The Business Year

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Michael E Hansen

CEO, Al Khonji Holding Group

Aaditya Khimji

Managing Director, R&N Khimji

With greater privatization planned for Omani's economy, these family groups are ready for the change PPPs and SMEs will bring to the logistics sector.

What is your assessment of the current logistics sector in Oman?
MICHAEL E HANSEN Because of its location, Oman is well-placed to be the main logistics entry port of the GCC and Indian Ocean-rimmed countries. The first challenge is improved competition from established players such as Dubai and Saudi Arabia; the winners will be those countries that enable people to do business in the region the fastest to reach their markets. Accordingly, barriers that hinder products or services from reaching end customers must be removed. Oman is a top pick because of its stability and solid relationships with its neighbors, a real advantage if one wants to do business in the GCC. The second challenge is to aggressively market to and educate foreign investors that Oman is the best place to do business in the region because we have young and educated talent and an improving ease of doing business.

What was the driver behind your decision to enter the drone technology segment, and how do you plan on building your group’s strategy around it?
AADITYA KHIMJI We have a unique opportunity today as we have partnered with Aaronia to provide a disruptive technology that solves a relatively new issue in drones. The solution they offer, however, provides more than just drone monitoring, as it is able to monitor the complete RF spectrum in real time. We are now working with several companies around the world that offer complementary solutions to integrate with the Aaronia ecosystem. My current focus is on bridging technologies that have synergies and integrating solutions for end users’ needs. Today, major system integrators focus on acquiring technology from smaller players once the technology has gained some traction and is mission tested. As such, our future focus will be on building a consortium of technologies that can compete in the global market and allow us to build our capabilities in system integration. We are still in the early days of the industry, and there will be an enhanced need for monitoring and regulation as the use and capabilities of drones are developed. DHL, Amazon, and other major players are investing in developing the technology to incorporate drones into their operations, which will exponentially multiply the number of drones in the air at any given time.

How ready is the private sector to engage as the main engine of economic growth in Oman?
MEH Oman is witnessing a process of involving and encouraging the private sector to do business in partnership with the Omani government through PPPs. So far, the government is the owner of strategic assets like ports and airports. Through these partnerships, both entities leverage value from one another by keeping them aligned to do business efficiently together. There is probably more to be done, and the nature and type of business is always changing. We have significant changes happening in the region, such as China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, and the emergence of a large hub in Pakistan at the Port of Gwadar. We are able to do more with the young people we have, but there will always be competition. Oman needs to lead, though at the moment it is just getting up to speed and needs to accelerate.

AK As a company, we believe it is the responsibility of established private enterprise to support young Omani entrepreneurs and companies to achieve sustainable growth. We recently signed an agreement with an Omani SME, Green Universe Enterprise, to develop its business in renewable energies. The current global crisis has had major impact across the board, including a positive impact on the environment from reduced greenhouse gas emissions standpoint. As we come out of this crisis, we must innovate and accept technology that can allow for a more sustainable tomorrow. We are a nation in transition, and, as other countries in the region seek methods of diversification, it is important for the Sultanate to define its goals moving forward. We must, however, be ready for and accepting of change as traditional business models have lost their place in the global marketplace. We have the opportunity; now, it is up to us to put in the effort and find our niche in our respective fields.



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