As the dusk was setting in next to the runway of the Muscat International Airport, a training centre was lit up with a packed auditorium on a weekday evening to inform and network on Fund Raising:’Funding Your Business’ . Knowledge Oman, the catalytic community platform founded by youth pioneer Mr. Tariq Al Barwani has led this entrepreneurial learning series. This seminar was third in a winning row this year . A vital bottleneck which cripples the wings of a to be start up founder. Some complimentary coffee from Gloria Jeans with finger food, helped to ‘fuel’ the evening.
Entrepreneurial energies can be a fuel for national development as Oman is moving rapidly towards a knowledge based future. A post oil future is possible by unleashing the human potential of the youth by actualisation of ideas. In Oman’s nascent start up ecosystem, access to funding SME’s is the boost which ideas need to scale from a business plan to the retail store.
The first speaker on the hyper talented panel was Mr. Ali Al Lawati of Bank Muscat who shed light on the financing challenges of entrepreneurs and the value of SME’s in the country’s economy. The definition of MSME’s was informative as 90% of The companies in Oman is the MSME’s. He also gave details on a mini MBA which Bank Muscat offers to its loan recipients to better skill up the MSME founders including a YouTube channel. The speaker peppered his presentation with humour, thinking on his feet which is the trait of an experienced public speaker.
The second speaker of the evening was Madam Ameera Al Zadjali from the Raffd Fund which is a government institution established by Royal Decree to support non traditional projects in the SME sector. The fund is designed to meet the needs of the entrepreneur. It is a meta fund comprising of three funds one of which is Sanad, which is very popular. Madam delivered a data rich presentation and responded to the Q&A with the panache of a professional, with numbers at her fingertips.
The third speaker of the evening was Mr. Rajesh Ghosh of shared the perspective of a different stakeholder in the community: an entrepreneurial SME incubator; SME Development Fund. He shared his views regarding facilitating SME entrepreneurship. He indicated that SME’s falter in keeping monthly accounts. The SME Development Fund tries to bridge this gap at an affordable rate. He spoke about the concept of an ‘entrepreneur’. This was certainly a refreshing take away from the myth of entrepreneurship, and focus on the choke points.
Post the keynote speeches, there was a practitioner round table with five Omani entrepreneurs, three of them women. Dynamism was on full glory with a up market restaurant owner, a chocolatier, a salon owner, a water sports firm and a cafe boss.
The keynote panel was an eclectic blend of a private sector bank, a government fund and an entrepreneurial SME accelerator. This diversity of ideas to drive the ecosystem augers well for the SME’s. This is amiss in many countries. Oman is on a sound footing for the future, such evenings of learning are indicative of the entrepreneurial impulse.