Muscat: Inspired by the Oman's vision to modernise the country while preserving its culture and traditions, a shop owner in Muscat plans to bring technology to one of the oldest markets in Oman.
A third generation resident of Muttrah Souq, Amit Khimji, has transformed his herbs store into a site for ATMs and CDMs with the aim of making a contribution to the business in the souq, and providing better facilities to the tourists. "I am not harming the cultural values of the souq," Khimji told the Times of Oman, arguing that his initiative will help increase business in the market.
"Many shopkeepers here do not have POS machines and not all the visitors coming to the souq carry cash with them. They do not find it convenient to go outside the market and withdraw cash from an ATM," he said.
If that shopper decides not to buy that item, it means the trade cycle has been disrupted even if that item is worth just one rial, added Khimji.
Multi-function machines can also provide exchange services to the customers, he said.
"Even coins can be changed at the ongoing rate."
Khimji believes that shopkeepers would also benefit from this since they would not have to carry cash home after they close their shops at night. "It would be safer for them to deposit their daily earnings into their account in the souq itself," he said.
He went on to say that figures show that 750,000 people visit Muttrah Souq every year and the number of tourists would increase considerably after the Sultan Qaboos Port becomes a cruise hub.
Khimji's initiative started about a year ago and he has so far invested around OMR10,000 to implement his project.
He believes that the authorities and banks would also benefit from the initiative. "It will reduce the footfall at bank branches. A kind of coding system can also be developed by the authorities concerned to collect the rent paid by shopkeepers in order to decrease the number of visits to government bodies and reduce the paperwork."
With over 2,000 shops and close to 25,000 residents in the vicinity of the site, this site, at the heart of the souq, provides an apt platform for self-service kiosks, the creative shop owner said.
"The site is accessible from both entrances," he said.
According to Khimji, it can also be a site for interaction between bank staff and customers. "It will create several jobs and will contribute to the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs)."
On the issue of the site's security, he said that it is very secure as it is located 100 metres away from a police station. "A CCTV camera would be installed right in front of the entrance. The site has a glass door behind which there is a scissor shutter that can be closed during non-working hours. The light will also be on 24 hours," he said, adding that an electromagnetic lock would be installed on the door and would be connected to the police station.
No other site featuring ATM machines has an electromagnetic lock, Khimji explained.
Commenting on the current status of the project, he said that the infrastructure work is complete and only the machines need to be installed.
"There was no hindrance caused by the government at all. I have already spoken to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and they said that they only require a contract with a bank or any other party," he said, asking the banks and officials of relevant entities to come and visit the site before rejecting the proposal outright.
"I will implement any security measures that they request. They can help me complete the project. I have already spoken to machine suppliers," added Khimji.
He said that the site can accommodate 10 machines and he plans to set up at least four, two ATMs and two CDMs. "Each bank can set up two," noted Khimji.
Khimji's initiative is not limited to ATMs and CDMs and he also plans to set up an interactive kiosk outside the shop to guide the tourists visiting the souq. "Some tourists come here without a guide and do not have much information about the market. So such kind of a kiosk would be welcomed by them," he said.
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