omanis

Fund for Development of Youth Projects, SAOC (Sharakah), premier institution in Oman involved in development of Small and Medium Enterprises(SME`s) has joined hands with Lighthouse LLC, one of the most renowned Human Resource Consulting firm in the region to initiate "Lighthouse Sharakah – Leaders and Entrepreneurs Assessment and Development Program” (LS – LEAD Program)."

This program aims to carryout an in depth research to identify competencies required by individualsto be successful entrepreneurs in Oman.

The research will entail analyzing various aspects related to creating a favorable environment for entrepreneurs, this includes the industrial environment, cultural upbringing, economic conditions, demographic profile and else. This will lead to developing a tool to assess the Entrepreneurial skills for locals to ensure that they run successful businesses.

This tool will be customized and designed to measure what is known as Entrepreneurial Value Index (EVI) of the individualagainst the set of competencies which were identified during the research, in a developmental paradigm. The result of this tool can then be used to give anyone who is eager to develop their own business a clear road map to acquire necessary skills to be a successful entrepreneur.

"SMEs are the backbone of the economic landscape.Their role in a developing the economy and addressing issues related to unemployment, resource utilization, distribution of wealth and else cannot be understated. According to concerned authorities, close to 80% of business in Oman are considered to be in the SMEs range. They contribute90% of the economic activities. They play a pivotal role in providing a delicate balance in business ecosystem dominated by other sectors like Oil & Gas, Banking and Trading." Said Ajay Singh Bhati, CEO and Managing Partner of Lighthouse LLC.

"It isimperative not only to identify talent having potential to be a successful entrepreneur but also to handhold them through variety of programs to harness business skills further so that they are able to contribute to the growth of the country. We approached Sharakah and found them forthcoming to partner with us on this initiative and I see this as a step in the right direction"added Bhati

The said Lighthouse – Sharakah LEAD study will be carried out in 3 phases. The first phase will focus on understanding the entrepreneurial landscape in Oman. It will consist of profiling Sharakah`s clients and then analyzing the process undertaken for entrepreneurial development.

Phase two will identify target successful entrepreneurs for conducting behavioral interviews. The data will then be collected to develop the competency clusters. This will lead to defining the competency profile for entrepreneurship in Oman.

The third phase a tool will be design to assess the entrepreneurial capacity of individuals and will include a pilot test of the assessment toll on a sample size of entrepreneurs.

The exercise will take close to 5 months to be completed. During this time the Lighthouse team will aim to meet and interview more than 200 entrepreneurs and various government and financial institutions involved in promoting entrepreneurship.

Emphasizing on the need to assess the entrepreneurial capacity of local, Abdullah Al Jufaili, Sharakah`s General Manager said "There are already a number of private and public sector initiatives in the community to promote entrepreneurship and support SME`s. These initiatives range from promotional seminars, training workshops, awards, financial support and mentoring services. Developing entrepreneurs requires identifying the areas that they need to be developed in at first, identifying the gaps and then introduce customized programs to fill these gaps. We believe that by working with Lighthouse we will be able to define the type of support entrepreneurs need to grow their businesses."

"The process of sanctioning any new application involves looking at three major criteria, the viability of the business, entrepreneur`s commitment and their skills and capabilities. For the last two, this tool will play a major role in providing a clear method for assessing an individual`s capability to manage the business." Commented Zuwaina Al Badai, Investment Analyst, Sharakah

Sharakah and Lighthouse agreed that this tool once developed will be installed free of charge to Universities, Colleges and Other Education Institutions to assess studentsfor their entrepreneurial skills. Lighthouse and Sharakah can further assist education institutes in developing mentoring programs for the studentshaving high EVIs to be able to work with successful entrepreneurs in Oman.

14/07/2012
Grant Thornton Abu Timam and Sharakah Join Hands to Support SME`s

Sharakah and Grant Thornton Abu Timam inked a deal last Wednesday to support the development of Small and Medium Enterprises in Oman. The signing ceremony took place at Sharakah`s office in Al Khuwair. The agreement entails that Sharakah and Grant Thornton Abu Timam will work closely to help entrepreneurs who are seeking to establish or grow their businesses and to learn how to develop viable business plans.

Nasser Al Mugheiry, Managing Director, Grant Thornton Abu Timam said "It`s about time that we sign this agreement with Sharakah, we have worked closely over the last 4 years in support of SME`s in Oman. In fact some of the recent businesses supported by Sharakah have received support from our firm in developing their business plan."

"We offer support to those who are willing to learn vis-à-vis those who just want a customized business plan. As per the agreement with Sharakah, the entrepreneur will have to learn the basics of conducting market research, understand the basis of establishing a business, develop his financial skills, think strategically and plan for mitigating risks associated with running a business." Added Al Mugheiry

Sharakah services are not limited to finance, the main objective of Sharakah is helping SME and Omani entrepreneurs sustain in the market. Since 2007, Sharakah has supported more than 25 projects by which more than 95 job opportunities were created in the local market.

"Very often, we come across potential entrepreneurs who have the passion to start a business. However, they lack the skills to produce viable businesses. This agreement we signed will help fill that gap by providing an opportunity to would-be entrepreneurs, the basis of any business plan. Indeed, keeping in mind that it is costly to get a professional business plan, we have agreed with Grant Thornton Abu Timam to offer a discounted rate for all clients referred to them by Sharakah. We surely hope that this will encourage more locals to establish their own enterprises." Said Dinkar Kishor, Deputy General Manager, Operations at Sharakah

06/07/2012
Entrepreneurship in a Changing Business Environment Workshop

Sharakah delivered a workshop to 30 students at Gulf College. The workshop titled "Entrepreneurship in a Changing Business Environment", focused on educating participants how to develop and manage cash flow forecast for Small to Medium size businesses. It also focused on providing a better understanding on how to manage a business in an ever changing business environment taking into consideration the internal and external factors that might affect any business.

Foraround five hours, the students were engaged in discussing terms about entrepreneurship and SMEs, as well as risks associated with businesses. A case study was presented to the students in order to understand how Cash Flow Statements work.

"It is one thing starting a business and it is another managing it through turbulence and a changing environment. Aside from promoting entrepreneurship, we believe that it is important for business owners to understand how to manage cash flow." Commented Maher Al Mahrouqi, Project Specialist at Sharakah

Emad Al Abduwani, student and one of the participants of the workshop said "Overall, the workshop was interactive and informative. The students showed their interest through their intensive participation during the workshop and they commented that there is no doubt this workshop will help them now in their studies as well as in their future occupational life."

A presentation followed the workshop presented by Halima Al Riyami, Marketing Specialist, gave overall information about Sharakah’s services and schemes. Halima highlighted Sharakah`s role in supporting SME`s and presented the three financial schemes Sharakah provides for SME`s namely Loan, Equity and Bill Discounting.

20/06/2012
Hani M. Al Zubair, Chairman of Fund for Development of Youth Projects, SAOC (Sharakah) talks to AFTAB H. KOLA

How successful Sharakah has been in creating the right entrepreneurial ambience in Oman?

The creation of the Fund for Development of Youth Projects by Royal Decree, also known as “Sharakah”, was a major milestone that reflected the country’s encouragement and commitment towards Omani entrepreneurs. At Sharakah, we offer equity support to Omani enterprise, extend term loan, guide the entrepreneur in setting up and doing a business, etc. The small and medium enterprises are strategic asset for the Omani economy and thus they need to be promoted in the right way. We also help in identifying the entrepreneurial opportunities in today’s scenario.

Out of the many projects that we have funded in the past few years only one has failed. Three projects are doing exceptionally well and have repaid the full loan. One of them has come back again for further support. Five projects have been established recently and they are doing fine. Five projects are doing okay andhonouring their commitments but there are some operational difficulties which we hope will be resolved. Nine other projects are also successful in their respective sectors. Some of the real success stories include a project in Samayil which deals in construction equipment. Another, a tiles & interlock factory in Sur and Mazoon Environmental Services in Muscat have also scripted excellent success stories, thanks to Sharakah.

How can we create the right environment for SMEs?

Absence of a clear-cut definition and objective norms for the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Oman is one of the challenges facing the SME sector here. If we take the general norms of SMEs in Europe and the US, 60 to 70 per cent of companies which exists in Oman come under the criteria. There are very few companies that employ more than 500employess, except for some construction and oil companies. If 60 per cent of our businesses fall under SMEs, why are we bothering to promote them, as they are already successful. So, we need to redefine the definition of SME.

Notable though the Circular issued by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry today. The circular specified new criteria to define SME`s including micro businesses. This will play a role in developing a better environment for the SME`s by getting a better understanding of the market size.

Though the government has an active role to play but it will not be fair to put the entire onus on them. One thing is sure, the government needs to do away with bureaucratic red tape and I suggest that a Single Window Clearance Agency should be instituted for dealing with SME projects. The private sector should pitch in more vigorously by doing their bit in helping the SMEs to grow.

Another important point I would stress is that we need to have some of the professional businessmen, may be accountants, lawyers, and others as part of CSR initiatives, offer their help to give services to SMEs at subsidised rate. For Sharakah, our external auditors charge a very nominal amount, as part of their contribution to the sector. Besides they even offer free ‘Advisory Services’ to some of our clients.

We also signed an agreement last year with Grad Thornton Abu Timam to offer SME`s help and guidance in developing their business plans at a discounted rate. A number of the successful businesses that Sharakah supported recently have benefited from this relationship.

How do you ensure Omanisation in SMEs?

Traditionally we are a trading community and have very little production as of now. Sooner or later, our children will inherit our businesses. If we do not help in creation of wealth in Oman, thus nobody can afford to buy the products & services that the businesses have to offer, then what is the value of what they inherit? Here comes the Omanisation in picture. If we put hundred Rials in the hands of an expat employee, may be out of hundred rials, 20 rials would be spent locally, while the remaining amount will be taken out of the country and that’s normal. On the other hand, you put that 100 Rials in a local’s hands, in the economy it will represent up to 200 Rials for the fact that he will borrow against that. At least you would get that 100 Rials spent in Oman. That helps to create wealth , businesses will be successful, more employment opportunities for locals and this cycle goes on and on and eventually the economy of the country becomes more robust and more locals would be employed.

While we very much support businesses that create more opportunities for locals, we don`t place that as a condition. There are a number of challenges with Omanization and if we were to apply harder rules, we would end up just making it more challenging for SME`s.

Sharakah very much support local business owners and concentrate on building their capacity b providing continuous guidance, mentoring and follow up. We monitor the operation, the financial cash flow and the markets of which our clients operate.

In light with changes happening in the country, what are Sharakah`s future plans?

The Board met recently and approved a Five-Year Plan where we hope we would be able to promote Sharakah a bit more than in the past. We hope to support more entrepreneurs, expand the limits for each of the areas we have identified, cast the net a little wider so that more people participate in the business endeavours. We have effected some management changes and now we have a very competent, young General Manger who understands the industry well. We have over OR 8 million as our capital and reserve and we are using that to fund the projects. So, in order to support the office of Sharakah we need to make sure that we need to have a certain amount of fund in order to sustain ourselves. We are looking at other investment opportunities. We have some business houses who are interested to do something for the SME sector but they do not have the experience, expertise and time, but they want to demonstrate that they are playing a part in promoting the SME sector. We have requested such businessmen to join hands with us for the benefit of the sector.

Do companies that are successful keep in touch with you after they take full ownership?

Absolutely, we also keep in touch with them and also ensure that they continue to be successful and if they further need any help, whether financial or non-fiancial, they are free to contact us again. And some of them have done that in order to expand their businesses. And very recently, four of them came to us for further borrowing and considering their success we were happy to extend further support to them.

What kind of mentoring, social networking and other value additions do you offer to your partners?

We do our own advertising for Sharakah and try to highlight one of the prospective entrepreneurs / assisted projects in our advertisement. It really helps them. We have a wide network of supporters who actually funded Sharakah from day one and what we do is mix and match. Say, for instance, if Sharakah assisted tile and block companies need to sell their products and we connect these companies with our supporters/shareholders (who have contracting divisions) to help them to liase with contractors and request them to consider these companies for orders. Some of our associates, like Deloitte & Abu Timam (Grant Thornton) provide Advisory Services free or at verydiscounted rate. We are slowly growing our social network channels through LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. We are not just an organisation where we lend money and say, ‘thank you’. Therein lies Sharakah’s goodwill and success.

Why should Entrepreneursapproach Sharakah for funding rather than go to a bank? What advantage do they get from you?

It is quite simple. Our aim is to help create the SME sector and to help the young entrepreneurs, create entrepreneurship attitude and ambience; we are not helping people for financial gains although we need certain amount of return for us to continue to help others but to help the entrepreneurs themselves. We are not security driven, rather more project and entrepreneur oriented. Our focus is more on ‘Greenfield’/startup projects, which is generally not touched by banks. Our borrowing rate is definitely cheaper than the banks. We guide the entrepreneurs in all aspects of setting up the SME, we are more like partner.

25/05/2012
Sharakah Participated in the 8th INSME Annual Meeting in South Korea

As one of the newest members, Sharakah participated in the 8th INSME Annual Meeting in South Korea. INSME which stands for International Network for Small and Medium Enterprises is a non-for-profit association which strives to stimulate transitional cooperation and public and private partnership in the field of innovation and technology transfers to SME`s.

The conference focused on innovation as a key theme and discussed topics like "The Role of Social Innovation to Create Added Value for SME`s and the Role of Government in Enabling Innovation in SME`s". Abdullah Al Jufaili, General Manager and INSME Member, delivered a presentation about The Role of Social Media in Promoting and Supporting SME`s.

The meeting is composed of 4 day event starting from 22 May till 25 May, comprising the INSME Board Meeting and General Assembly, an International Conference and Technical Industrial Visits.

The conference is aiming to increase knowledge sharing among INSME Members by learning from other Members’ experiences and from their case studies, as well as to encourage and accelerate cross border cooperation activities on a voluntary basis among them.

26/04/2012
Oman`s First Themed Loungeis Now Open

"Love at First Bite" Oman’s first themed Lounge, was inaugurated on Thursday evening,26th April 2012, in an event held at the Loungeunder the patronage of the Honorable Salim Bin Ismail Al Suwaid, Member of the State Council.Love at First Bite aims at providing adining experience that brings togetherthree different themed settings: A Sicilian walkway with street lights and a wishing well , a brightly coloured1001 Arabiannight’s tale dining areaas well as aFrench palace lounge and bedroom.

Love at First Bite is owned by Khalid Al Suwaid, a young 22 year old Omani entrepreneur, who has studied in Australia and decided to bring a new experience to the restaurant, entertainment and hospitality industry in Oman.Khalid has carefully designed the 220+ squared meter space and has steered the engineering of the detailed and innovative menu after months of detailed evaluation, thus offering a fusion of different dishes and cuisines all under one roof. The project is one of many other businesses supported by Sharakah.

"Over the past 20months, we have paid careful attention to detail in every step to ensure that Love at First Biteredefines the concept of dining. As love knows no boundaries our food comes from all over the world. Dining at Love at First Bite is an experience from the moment you walk into those doors, you are invited to unwind and relax at the area of your choice. Amidst, luxurious seating arrangements and a vibrant atmosphere, we look forward to meeting you at Love at First Bite, where the food is to dine for. And as always, we promise you a delicious experience" Said Khalid addressing the guests at the opening ceremony.

The Honorable Salim Bin Ismail Al Suwaid, Member of the State Council, said "I have seen this project from its initiation stage to its inauguration; it is truly remarkable to be part of such a beautiful project that once again proves the innovation and capabilities that Oman`s youth has to offer with the support and wisdom of His Majesty."

Complimenting Khalid, Abdullah Al Jufaili, Sharakah`s General Manager said "We are in the lookout for businesses in the service industry that are innovative and unique. Our analyses of the market indicate that there is a growing trend towards dining and experimenting different cuisine, thus Love at first Bite has a growing market to serve."

Love at First Bite is located in Shatti Al Qurum (in the same Building of Bank of Beirut), opened every day for those who want to experience Love at First Bite! For more information please visit www. bitelounge.com

27/03/2012
Sharakah 12th AGM emphasizes the Increased Support for SMEs in Oman

The 12th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Sharakah was held on 26th March 2012 at Park Inn Hotel, presided by Mr. Hani bin Mohamed Al-Zubair, Chairman, with the attendance of the Board of Directors, Shareholders and officials from the concerned authorities.

The AGM discussed and approved the Audited Financial Statements for the year 2011 and the appointment of Statutory Auditor for the financial year 2012.

Hani stated that Sharakah’s main objective has always been developing the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s) Sector in the Sultanate by providing the necessary support for entrepreneurs and SME’s. Since its inception, Sharakah has offered three general services for entrepreneurs and SME`s, the first is building awareness about the importance of entrepreneurship, the second is administrative support and the third is financial support.

"In terms of Building Awareness, during 2011, Sharakah delivered a number of awareness seminars and workshops in the community. As well as, Sharakah participated for the first time in Muscat Youth Summit which was highly appreciated by Brand Oman Management Unit.Overall number of individuals who have been in contact with Sharakah, whether through email, phone or walking in to our premises has increased and there were a total of 371 inquiries from across Oman." Commented Hani

"In 2011, 7 projects were sanctioned with the total value of Rials 214,000. These projects have created 26 additional job opportunities in the market. To date, Sharakah has provided support to 25 projects.These 25 businesses come from different sectors including Information Technology, Engineering, Manufacturing, Services and Food industries. All in all, these businesses have created 95 job opportunities in the market." He added.

"Further, Sharakah`s equity scheme received special SME Product Award at the Malta Islamic Finance Conference in October 2011.2011 was a great year for Sharakahand we look forward to continue of the same footsteps to ensure that we play a major role in nurturing SME’s and in the overall economic development of Oman." Concluded Hani

Abdullah Al Jufaili, who has joined Sharakah as General Manager last year commented saying "Building on what Sharakah has achieved in the last few years, we have ambitious plans for the next five years. The economy in general and the SME market is ever changing and we have to adapt to this change. We are planning to be more active in promoting our services."

15/03/2012
Managing a Business in a Changing Business Environment

Sharakah delivered a workshop to 30 participants at "Qudurat working sessions", organized by Tawasul on 15 March 2012. The workshop titled "Managing a Business in a Changing Business Environment" focused on providing a better understanding on how to manage a business in an ever changing business environment taking into consideration the internal and external factors that might affect any business. As well as, educating participants how to develop and manage cash flow statements for businesses.

"We know that understanding financial statements could be quite complicated for an average person, therefore we developed this 6-hours engaging workshop which takes the participants through a series of activities to develop the cash flow statement than understand the factors that could affect any business." said Abdullah Al Jufaili, General Manager, Sharakah

Maryam Al Maqbali, one of the participants from the workshop said "Before this workshop, I had little knowledge on developing cash flow statement for a business, now I understand that every transaction counts in a business. I also learnt that managing a business is not an easy task, there are so many internal as well as external factors that keep on changing and they in turn affect the business performance."

This workshop was part of a series of workshops that Tawasul conducts in the Qudurat program. Qudrat is a series of working sessions for young Omanis focusing on Social Responsibility and Entrepreneurship. The initiative is comprised of 3 work sessions complemented by a 3 Majlis Dialogue sessions. These sessions address important themes such as: Goal Setting and Strategic Planning, Communication and Advocacy Skills leading towards a better understanding of the Civil sector in Oman and potential roles for youth

13/03/2012
Sharakah Delivers a Presentation at SQU

Part of its services to create awareness amongst community members about the importance of entrepreneurship, Sharakah delivered a presentation titled "20 Questions that you must answer in any business plan" to group of 65 students of the College of Engineering at Sultan Qaboos University.

Dr. Ali Al Shidhani, Lecturer and organizer of the seminar commented "We try to educate students on the importance of career planning before graduation. Entrepreneurship and enterprise establishment is not and should not be limited to students of commerce related degrees. Through these seminars, we want students to understand the importance of entrepreneurship as a career choice. Further how to turn their innovative ideas into viable businesses"

"When it comes to starting or establishing a business small or big, one should have a strategy or in this case a business plan. Indeed, there are important elements in any business plan and what we have tried to do in this presentation is to make the students understand these elements through a series of questions related to the market, the products or service, the expected investment amount, risk associated and overall strategic planning." Said Halima Al Riyami, Marketing Specialist, Sharakah

19/02/2012
New Staff Join Sharakah

Sharakah Employs Fresh Omani Graduates in Four Positions

Sharakah is proud to announce and welcome the new staffs who have joined the team on 18 February 2012. The new staff are four Omani who have graduated from colleges recently. Maher Al-Mahrooqi, Halima Al-Riyami, Umaima Al-Ghadani and Saida Al-Busaidi have shown energy and aspiration to fulfil their tasks.

Maher Al-Mahrooqi is appointed as a Project Specialist, having graduated from Sultan Qaboos University in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting. He worked as a “Student Brand Manager” for Red Bull Oman when he was student from mid-2009 until December 2011.

Umaima Al-Ghadani, joined Sharakah as an Investment Analyst, graduated from Higher College of Technology in 2011 holding a bachelor’s degree in Accounting. Umaima`s responsibility will be to review new applications and advice on whether they are economically viable or not.

“I’m a fresh graduate with bachelor’s degree in International Business Administration. I always look for personal development opportunities to ensure my skills are kept up to date, so my job as a Marketing Specialist will surely boost myself confidence and give me the chance to gain deep knowledge and rich experience in Marketing", said Halima Al Riyami

Zuwaina Al-Badai, Investment Analyst at Sharakah, said; “I can see that the number of interested people who came to our booth has increased obviously from the previous years which is an indicator to the people’s interests to establish and own their businesses and so by that, it helps us to meet our objectives. Certainly our services go beyond just financial support, we monitor the progress of each company to ensure it success”.

This comes as part of Sharakah`s strategy to enhance the services it provides to Small and Medium Enterprises (SME`s) in Oman. Indeed, since its inception in 1998, Sharakah has been support entrepreneurs and SME`s across Oman. To date it has supported 27 projects, some of which are prominent business in the SME sector.

18/02/2012
Sharakah Appoints Three New Staff

Sharakah recently announced the appointment of Maher Al-Mahrooqi, Umaima Al-Ghadani, and Halima Al Riyami as new staff holding different positions in marketing, accounts and project departments.

The three new staff are Omani fresh graduates with bachelor’s degree in Accounting and International Business Administration. They were selected after passing the exam and interview successfully. That goes side by side with the Sultanate’s orientation for Omanizing and employing Omanis in public and private sector.

"We posted an advertisement on local newspapers and various social network sites. The response was overwhelming. We received more than 700 applications, the majority of which mentioned that they came to know about the advertisement from social network sites like facebook, Linkedin and Omani Sabla." Said Nasra Al Ghusaini, HR Specialist

"Through the screening process, we have selected 515 applications which fit the requirements advertised, the majority of which were females at 53%. All of which were invited to attend the examination and only 219 showed up. 32 candidates were called to attend the interview and ultimately 4 were hired." Add Al Ghusaini

Umaima Al-Ghadani, one of the new staff appointed as an Investment Analyst, said “I feel that working in Sharakah is really interesting as it encourages people to establish their own business. It is exciting to work with an organization that supports development in the community.”

18/02/2012
Sharakah Participated in the 4th SME Conference & Exhibition

As a means to build awareness and promote Sharakah services. Sharakah participated in the 4th Annual SME Conference & Exhibition that took place in Oman Exhibition Centre from 13 to 15 February. The Conference was inaugurated by HE Sheikh Saad Al Sadi, Minister of Commerce & Industry.

Zuwaina Al-Badai, Investment Analyst at Sharakah, said; “I can see that the number of interested people who came to our booth has increased obviously from the previous years which is an indicator to the people’s interests to establish and own their businesses and so by that, it helps us to meet our objectives. Certainly our services go beyond just financial support, we monitor the progress of each company to ensure it success”.

Sharakah was incorporated in 1998 by a Royal Decree to support the development of Small and Medium Enterprises in Oman. They offer three different schemes for finance as well as administrative support to ensure sustainability of the businesses.