Riyada plays the lead role in developing SMEs in Oman through their different programmes and coordinates with different ministries, corporates and other agencies to promote SMEs.
Khalifa Al Abri
CEO, Riyada – The Public Authority for SMEs Development
With regard to SMEs, Riyada established a fully operating service centre in 2013 providing consultation and advisory services to Omani SMEs in its headquarters in Ghala/Muscat. More Service Center locations have become operational in Salalah, Sur, and Sohar. These service centers are providing various services such as feasibility studies and the ‘Entrepreneur Card’ to benefit from government tenders. Riyada has also established a one-stop-shop accommodating services of the Ministry of Manpower, Public Authority for Social Insurance (PASI) and Public Authority for Manpower Registry (PAMR) to ease processing SME related service procedures. Riyada also helps SMEs to showcase their products by organising SME trade exhibitions like in the recently organised SME EXPO at the Oman International Exhibition Center that lasted five days and accomodated 140 SMEs.
For the Omani youth, a state-of-the-art incubator was completed in the headquarters stretching over two floors in the main building. The first batch of Omani entrepreneurs has already moved in and is operational. Riyada has also developed an Entrepreneur Award Programme where most successful Omani entrepreneurs are identified in a competitive selection process to present role models for Omani youth. Furthermore, Riyada has established a mentorship programme based on Prince’s Trust Mentorship scheme from the UK to help entrepreneurs to excel in their endeavor.
To improve the state of affairs, various projects have been initiated and implemented as part of Saih al Shamekhat Symposium decisions. Riyada has involved numerous stakeholders to implement initiatives of different scope to improve the ecosystem and help SMEs grow. For instance, along with the Ministry of Civil Service and the Ministry of Finance, Riyada ensured ‘Financial Security’ for government employees so that they could pursue entrepreneurship by allowing them to establish and run their business while continuing to receive their salary for one year. Riyada and the Central Bank of Oman have increased credit facilities to SMEs by allocating 5 per cent of commercial loans to overcome the lack of financing in the SME sector. Riyada has also been collaborating with the Tender Board to allocate at least 10 percent of government tenders to SMEs. Furthermore, Riyada is working with the Public Authority for Radio and Television to promote the Culture of Entrepreneurship, the Ministry of Finance for accelerated payments to SMEs, the Al Raffd Fund to provide loans to Omani entrepreneurs, and the Ministry of Education for advance entrepreneurial curriculum in our schools. Last but not least, Riyada has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), the Zubair Small Enterprise Center, and several Media and Press Agencies to help us create awareness for entrepreneurship in the public and promote the SME sector. There are many more multi-agent and cross-institutional projects that are ongoing or in the pipeline. However, they are beyond the scope of this brief article to be outlined in detail.
At the micro level, Riyada has recently completed its Corporate 2020 strategy. Riyada will be focusing on the improvement of the regulatory environment by policy propositions, be a key information provider to the SME ecosystem, streamline and coordinate SME related efforts and continue to drive entrepreneurial culture through media, exhibition and awards. Riyada is currently advancing its services on its online portal and expending its presence across social media and real-world SME ecosystem. Furthermore, Riyada will be adopting a life-cycle approach to SME development. In this context, it is planning to provide in the mid-and long term more customized services to medium size enterprises to help increase their productivity and employ more Omanis. Future services that are currently in development are the establishment of an Entrepreneur Assessment Tool and a SME Evaluation and Scoring system to identify the entrepreneurs and SMEs’ strengths and weaknesses so Riyada can help them more effectively. Finally, Riyada is in talks with several regional and overseas stakeholders to bring best practices in SME development to Oman.