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Bank Muscat CE mentoring programme for SMEs makes headway

​MUSCAT, 14 December 2013 – A unique mentoring programme for young entrepreneurs (SMEs) being held under the direct supervision of AbdulRazak Ali Issa, Chief Executive of Bank Muscat, has made headway with the beneficiaries drawn from diverse fields gaining valuable guidance and skills to promote and establish their business ventures. Aimed at creating a successful generation of entrepreneurs, the CE mentoring programme is an initiative developed by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

AbdulRazak Ali Issa is personally playing a major role in mentoring six entrepreneurs selected for the programme, including four women and two men engaged in the fields of contracting and trading, gift wrapping, beauty parlour and school. The trainees have been selected to ensure representation from across the Sultanate.

In one-to-one follow-up meetings with the beneficiaries, the CE reviewed the progress of the programme vis-à-vis the opportunities and challenges faced by them in establishing their SMEs. Aimed at enhancing the work environment, the CE presented laptops and custom made business bags to the six beneficiaries.

AbdulRazak Ali Issa said: “Bank Muscat is proud to be associated with the mentoring programme for SMEs and complement government efforts in supporting as well as imparting knowledge and skills to encourage creativity and innovation among entrepreneurs. We thank the government for facilitating a conducive environment for the growth of the SME sector in Oman. Bank Muscat has launched several unique initiatives to help the SME sector play its role in the country's economic development. The mentoring programme is designed to offer new perspectives on developing a successful entrepreneurial culture in the Sultanate."

As part of the CE mentoring programme, Bank Muscat has developed a special programme to train entrepreneurs. The training and coaching is handled by experts from the bank under the supervision of the Chief Executive. Amideast, a leading agency engaged in education and training, is also lending support to the comprehensive programme, which will be evaluated by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Ilham al Hamaid, AGM – SME Credit, Marketing and Regional Corporates, said: “In step with the directives of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said to support the small and medium enterprises (SME) sector and strengthen its role in the economic development of Oman, Bank Muscat has taken the lead to strengthen the SME sector in Oman. The Bank Muscat support to SMEs stems from the strong belief that SMEs help boost the local economy, contribute to the GDP and create self-employment opportunities for youth who constitute more than 50 per cent of the country's population."

Aimed at strengthening the SME sector, al Wathbah, Bank Muscat's SME department 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. Serving as building blocks for existing and prospective entrepreneurs, these initiatives assume importance in the backdrop of the priority accorded by the government to develop the SME sector in Oman.

Said Khalid Al Esry, one of the mentees, said the CE mentoring programme had imparted a great deal of knowledge and skills which were incorporated in his SME business venture. “The programme has helped to make many improvements to the business and we are now in a position to make realistic evaluation at what level we are, what we lack, what are our strengths and weakness etc." Al Esry said.

Raya Al Alawi, another mentee who runs a school in Buraimi, thanked and appreciated AbdulRazak Ali Issa for his time and efforts in making the programme a big success. “The mentoring programme has been especially beneficial in learning marketing strategies to sustain business. The programme has covered all aspects essential for successful SMEs," Raya Al Alawi said.

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 in the bank's head office can be used free of cost by SME customers who do not have their own office space. 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.

Another initiative by the bank is a first-of-its-kind online networking forum for women entrepreneurs. al Wathbah Businesswomen's Forum is a unique initiative benefiting women entrepreneurs in Oman. The dedicated web portal allows women entrepreneurs to engage in live networking. The forum fulfills a long-felt need in bringing together businesswomen and helping them to benefit from each other's business expertise and experience. The forum serves as a source of inspiration and encouragement for women to embark on SME initiatives and thereby contribute to progress and development in Oman.

The bank recently launched a unique SME financing programme which addresses a long-felt requirement of entrepreneurs in Oman. The new facility broadens financial access and helps entrepreneurs overcome challenges arising from collateral guarantee for SME finance. al Wathbah SME Non-Collateral Programme opens a new world of opportunity for entrepreneurs. The financing programme not requiring collateral guarantee is a bold step affirming the bank's commitment to encouraging an entrepreneurial culture in Oman.