Oman's luxury date brand eyes a bigger share in export markets
July 27, 2015 | 7:07 PM
Shatha (right) and Wafa Al Jabri, co-founders of Meshan. — Picture by Jun Estrada/Times of Oman

Muscat: Reviving tradition and embracing modernity is the motto of Oman’s first luxury date brand, which has its eyes set on the international market with the aim of contributing to the Sultanate’s non-oil sector.

Meshan Dates and Sweets was the brainchild of two sisters, Shatha and Wafa Al Jabri. Their love for Oman’s treasured fruit gave birth to a unique range of refined dates and date sweets in their mother’s kitchen.

“The idea was to introduce dates differently to the market in different shapes and flavours,” said Shatha and Wafa, co-founders of Meshan, who decided in 2011 to do justice to Omani dates.

Presentable manner

They both felt that Omani dates, which have great traditional and health values, had not been introduced to the market in a ‘presentable’ manner so they came up with an initiative to serve local customers as well as visitors looking for an exquisite souvenir. “To show their hospitality, people now either offer halwa, which is high in sugar content, or chocolate, which does not come from the culture,” said Wafa, and added that their refined date products have earned the admiration of numerous customers.

Luxury dates

“We came up with the idea of luxury dates because we did not have any such local product in the market. What is in the market is not from Oman and comes from surrounding countries. So Meshan is the first Omani luxury date brand in the Sultanate,” she told the Times of Oman.

They started operating from their father’s house and when they saw business picking up, they moved to a workshop outside. Again after the increase in the number of customers, they moved to a bigger workshop where operations and business are currently taking place. Shatha says that some customers even made suggestions about flavours and they infused those into their products.

Meshan meaning

They also put serious thought into choosing a name for the company and came up with ‘Meshan’ in line with their efforts to cherish Omani traditions and keep them alive.

“Meshan is a basket made by sticks from palm trees in the shape of a cylinder. In the past, people were putting fruits or fresh dates inside it and presented it as a gift,” explained Shatha.

According to Wafa, Meshan was used to keep fruits or dates fresh for a longer time as the holes inside it allowed air to circulate.

“This is what we want to present our products and brand with. It is a luxury and still a traditional way of presenting dates,” she said, and added that they have put Meshan in their shop and present it to customers. “Many people have forgotten what Meshan is, so it is a chance to revive the heritage and introduce the concept again to the new generation,” said Wafa, describing the chosen name as an opportunity to interact with customers as well.


Asked about the challenges facing them at the start of the business, Shatha said that one of the main issues was the uncertainty about a customer’s response to the new way of introducing dates both in terms of shape and flavour.

“However, we saw that day by day, more customers accepted it and liked it,” she added.

The other challenge that they faced was related to registering their company, a process which they think should be facilitated further to support small businesses.


Commenting on the financial requirements to start their business, they said that they began their operations without asking for loans as it was on a small scale but later secured funds from other institutions that support start-ups for commercial expansion.

“We are really lucky to have institutions in Oman, both public and private, which fund SMEs,” said Wafa said.

Meshan has also been honoured by several institutes and have won awards including Zubair Small Enterprises Centre (Zubair SEC) Direct Support Programme and Riyada (Public Authority for SME Development) Award.

In addition, they received funds from Al Raffd Fund and have earned the support of other entities such as the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries which supports businesses in the field of agriculture and helps them participate at trade shows.

Ithraa’s support

They are also being supported by the Pubic Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development (Ithraa) and are showcasing their products and services to customers inside and outside the Sultanate with their help.

Shatha has a diploma in banking, is HACCP certified and a graduate from a recognised hospitality level sweets and chocolates programme, while Wafa is an MBA graduate with IT roots.

Academic background

Their academic background has benefitted their business a lot and has complemented the skills and expertise of their two other sisters who are also a part of Meshan’s family.

Ahed is formally trained in hospitality management and Waad has a diploma in banking and is also a graduate of hospitality management. They believe that the institutions supporting them have also played an important role in teaching the necessary skills to run a start-up, including finance, management and marketing skills.

In addition, they attend related workshops to sharpen their skills.

Specialised exhibitions

Shatha and Wafa are seeking to reach out to more customers inside Oman and abroad through participation in exhibitions, and their main focus is on specialised exhibitions.

They have showcased their products outside Oman on some occasions. For instance, with the help of Ithraa they could promote their products in Qatar and Singapore and plan to attend more specialised exhibitions where they can promote themselves, evaluate the market and benefit from the exhibition themselves.

The sisters think that more specialised exhibits should be held in Oman and SMEs should be supported to be able to attend them.

In the past, small and medium businesses were provided a free stand but now they are being charged as the exhibitions are being handled and organised by certain companies, they said.


Shatha and Wafa said that marketing is another challenge for entrepreneurs as they do not have enough funds to publish advertisements in newspapers or other media. They are trying to use the social media to reach to a wider audience and are planning to publish some advertisements in specialised magazines read by their target customers.

Another issue facing them is the fact that some people still prefer foreign products to local ones because of the stereotypes that exist.

Omani products are of high quality, said Wafa, encouraging the community to support local brands.

“The community should be more aware and educated,” she said, added that the efforts of people who give up their jobs to start their own business should be appreciated.

Meshan, whose clients include a number of companies, restaurants and government entities such as Oman Air and the Royal Office, is currently offering its dates, sweets and Omani kahwa at its newly opened cafe in Al Masa Mall.

Job creation

They are seeking to create more job opportunities for Omanis directly and indirectly and plan to not only open more branches in Oman but also to enter the international market by exporting their products to other countries.

However, in order to export their products, they require the support of the government and specialised institutions to be prepared to deal with issues related to legislation, marketing and identifying the target markets.


Wafa said that most of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have issues with packaging and thinks that there is a lack of packaging specialists in Oman.

“First you have to come up with your own design and then you will find it difficult to find somebody who can put that idea to work,” she said. “However, we should not consider it an obstacle and need to find a solution to overcome it,” she said. Some SMEs that are focussed on packaging can complement other businesses and fill the gap, she added.

Wafa also believes that more incubation centres are required as an increase in the number of such centres would foster creativity and create competition between the incubators themselves and would encourage them to enhance the quality of their services.

Also, the reasons for the failure of start-ups should be identified, which may include lack of necessary knowledge and skills, lack of financial support or lack of dedication, Wafa noted. “SMEs also need the right regulations to protect themselves,” she added.


In addition, Shatha said that those entrepreneurs who fail in their first attempts should not get discouraged and should not consider it the end of their business career.

They have to focus on their skills and passion and try their best, she said, and added that direct involvement of the person in the details of running the business will increase its chance of survival.

Successful entrepreneurs should also be promoted through different means to inspire others, said Wafa and Shatha.

Importance of SMEs

Commenting on the importance of SMEs, they said that the time is ripe for more focus on these businesses as the country needs to diversify its economy in the face of lower oil prices.

“The contribution of the non-oil sector is increasing and now we can realise the importance of SMEs,” said Wafa, and added that increased diversity in the SME sector will translate into stronger contribution to the economy and job creation.

For further information about Meshan, you may visit

This article is part of a monthly series focussing on Oman’s non-oil products and services, prepared in co-operation with the Pubic Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development (Ithraa).

To get in touch with the reporter [email protected]

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