Survival as Innovation

Walking around the souks in Muscat, Nizwa, Sur or Salalah one normally comes across small and medium enterprises everywhere. The heart of the Omani economy is the small businessperson who meets quotidian concerns in the economy. In the backstreets of Ruwi, on Honda Road in Muscat is an example of the eclectic character of the traditional SME space in Oman. The computer retail and repair shop rubs shoulders with an engineering consultancy to an ethnic South Indian eatery.


All over Oman, the dominant category of business is one which does not have much bandwidth as the focus on the everyday makes the case for innovation hard in the western epistemic sense of the term, however everyday as a site of negotiation to survive is also innovation, the Omani way. How innovation is framed in the Omani SME context needs to be anchored in the local history and culture. SMEs in Oman are family owned and multigenerational hence innovation in the conventional sense might seem problematic. Hence innovation needs to be communicated as resilience for the SME rather than a fancy jargon.


SMEs in various parts of Oman have a variegated spectrum of anchor industries to service from Oil & Gas to the restaurant sector. SMEs are not a monolith and innovative interventions would need to map as per outcomes desired. The fragmented nature of the SME also needs innovation to realize economies of scale with each SME plugging in a specific node in the value chain, including retaining In Country Value as a part of localization requirements. The economies of scale through the innovation glue will factor in the pace and the cultural instincts of the SME community in Oman which is of glacial place but of solidity.

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