Muscat: True development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is possible only when the parties involved change their mindset, said Omani Minister of Commerce and Industry Ali bin Masoud Al Sunaidy.
"We have a long way to go because of the mindset. The existing mindset towards the SMEs in many countries, including Oman, is that someone comes from abroad, uses the platform of a company and sets up an SME in which the Omani owner has no influence or participation in the management," Al Sunaidy told the Times of Oman in an interview.
"But we are trying to change it (in such a way that) Omanis and non-Omanis can work together in the company and benefit from each other's capabilities," he said.
The minister argued that the ideal situation was the one in which the company capitalised on the capabilities of technicians and the person coming from abroad and the capabilities of the Omani person in marketing and finance.
"We are trying to convince these companies to switch from being a hidden trade company to a true SME whereby both owners and technicians are involved equally in the company and in running it," the minister said.
He added, "Another thing that you see in these SMEs is that the true (driving force) is called a labourer while he is not a labourer and is really a chief mechanic. He should be given enough salary as a chief mechanic and should be given an increment at the end of the year as a chief mechanic."
Al Sunaidy also said that more Omanis should be involved in technical work in these companies.
Many young Omanis are capable of doing the technical work… and "we are seeing (more) Omanis becoming involved in their contracting companies, some of whom are graduates from engineering universities," he noted.
The minister added, "They are becoming involved as manager or deputy manager of their own companies. We are also seeing the second generation, the sons of the old owners, coming to take charge of their companies, in particular maintenance companies and contracting companies.
"But unfortunately we have a long way to go and to convince people about the benefits of owning and managing a company.
"Now a lot of Omani owners are not adding value to their firms. They are losing out a lot. The non-Omanis who are running a company are also losing because they cannot grow their company and become an export-oriented company and stay working under the shadow of big companies as subcontractors."
They cannot come up unless the owner is heavily involved in the company, he said, adding that it is going to become a win-win situation for everybody.
Asked if the government will focus equally on the SMEs and large industries in the coming years or not, the minister said that both of them will be taken into consideration. "We'll continue to support large industries as they feed these SMEs."
However, SMEs have a big chance to grow faster as they need less money to be established, are easier to handle and usually create more jobs, he noted.
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