Muscat Movers

While Oman may not get the attention lavished on some of other high-profile GCC states such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the Sultanate is starting to stir and major vendors are beginning to sit up and take note.

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  July 1, 2006

KOM calling|~|muscathp200.jpg|~|Joseph Hanania, managing director at HP Middle East|~|What started out as a trickle has turned into a regular flow. Every few weeks one more major vendor announces that it has set up an office in Oman to capitalise on the growing demand for IT solutions in the Sultanate and to get to closer to in-country channel partners. With the market for technology solutions continuing to grow at a rapid pace across the Middle East, one of the toughest decisions faced by companies working in this sector is where to allocate their resources in order to maximise returns. A year ago, Oman would not have been high on the list of priorities, but today it is a different story. Economic development coupled with government initiatives to foster the growth of the Sultanate’s ICT sector have paved the way for vendors to take the plunge and capitalise on the growing opportunities that exist. HP Middle East opened its eighth office in the region at the Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) in Oman earlier this year, claiming that the new operation will play a pivotal role in the development of closer links with its Omani channel partners. The inauguration ceremony was hosted by Joseph Hanania, managing director at HP Middle East — highlighting the strategic significance of the new office — and was attended by customers from across the Sultanate. “Oman is critical to our continued success and future growth in the Middle East region and we have great pride in opening HP’s first Omani premises at KOM,” said Hanania. “HP already has a strong track record of success in Oman, particularly within government, services and finance. As Oman continues to strengthen its own position on the Middle East map, the new office will enable us to engage more closely with existing and potential customers, helping them achieve their personal and business goals through our leading-edge technology.” ||**||Local support|~|muscatora200.jpg|~|Ayman Abouseif, managing director at Oracle Gulf|~|The Muscat office will act as a direct resource for HP’s Omani distributors and retailers. HP Muscat will be charged with developing the in-country channel in order to enhance the overall customer experience from pre-sales through to support. HP currently operates a number of channel improvement programmes in the region and anticipates more participation from existing Omani partners. The company also expects more new Omani partners to start working with HP following the opening of a dedicated office in Muscat. “HP’s ongoing success in Oman is dependent not only on winning new customers but on ensuring these customers have the right support at all stages of implementation before, during and after sales,” continued Hanania. “For this reason it is essential that we continue to integrate our Omani partners into our highly successful channel improvement programmes.” Sultan Salim Al Habsi, executive president at KOM, commented: “Knowledge Oasis Muscat is delighted to welcome HP as a tenant. We are confident that HP will add substantial value to Oman’s rapidly growing ICT sector.” The role of KOM in attracting big name vendors to Oman should not be underestimated. KOM, which is also the location for Oracle’s new office in Oman, is emerging as the centrepiece of the Sultanate’s flourishing ICT sector. The three-year-old Ruisayl-based technology park offers more then 20,000 square metres of high quality office space and meeting facilities. Having served a number of customers in Oman out of its office in the UAE, Oracle claims that its decision to move in-country will provide it with the opportunity to expand its channel partner base in the Sultanate. The existing partner community in Oman have already delivered several strong customer wins for Oracle. Oracle claimed that its decision to open an office in Oman would allow it to carry out more complete infrastructure consultation reviews. Simultaneously, its channel team will be focused on the emerging small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, which shows potential for rapid growth in the Sultanate, driven by a boom in telecommunications and the privatisation process in the public sector.||**||Growth potential|~|muscatdoo200.jpg|~|Justin Doo, managing director at Trend Micro Middle East and Africa|~|“Oman has always been a critical market for Oracle in the Gulf States,” said Ayman Abouseif, managing director at Oracle Gulf. “Having a direct presence will encourage closer teamwork with the vertical teams based in Dubai, enhancing our ability to serve our existing customers and bringing Oracle’s software to the market more rapidly than at present.” “We have a great opportunity in Muscat to partner with the forward thinking educational establishments, especially from our base in Knowledge Oasis, next door to one of the country’s leading universities,” said Abouseif. “We will be working with our partners and customers in the country to look for opportunities to embark on initiatives such as introducing Oracle University programmes in Oman — Oracle’s global programme that aims to accelerate learning and certification on Oracle Technologies.” Distributors too are getting in on the act as they look to dedicate more resources to channel development in Oman. Andrew Taylor, regional sales manager Arabian Gulf and Pakistan at value-added distributor Tech Access, explained: “Up to now, Oman has not been seen as that important compared to say Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but that is now starting to change. The market in Oman has been slower in terms of getting projects off the ground but it looks like that is changing as mega-projects come online.” “There is a great deal of drive in terms of e-government initiatives in Oman and it is necessary to look at the potential for growth. Oman does not yet have the critical mass or quality of partners needed for some of the projects so there is a real need to develop the channel to capitalise on opportunities,” explained Taylor. “Training is vital to moving some of the in-country partners away from a trading mentality. For Tech Access, certifying partners on vendors such as Sun Microsystems is very important and will play a key role in accelerating sales in Oman.” ||**||Channel skills|~|muscatopener200.jpg|~|More and more major vendors are looking closely at channel development in Oman|~|The increased interest from distributors and vendors in smaller Middle East markets such as Oman is testament to the increasing maturity of the regional IT market and the impact this has on channel development plans. With increased transparency of channel structures in major markets, vendors can quickly ascertain the strength of their existing partner network and add more partners where necessary. Now that they are confident that they have adequate coverage in major markets, it is only natural that their attention turns to new territories for growth. Justin Doo, managing director at Trend Micro Middle East and Africa, explained: “It is true that not as much business may come out of Oman as other GCC countries. However, we are taking a new stance on the smaller territories that do not get enough focus such as Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar and Oman. The aim is to identify a few strong partners in each of these countries and tool them up and enable them to go out and proactively win business.” Building up the strength of the in-country channel is a key tactic for vendor’s looking to develop sales in a particular territory. In Oman, where the number of partners to work with is limited and historic relationships between resellers and end-users continue to play a significant role in the sales cycle process, this is not always an easy task. However, for vendors with the correct attitude that present the opportunities to partners in the right way, it is still possible to make significant inroads. “Once you have got good channel coverage and partners that are educated and can go out and sell proactively and make margin then you are well positioned for the future,” added Doo. “At the moment we have a few primary partners in Oman that are well placed within the market. There are skilled sales staff within partners on the ground in Oman but at the same time we are very focused on knowledge transfer — giving the resellers the skills they need to accelerate their sales.” At the moment, Oman represents a market in transition as vendors move from a remote engagement model to one that prioritises in-country relationships with second tier resellers. This process has an inevitable knock-on effect to the distribution channel, which is expected to match the efforts of its vendor partners and build up reseller breadth in-country as opposed to pushing product through re-exporters and sub-distributors in trading hubs such as Dubai. With the big vendors such as HP, Microsoft and Oracle already on the ground in Oman and major IT projects in the pipeline, the Sultanate is emerging from the shadows and staking its claim alongside the glamour markets of the Middle East. Moving to Muscat is all the rage right now. ||**||

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