MUSCAT, 13 February 2012 – Bank Muscat, the flagship financial services provider in the Sultanate, extended lead support to the 5th SME Exhibition and Conference, reiterating its commitment to promoting the important role played by the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector in the economic development of Oman. The support to the 3-day event by Al Wathbah (Big leap for Small business), Bank Muscat's comprehensive suite of finance solutions for SMEs, complemented government efforts aimed at strengthening the SME sector.
Ilham al Hamaid, AGM – SME Credit, Marketing and Regional Corporates, said: “Bank Muscat is a strong supporter of the government policy to encourage individual initiatives aimed at self-employment. The business environment in Oman offers tremendous opportunities and challenges for the SME sector. The support to SMEs stems from the bank's strong commitment to create self-employment opportunities for youth who constitute more than 50 per cent of the country's population."
The exhibition and conference focused on the importance of SMEs in the business landscape of Oman. The conference discussed major challenges faced by the SME sector as experts offered new perspectives on developing an entrepreneurial culture in the Sultanate. The Bank Muscat stall at the exhibition which highlighted the bank's initiatives in the SME arena was visited by a large number of existing and prospective entrepreneurs..
The SME Credit and Marketing Department of Bank Muscat has been very dynamic in financing businesses and strengthening the SME foundation in Oman. Bank Muscat is of the strong belief that SMEs help boost the local economy, contribute to the GDP and create employment opportunities. The bank not only provides funding but also training, counseling and sponsorship to SMEs.
Over the years, Bank Muscat has taken several strategic steps to strengthen the SME sector in Oman. Aimed at strengthening the SME sector, Bank Muscat offers a comprehensive suite of tailor-made finance solutions. The bank also regularly conducts workshops and seminars aimed at equipping SMEs to identify business opportunities and tackle challenges.
In 2012, the bank partnered with the Ministry of Commerce & Industry to launch the government guaranteed loan programme in support of SMEs. The bank also launched the first-of-its-kind Al Wathbah Business Zone, a unique facility that addresses a long-felt need of entrepreneurs in Oman. The business zone, which can be used free of cost by SME customers who do not have their own office space, offers the bank's expertise developed over the past 30 years to deal with all aspects ranging from conceptualization to setting up of successful SME units. Al Wathbah Business Zone located at the bank's head office has evoked good response from entrepreneurs with start-up ventures.
Ilham added: “Al Wathbah Business Zone is aimed at helping entrepreneurs to address the challenges faced by SME business and to provide an environment critical to SME success. A number of prospective entrepreneurs face challenges in taking forward their business plans for want of required support and facilities. Al Wathbah Business Zone addresses this issue and helps entrepreneurs at all levels to promote and establish their business ventures."
Al Wathbah Business Zone facility is available to SMEs on a first come, first served basis. Requests are to be made by e-mail to email@example.com two working days in advance. Meetings can be conducted during regular Bank Muscat operational hours, Sunday through Thursday (8.00 am to 3.00 pm) and the duration of meetings is limited to 2 hours per day to ensure maximum utilisation of the zone by entrepreneurs.
Bank Muscat and IFC signed an agreement in November 2012 to facilitate financing access to SMEs to help them expand and create jobs. As part of the agreement, IFC advises the bank on new products and services targeted at micro, small, and medium enterprises. Bank Muscat also offers support to women-owned businesses, helping them become more active players in the Omani economy.