Interview: Gert Hoefman

How can manufacturing firms in Oman build sustainable growth while managing market volatility?

GERT HOEFMAN: Innovation for the industrial manufacturing sector in Oman is the key for staying competitive. The predominant commodity-based manufacturing industry in Oman is currently in the process of innovating not only through market development, but also by improving their manufacturing technology. The most important driver for modernising production facilities is to be able to keep up with the increasing demand of customers and consumers. More and more, manufacturers in Oman recognise that only through innovation can they maintain their competitive advantage and achieve sustainable growth. Recognising the importance of innovation, The Research Council in cooperation with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and various other organisations have funded the establishment of an Industrial Innovation Centre launched in the Rusayl Industrial area.

As global manufacturing firms look to strengthen their operations through deeper partnership, what can be done to improve trade for Omani firms?

HOEFMAN: Along with Omani companies finding their way abroad, foreign businesses are recognising the potential of Oman and its strategic location. The potential of the important (future) infrastructure of Oman appears to be the most convincing argument for global partners to team up with Omani companies. The growth of the industrial sector is strengthened by a network of industrial estates, parks and freezones created by the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates. The sultanate’s stable government, transparent corporate governance and protection for investors all work to support the local manufacturing industry.

What is being done to optimise performance and cost in supply chains to promote competition?

HOEFMAN: More and more companies in Oman are realising that the creation of a separate logistics function in an industrial company is a key step for simultaneously optimising costs and improving the service level toward customers. Government projects are also supporting our industry in this respect. New roads, a new airport in Muscat, Sohar and Duqm ports, as well as construction of a regional railway network all serve to increase the efficiency of supply chains.

What are manufacturing and industrial firms in Oman doing to keep up with technology and meet the growing demands of their customers?

HOEFMAN: Throughout the industrial sector, investment levels are growing in order to meet customer demands. Most of the industrial companies in Oman are increasing their capacity by investing in modern production technology. The increasing scale of production has caused greater efficiency gains, which in turn have given the industry leverage to remain competitive with international companies. The development of local resources, as part of the drive for ‘Omanisation’, is also vital, and efforts to train employees are being synchronised with technical universities and colleges.

With increased competition in the region, what competitive advantages can Oman offer investors looking to enter the manufacturing industry?

HOEFMAN: International competition is felt in all sectors of the manufacturing industry. Oman’s high score on the international ranking of economic freedom demonstrates its limited bureaucracy and liberal economy, both of which are appealing for investors. Moreover, the long coastline with new ports and the proposed new industry development regions with harbour and air support (Sohar, Duqm and Salalah) provides access to many markets previously not very accessible. The Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development is vital to connect Omani businesses to international partners and markets. The sound manufacturing base in the country is a perfect starting point for a competitive manufacturing industry.