Young entrepreneurs need to think differently. Simply copying what’s been done for the past decade will no longer yield the desired results, especially as times change and the world progresses, says Ali Mohammed Awadh Al Ajmi, vice chairman, Oriental Group of Companies
Your roles and responsibilities in the company?
I am currently the vice chairman of the group where I took on this position in the year 2008, right after the successful restructuring of the companies.
My current role has developed and emerged into one of a more administrative and managerial position. Not so long ago, I was looking after the company’s five production units in addition to the maintenance department to ensure optimisation and efficiency levels remained high. Despite our growth and the fact that we have among the most skilled and qualified professionals, I still supervise the production chain ensuring we are constantly adhering to guidelines and procedures.
Is there an induction process to bring the next generation of family members into the business?
Since I am the second generation in the family to take up Oriental’s responsibilities, we are currently putting together an induction process should the third, fourth and maybe fifth generation of family members assume the future responsibilities of the group. Of course, we have a strict pre-requisite for education prior to taking control of any type of business in our family. My father encouraged my degree in engineering and just like him, I will continue to promote the importance of education and encourage an involved exposure to the business from an early age.
As an entrepreneur, what are the challenges that you face in running the business?
Just like every fellow business owner can tell you, current market conditions are not as fruitful as we anticipated them to be. In addition, we have been facing many administrative challenges with regards to labour laws and regulations.
One of the biggest impediments to businesses’ operating profitably in Oman is the constant change in the labour law. The restrictions imposed on companies are unrealistic. The blanket approach and ‘one size fits all’ concept clearly hasn’t been working. I hope that the government looks into expanding into different sectors such as travel and tourism. As the jewel of Arabia, Oman can really benefit from opening up to the world and encouraging tourists to visit and spend in the country. This in turn will attract investors and once that happens, there will be lots of jobs created and an increase in employment levels.
What prospects do you foresee for the company in the next three to five years?
I have a very optimistic outlook for the group in the next couple of years. We have solid plans in place for expansion. We will continue to introduce a new product every three years and are extremely excited to introduce our latest addition to the group. We are currently finalising the set-up of our first dry-mortar factory with a large-scale output that we
will announce soon and hope to have it up and running by April this year.
Your advice to young Omani entrepreneurs, who are keen to set up business?
I am an avid supporter of exploring new horizons and tapping into opportunities, however I believe that young entrepreneurs really need to think differently. A sound business opportunity is one that is carefully thought through and not copied from somewhere. Furthermore, the world is progressing and standard business concepts are changing, with a craze towards social platforms. There is a paradigm shift to the private sector and the government is in support of privatisation. I see a lot of young Omani business owners that are carving their own paths with smart business concepts. An immensely important piece of advice my father gave me a long time ago was being patient. When running your own business, patience should be your best friend.