Muscat: As a natural flow and practical step following its recently published empirical research ’The SME Ecosystem in the Sultanate; Seizing Opportunities in Tourism‘, Zubair Small Enterprises Centre (Zubair SEC), in collaboration with Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Muscat, organised a ‘stakeholders engagement roundtable’ at the Bait Al Zubair.
The objective of the roundtable is to engage with various stakeholders from both the public and the private sector in a transparent dialogue over the SME Support Ecosystem Diagram presented in the research report and identify areas for further development and ways for realising a more scalable, sustainable and collective impact.
Key stakeholders, including representatives from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Education, Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Public Authority for SMEs Development (Riyada), Al Raffd Fund, Information Technology Authority, Central Bank of Oman, Oman Development Bank, Public Establishment for Industrial Estates, Sultan Qaboos University, National Business Centre, Petroleum Development Oman, Oman Oil Company, BP Oman,Shell-Intilaqa, Sharakah, Bea’h, Omran, Omani Authority for Partnership for Development, and Omani Women’s Association, Oman Journalists Association, Ajyal Al Mustaqbal-WJ Towell Group, GroFin Oman, Ibtikar Development Oman (IDO), Bank Muscat, Meethaq and Oman Arab Bank, Startup Oman, in addition to a number of SME owners and entrepreneurs attended the stakeholders engagement roundtable.
Martin Luxemburg, director of Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship along with Zubair SEC team facilitated the session.
Qais Mohammed Al Yousif, Board Member, The Public Authority for SMEs Development (Riyada) said: “We are really happy to see that research has been done to actually map out the SME Support Ecosystem in the Sultanate. The initiative is good, and I think there are many players now and what is heartening to see is that in Oman the ecosystem is almost complete. I would say it is in the high 90s - if you see the main pillars or the main categories of SME support as per international standards in Oman we have all the players being very well mapped out. I think today's roundtables' main role is that we see that some tweaks might be necessary based on certain other activities which Riyada is currently doing which probably need to be mapped out in the ecosystem. I hope the benefit of all this exercise is eventually enjoyed by the SMEs and Omani entrepreneurs. The idea is always to support them and to enable them to start their businesses in a very smooth way.”
Taqi Ali Sultan, general manager of Ajyal Al Mustaqbal, WJ Towell Group commented saying: “I think the session was very useful for both the supporters and the receivers. This is the first ever-such meeting undertaken, and we thank Zubair SEC for the initiative. This will be useful for everyone to know where they are standing and how collectively they can cooperate and really provide support to this ecosystem to enhance the productivity in the SME sector and to raise its contribution to the national economy”.
Lina Hussein, head of Communication and Social Impact, Zubair SEC said, “We are happy to have actively engaged with such a distinguished conglomerate of key players in the SME Support Ecosystem in the Sultanate. Zubair SEC has always been keen on establishing dialogue and engaging with its partners and key stakeholders supporting SMEs. We absolutely believe that no initiative or programme can work in a silo; we can only create a scalable significant impact when we work collaboratively with the public and private sector organisations who share the wider objectives in supporting and empowering SMEs. Therefore, this session was vital and it came as a natural flow after we published our recent research about the SME ecosystem in the Sultanate. The session was engaging, constructive, and productive; it provided a more in-depth insight into the roles and ambition of attending stakeholders and how we can work collectively to create a wider more impactful impact. Our next step after collecting all input is to release a newly updated version of the SME Ecosystem Diagram based on this stakeholder engagement session, and our door will remain open for any further feedback in the future, as this is a living document that we would be happy to keep updating as the ecosystem evolves and develops.”
She added, “We are thankful for the representatives of all the organisations and programmes who attended the engagement roundtable and for their valuable enriching input and contribution during the session. We are also proud of our ongoing and continuous collaboration with the Embassy of the Netherlands; all our collaboration projects have been of the highest quality and have created significant impact. We are very thankful for their friendship and corporation.”
From the tourism sector, Badriya Al Siyabi, Social Responsibility Manager, Omran said: “It was an amazing session and the more important part of it was it helped us understand the role of each organisation and to understand the needs of SMEs in each sector. The research report released by Zubair SEC is amazing it and analyses the market well”.
Several SMEs attended the session and engaged in the dialogue. Nasra Yasser Nasser Al Mamari, Founder of Velvet Touch and member of Zubair SEC said: “I was very happy to attend the session; it was great to have all the stakeholders in one place talking about the challenges faced in the SME sector. This gives an idea as to what goes on behind the scenes. It gave both sides an opportunity to voice their views. I believe that support organisations need to understand the expectations of SMEs and that SMEs need to understand the expectation of the supporters. There are many organisations that are supporting SMEs, but many SMEs don't know anything about them. We need to simplify the language to reach out to SMEs to make them understand what support organisations provide. If you want the SMEs to be creative, you have to set the environment to help them through. SMEs face new challenges every day and they need to be equipped with the specific knowledge to face them. SMEs need knowledge in a big way. Don't give me a fish every day; just teach me how to fish.”
While the roundtable held a transparent constructive dialogue between the stakeholders, it also established a high-level understanding of the importance of collective impact, and the importance of public-private collaboration and synchronisation to step up collective impact.
The meeting determined a clear understanding of the SME Support Ecosystem Diagram and the pillars presented in the report. It deliberated on saturation in certain support services and gaps in some services and tools. Participants discussed areas for further development in the support ecosystem and discussed international case studies of advanced/mature support ecosystems.
Finally, the stakeholders identified the most important areas for improvement and how to achieve collaborative action to realise change and discussed the relevant recommendations presented earlier in the published report in this regard.
The SME Support Ecosystem Diagram is made up of three circles. The first circle contains the five main pillars forming the basis of any SME ecosystem infrastructure. The second circle consists of the main categories related to the five main pillars with possible subcategories mentioned in the third circle. The third circle comprises the most active organisations and initiatives under each pillar and those that often serve as a point of entry. Often these organisations are active in more than one area. The positioning of organisations is based on available published information about each initiative or organisation. It is not an all-encompassing overview of the players in the ecosystem, but rather highlights most of the active players in the field. As the ecosystem continuously develops, so does the diagram, offering a starting point for wider dialogue within the ecosystem.
Through such studies, Zubair SEC aims to provide a solid and impactful research work that would contribute to the further development of the SME support ecosystem in general, and enable SMEs to identify and seize business opportunities in the tourism industry in specific.
The roundtable was followed on the next day with a full-day workshop on impact measurement for SME-support initiatives and focusing on social and economic return on investment and other measurement areas.