The lessons of 2019 will guide the way forward
December 26, 2019 | 3:38 PM
by Gautam Viswanathan

As we come to the end of yet another year, many of us look forward to what the New Year brings, and review the lessons we have learned from our experiences this time around.Looking back at 2019, T Weekly decided to speak to local and expat business persons, educators and community welfare volunteers to ask them about their standout moments of 2019, the lessons they learned, and what they are looking forward to in 2020.

Stay focused on your plans, do not let people distract you

Looking back on 2019, what have been the best moments for you professionally and personally?

Professionally, 2019 was a year of new projects, new responsibilities for which I was very grateful. Beyond my normal duties, I was privileged to be accepted by Sultan Qaboos University to do my Masters in Electronic instrumentation and Control.

Moreover Atoms Lab has been recognized as a local private entity for several products such as Ultimaker, Raise3D, 3Dpotter, 3Doodler and our full spectrum laser. Earlier, me and my partner, Bassl Koukash worked, in this company and now we are recruiting fresh graduates from different engineering majors.

What plans do you have for 2020?

I would like to expand the scope of the company by starting to supply Atoms Lab products globally and participate in improving the Omani economy.

Upon reflecting on the past year, what lessons have you learned that you would wish to share with others?

When it comes to people-related decisions, I realise that you must differentiate between your professional and personal relationships with them, when you evaluate any people-related decisions. In addition, when you undertake any business opportunity, please undertake multiple assessments of this opportunity before you commit to it. Also, always focus on your plans until the very end, and evaluate them periodically. — Yumna Al Sharji, founder, Atoms Labs Oman

Learn from the lessons of this year so the next is better

Looking back on 2019, what have been the best moments for you professionally and personally?

We had two major achievements: we will soon complete 700 cat TNR (trap, neuter, release) operations in Oman. We have tied up with up with Our Planet International School, secondly, so the students there will assist with our TNR activities. We will be assisted by two Omani students – who are already doing TNR, they started this as a project – and we will be spreading awareness on the importance of animal welfare in the school.

The culture of animal welfare has to be inculcated in students at a very young age, and we hope that many Omani students will benefit from the practices we teach them. This is a good development, and is a first step towards awareness in schools. Let us hope this catches on in other schools as well. Our base in Sohar has also reached 75 TNR operations since we set up activities two, two and a half years ago. I think we are the only animal welfare group to have a presence outside Muscat.

What plans do you have for 2020?

For 2020, we will want to get into schools to set up more awareness programmes and tell them about the importance of cat TNR. The issue of stray cats breeding is now a major concern, so this cat population needs to be controlled.

On 31 December, we will complete four years of operations. I want to have a quiet New Year’s Eve, because the next day is a working day! I think it is important to analyse your failures, as compared to toasting your successes, because then you can learn from them and deploy these lessons next year.

Upon reflecting on the past year, what lessons have you learned that you would wish to share with others?

I would like to ask the citizens and the foreign expats in Oman to help us in spreading awareness on animal welfare, and join us in doing so. This is the main thing. We would like to encourage more participation from people in the next year.

— Jaison Mathai, founder, Tiger by the Tails (TBTT)

Life is too short to spend being unhappy

Looking back on 2019, what have been the best moments for you professionally and personally?

2019 has been a productive year for me, professionally and personally. Within Indian Schools, the Board has been able to achieve a record number of new initiatives this year aiming for holistic education, including ISO-VLE, tele-tutoring, STAI (Science Technology and Innovation), the Indian Schools Quiz, Avenir 2019, the Indian School Talent Fest, Indian School Film Fest, CBSE training for faculty and the entrepreneurship club.

It was also incredibly satisfying to know that the 24-7-365 tele-counselling service launched last year has completed one year has, in this duration, addressed more than 300 calls made an impact. If I had to select the best moments of 2019, it would be the 2019 results, where our Indian School students bagged the best ever results in the history of Indian schools in Oman and in the region. The opening of latest Indian school, Indian School Boushar – a flagship model for child-centric holistic education too was an amazing moment.

Professionally, despite the adverse market scenario prevalent in Oman, both Trifoil Advertising amd Publishing SAOC and InterTech LLC were able to achieve sustained growth and has also grown in their scope & reach. We have had a great year for new partnerships and associations, especially in terms of outreach within Oman.

The year was also good for Anjappam, a social enterprise that I am part of. Anjappam entered into its 3rd year, serving food to more than 300,000 people, most of it free of cost. Most of all, I believe the year 2019 has been a truly transformative year for me personally. I had a chance to further my education and skills. The year has bestowed many challenges and, along with it, opportunities too to overcome each of these challenges in ways that has enabled my growth as a person.

What plans do you have for 2020?

My immediate plans for the beginning of 2020, is to complete all the commitments of the board for the current term. Once that is done, I look forward to what the New Year and the new decade brings. There are already a couple of projects that I am working on, which I hope to take forward next year. I am really excited about a new social enterprise under works, with its core focus being ICT.

Usually, my way of marking the passing of year would be quiet contemplation at home. This year I hope to ring in the new dawn amidst nature, participating in a group yoga session.

Upon reflecting on the past year, what lessons have you learned that you would wish to share with others?

Over the last few years, especially this past year, I have come to understand how fleeting life really is. Life is just too short and precious to be spent on unhappy, unproductive thoughts. The best way to ease our own dissatisfaction with our circumstances is to try change ourselves. Another solution, perhaps an easier one, is to go out of our normal routine to extend help to someone in need; even the smallest acts of kindness turns out to be quite uplifting for both the recipient and ourselves. — Dr Baby Sam Saamuel, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Indian Schools in the Sultanate of Oman

New opportunities in 2019 will carry on into next year

Looking back on 2019, what have been the best moments for you?

It has to be the sale of Topaz. Proceeds from the sale have been used to de-leverage the company and to strengthen the balance sheet. Post capital structuring at the extraordinary general meeting, the company will have retained profit that allows us to return to regular dividend payments to reward our shareholders.

What plans do you have for 2020?

These difficult economic times are exactly where Renaissance hits its sweet spot. Government and large corporates need to focus on their core functions and reduce capex (capital expenditure) and opex (operational expenditure). As Renaissance, we aim to deliver end to end solutions as Oman’s leading integrated facility management company along with its blue-chip co-investors ready to participate in substantial capex requirements.

The recent government initiative to facilitate PPP (public private partnerships) offers new opportunity on top of the company’s ongoing track record of success with Duqm, and services to many sectors including oil and gas, healthcare, defence, ports and logistics, industry, education and others.

We are at over 85 percent occupancy in Renaissance Village Duqm and we have already announced a $50 million investment in Phase 1 extension, supported by all shareholders. This first phase of expansion shall add up to 6,200 beds on top of current capacity of some 18,600 beds.

Upon reflecting on the past year, what lessons have you learned that you would wish to share with others?

Our ability to prove to our banks and other stakeholders and investors our viability and capabilities – let us take for example, Duqm – the investors that joined us were the Royal Court, Bank Muscat, the Ministry of Defence Pension Fund, and Al Seeb Development & Investment LLC – they see that when Renaissance takes on a project, it delivers end-to-end services, on time, in cost at the right level of quality.

We need to leverage far more on our experience and history in the IFM space and replicate those experiences throughout Oman. We have the best Facilities management solutions and have proved it with our contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan for the United Nations, in many sensitive zones, for PDO in Marmul, Qarn Al Alam, and Bahja amongst others; now in Duqm as an enabler for the government’s ambitions.

Deep pools of capital are now joining us – the lessons are safety, belief, staying the course and executing with integrity in all we say and do. We have been constrained in our ability to pay dividends throughout the economic downturn, and our shareholders have remained patient and supportive during this period. With today’s capital restructure, a strong balance sheet and healthy cash flows, we are able to fund growth projects and return to regular dividend payments starting with this financial year 2019. — Samir J. Fancy, Chairman, Renaissance Group Ltd.

Causes succeed when people work together

Looking back on 2019, what have been the best moments for you professionally and personally?

2019 has been a significant year for me, both personally and also for Indian School Muscat Alumni (ISMA). On a personal note, I got married this year and it has been a wonderful new change in my life. I have been upgraded to the status of a married man and the journey has been nothing less than amazing.

With regard to ISMA, this has been a very productive year for us. We awarded scholarships to 50 students from low-income families and have connected with a large section of our alumni worldwide through our various media platforms. Our goal of bringing alumni together for a special cause, has garnered a lot of interest from the alumni community and we hope to continue this scholarship program for the years to come.

What plans do you have for 2020?

2020 is going to be special for ISMA as we formally kick off the mentorship programme for the students of ISM. We have over 40,000 alumni across the world in various stages of their professional lives. The students have a vast network of alumni to help them in their career and academic goals. We have developed a dynamic database where alumni sign up and add all their professional and educational background, and this database is very helpful in identifying alumni by geographical location, career and professional backgrounds.

Students will now be able to find alumni across the world and reach out to them with their professional and career questions. The alumni of ISM are in a unique position to help out our current students as they have also gone through a similar educational experience at ISM and also understand the pulse of the school and the students.

This will be the first New Year for my wife in Oman, so we plan to go out somewhere nice for dinner and ring in the New Year with a lot of joy and smiles. ISMA launches its new year with the Charity Football Tournament on January 24th. We have six teams playing this tournament, with two teams from ISM and four teams from ISMA.

This will be a great opportunity for students and alumni to interact and take part in a fun yet competitive series of football games. Just like our previous events, all the proceeds from this tournament will go towards our scholarship programme for students of low-income families.

Upon reflecting on the past year, what lessons have you learned that you would wish to share with others?

One of the personal skills I have developed after taking over the leadership of the alumni association is realizing that any event or tournament or cause can only work when people come together. All our tournaments have been extremely successful because alumni have come together to support and give back to their school community.

Teamwork and working diligently towards a noble cause will always result in success. Another important lesson I have learned is to listen to everyone and understand their point of view. Our Alumni network spans professionals from various fields and backgrounds, and all their collective inputs significantly help in making our Alumni network the best of its kind.— Mukund Manohar, President, Indian School Muscat Alumni (ISMA) association

Never panic when you’re faced with a tough situation

Looking back on 2019, what have been the best moments for you professionally and personally?

2019 was a productive year, because in terms of academic achievements, we made a lot of progress. We got our PhD programme approved by the university and the ministry, and from September 2020, we are going to offer this programme to prospective students. This is the first PhD programme for our college, and we have already received many applications for this.

That this has received approval is very good, because it was stagnant when I decided to take it on and get the green signal for it. We have also begun streamlining our coursework and the way our department functions. A lot of our processes have undergone automation, and there is now a routine procedure for everyone to follow.

We have cut down a lot of meetings that were eating into the time of people. Productivity has started moving up, so this means we can give more to the students. We have also arranged for industry collaboration with organisations, such as KPMG, and the homeland security department of the Netherlands. A delegation of their came very recently. We also have representatives from Georgetown in the US, to take our collaboration further.

We have done quite a bit in professional circles, but our plans for 2020 will be based on the outcomes of all of these plans. I am very proud of all we have done

What plans do you have for 2020?

I would like to thank god for all of his blessings, and it is my intention to give back to the community. We will have an interfaith charitable organisation that will come to an understanding and provide assistance to orphans, to the sick, to the elderly, we can organise sports activities that can help raise funds for them. For the future years, we have begun new assessments that will favour outcome-based learning. We had in the past employed learning models that were instructor-based, but our new models will be more student-friendly.

We are moving towards internationalisation, because we believe more international students coming here is extremely important. If more international students come here, it will benefit the local students because there will be increased competition and better ways of learning to study. It will also encourage local students to interact with foreign ones.

Upon reflecting on the past year, what lessons have you learned that you would wish to share with others?

A very good lesson I have learned is that whenever you are up against a tough situation, don’t overreact. Time is the best decider, and it will see you through. Just keep calm, because that is when you realise how your knowledge can help overcome this obstacle. Your skillset has imparted you a lot of wisdom. There is no harm in asking for help, either, if you do not know the answer yourself. Sometimes, a second opinion is better, because that person may provide you a fresh or more in-depth perspective. You must, however, never overreact. — Dr Saqib Ali, Head of the Department of Information Systems, College of Economics and Political Science, Sultan Qaboos University

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