businesstoday - Oman's No. 1 business magazine
cover story
50 Footprints in 2007

Ahmad al Harthy
Circuit racer
Oman Racing Team

Racing stripes

From a country that does not even have an operational go-karting track came the big surprise at the Formula Renault BARC (British Automobile Racing Club) championship in the UK. Oman’s Ahmad al Harthy scored a string of back-to-back podium finishes to put Oman on the word circuit-racing map.

Al Harthy's biggest asset is his self-belief. After an over-all second place finish in the Thunder Arabia series in Bahrain in 2006, he could have continued the good life in the Middle East championship or gone on to the Formula BMW Asia circuit. But he opted for the tougher and more competitive Formula Renault BARC Championship in the UK, becoming the first Omani to do so.

“The learning curve is much higher. The results may not show immediately, but this is the way to go,” the 24 year old had said at the start of the season. And true to his words, al Harthy started delivering on the British circuit. He was the only driver from the Middle East to score points in the championship. He topped off the season with consecutive podium finishes in the Winter Series.

Erudite and articulate, al Harthy is now working on finetuning his preparations for the next season’s championship. Rest assured in 2008, you’ll be hearing more of al Harthy's exploits on the track.

Fact sheet: The first Omani circuit-racer, he competes in the Formula Renault BARC championship in the UK

Little known fact: Al Harthy is currently on a sabbatical from his job as an external auditor with Ernst & Young

Hussain Jawad 
W J Towell

Style statement

Qurm Gardens – a premium residential and commercial complex planned by Alargan Towell Investment was adjudged as the property with the best architectural design at the CNBC Arabian Property Award 2007. Jawad, who accepted the award on behalf of the company, is confident about its ability to launch a number of such path-breaking initiatives in future. Alargan Towell is working closely with the Ministry of Tourism to deve-lop integrated world-class tourism complexes in Oman. The first of these is a RO400mn water and beachfront project in the north of Muscat. If things work to plan, construction on the site will start in the first quarter of 2008. The resort is expected to further the cause of Oman's art and culture and promote sustainable development.

Scorecard: Won the best architectural design award at the CNBC Arabian Property Award 2007

Hani Zubair
MD, automotive and investments
Zubair Corporation

In overdrive mode

Hani Zubair created history of sorts in the sultanate’s automotive business by getting the rights to distribute the Jeep brand even as Shanfari Motors, the erstwhile distributor of Jeep, continues to market the brand. This has created a unique situation where one automobile brand is being sold by two dealers at the same time. Chrysler International gave Zubair Automotive the marketing rights for Jeep in August 2007 as part of its ongoing enhancement of its Middle East Network through the 'Retail Offensive in Middle East (ROME)' project. Chrysler expects Zubair's distribution network to enhance Jeep's visibility in Oman. Zubair Automotive has been distributing Chrysler and Dodge models since 1973. The move means that customers will get all the three Chrysler brands under one roof.

Fact sheet: Got the rights to distribute the Jeep brand in Oman

H E Yahya al Jabri
Executive president
Capital Market Authority

A smooth flow

If the traffic congestion on the roads of the sultanate has gone down considerably, motorists can thank H E Yahya al Jabri. H E Jabri may look like an unlikely person to thank for this, but as the head of CMA, he has played a pivotal role in joining hands with the Royal Oman Police (ROP) in simplifying the procedures in cases of minor road accidents. Under the new system, claims regarding vehicles involved in minor accidents are submitted directly to the insurance firms concerned, which then carry out the necessary procedures. The system has also helped free ROP personnel for more pressing concerns and spared motorists and road users the pain of going through cumbersome procedures. He was also instrumental in introducing online trading on MSM.

Scorecard: Helped reduce bureaucratic procedures after accidents and thus the traffic snarls

Track record: Brought in efficiencies that have made MSM one of the best regulated markets in the Middle East

H E Abdullah bin Abbas
Muscat Municipality

Clean sweep

H E Abdullah bin Abbas, chairman of Muscat Municipality played a pivotal role in bringing the city back to normal after Cyclone Gonu. The municipality coordinated with various ministries and departments on a war footing in the clean-up and restoration efforts. Most roads were rebuilt in days, beaches cleaned and mounds of accumulated debris cleared. The municipality also mobilised water tankers on a large scale to provide households with sufficient quantities of water to areas that were worst affected by the catastrophe, which were provided free of charge. The Muscat Municipality also deserves praise for easing the city's traffic problems. The roundabouts at several areas, including Al Khuwair and Qurm, have been demolished and traffic signals installed, facilitating easy flow of traffic.

Scorecard: Continues to initiate actions that help build a better city

Mike Cotton
British national

All for a cause

It started with a 40-minute DVD comprising images and video footage of Cyclone Gonu sourced from the Internet and friends. He initially made six DVDs that were circulated among friends. The feedback was so encouraging that Cotton, who works for the Ministry of Defence, realised he could actually raise money for charity by selling them.  The 36-year-old British national received support from DHL and GMC, who paid for the production cost of 1,000 DVDs, each of which was later sold at RO3. Cotton divided the RO3,000 generated from the sale between the Oman Charitable Organisation, Holy Spirit Church, Ghala, and the Child Cancer Ward at Royal Hospital.

Scorecard: Raised RO3,000 for charitable organisations

Nani B Javeri
Bank Sohar

A bankable executive

As the man at the helm of the first new bank in the sultanate in the last 12 years, he is not just building a new institution. He is setting new benchmarks for the banking industry. Under his stewardship, partnering customers, servicing SMEs, being transparent and using technology for better product offerings have not remained mere clichés but have acquired a new meaning. Despite being a new entrant in the sultanate’s banking arena he does not see Bank Sohar as a small bank and aspires to grow it into a premier bank.

Balance sheet: Set new standards for the banking industry

Ibrahim al Qasmi
General manager
Muscat City Centre

Mr Retail

A marketer at heart, Qasmi likes to keep track of the footfalls at the Muscat City Centre (MCC). With over 140 brands and 144 outlets under its roof after its recent expansion this exercise may have become a bit difficult. Having brought luxury brands like Gap, Banana Republic, Zara, Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger, Camaieu and The White Company to Oman, MCC has emerged as the shopping destination of choice in Muscat. And Qasmi can take the credit, at least a part of it, for having upgraded shoppers’ retailing experience in the capital.

Little known fact: Qasmi is an avid photographer with a keen eye for landscapes

H E Yacoob Abba Omar
South Africa

Strong bonds

The close diplomatic and business ties that have developed between the sultanate and South Africa owe a lot to the efforts of H E Yacoob Abba Omar, Ambassador of South Africa. H E Omar has been instrumental in organising a number of trade delegations from South Africa to visit the sultanate. As a result the two countries have been able to forge close ties in many fields. Tourism has received a major boost, Omani businessmen are seriously considering investments in South Africa and the flow of trade has increased exponentially from US$17.3mn five years ago to US$258mn in 2006. South Africa has also agreed to share its extensive knowledge in mine health, safety and regulation, geosciences and geomapping. In fact, South Africa will share its new regulatory framework with Oman, which is keen to develop its mining sector.

Fact sheet: H E Yacoob Abba Omar helped in developing South Africa's international marketing, anti-corruption and African Renaissance strategies

Sheikh Abdulmalik al Khalili

Two steps ahead

His ability to outwit competitors never fails to surprise. Every time you think he has run out of choices he springs a surprise. Being ahead of the pack seems to be second nature to Sheikh Abdulmalik al Khalili. The year 2007 was no exception – as analysts were gleefully writing off BankMuscat's bid to acquire Alliance Housing Bank he hit back with the biggest cross-border investment in the region's banking sector. Dubai Financial Group acquired a 15 per cent stake in BankMuscat for US$619mn in August 2007. 

Not one to rest on his laurels, he has been quick to shift goals. "We wish to see 25 per cent of our bottom line coming in from operations outside Oman by 2010," said Khalili (September 2007, BusinessToday). The bank formally inaugurated its operations in Saudi Arabia in November 2007. It already has a presence in Bahrain, Kenya and India. Whether it is taking the bank to new shores or attracting the best in the region one can rest assured that he will continue to wield the magic wand in the year ahead.

Best known for: An ability to surprise the market with his ingenuity

Subscribe Now!
© Apex Press and Publishing. P.O. Box 2616, Ruwi 112, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.
+968 24 799388 Fax: +968 24 793316 
businesstoday is Oman's number one business magazine, keeping readers updated on the happenings in Oman's business world with incisive and insightful reports.