Call for greater Omanisation of retail sector
September 23, 2017 | 9:12 PM
by Gautam Viswanathan, [email protected]
About 38,363 Omanis work in retail, a fraction compared to the 244,924 expatriates, according to data from the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI). Photo-Shutterstock

Muscat: A leading figure in Oman’s retail industry says more needs to be done to recruit larger numbers of locals and boost Omanisation in this sector.

Maimunah Shebani, managing director of The Retail Agency Oman, which specialises in providing residents with the skills required to work in shopping centres and retail outlets, says there is a negative mind-set among young Omanis when it comes to working in the retail sector.

Contributions from the wholesale and retail sectors accounted for OMR535.9 million, or eight per cent of the Sultanate’s GDP of OMR6.438 billion, but only 13.5 per cent of all employees in these areas are Omanis.

About 38,363 Omanis work in retail, a fraction compared to the 244,924 expatriates, according to data from the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI).

“Most Omanis, unfortunately, look at retail as a temporary or transitory job that they do until something better comes along,” she said, speaking to Times of Oman. “Most jobs being offered to Omanis are low-level jobs, such as cashiers or salespeople, because companies also believe that there are not enough skilled Omanis for higher-level jobs in management, so locals don’t seem to develop interest in these positions.

“Many Omanis want to work either in banking or in the oil and gas sectors,” she added. “However, they need to have the patience to start at a certain level and then rise in their profession. If they have the right people skills, there are plenty of opportunities available for them in the retail sector.”

With Oman currently expanding its retail spaces as it looks to diversify its economy through the Tanfeedh directives, shopping centre space is set to increase by 63 per cent in 2020, creating 54,000 full-time jobs.

“There needs to be more awareness among young Omanis regarding the opportunities in this sector because, currently, there seems to be a lack of understanding about the possibilities in retail,” said Shebani. “The retail industry in Oman is not given enough importance, and that is why people do not know much about it or look at it as a last resort.

“Jobs for Omanis in retail could be spread across vital roles in security, property management, leasing, marketing, loss prevention, visual merchandising, pop-up markets, logistics and coordination,” she added.

“Addressing the current issues of high unemployment among Omani youth, training in the retail and logistics industry would be the right step for the Omani government,” she said.

Ramanuj Venkatesh, assistant accounts manager at Larsen and Toubro, shed some light on the country’s Omanisation plans in the retail sector.

“A targeted Omanisation of 45 per cent, with the main aim of providing 11,000 jobs in the retail sector in 2015, was planned,”

he said.

“That number has now jumped to 60 per cent. Working in the retail sector has its challenges considering the large turnover of inventory and the demanding long hours of work to serve loyal customers.”

This would create resistance among young Omani youth who have less experience and would definitely aspire to have a good work-life balance,” said Venkatesh. “Retail companies should come forward to approach local universities and conduct job fairs and face-to-face interactions with young and budding individuals.”

Alkesh Joshi is a partner at the financial firm EY. He agreed with what Shebani had to say.

“There doesn’t seem to be enough understanding of what the retail sector in Oman requires from those who work in it,” he said. “The only reluctance that would prevent people from working in this field would stem from there, because Omanis are quite keen to work and advance themselves in their careers.

“Once we know what is required of jobs in the retail sector, and the skills that would be vital here, the government can then look into starting or bringing in programmes for vocational training and soft skills that would be of use in this sector,” he added.

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