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SME experts to advise women entrepreneurs

MUSCAT, 10 June 2014 – Bank Muscat, the flagship financial services provider in the Sultanate, on Tuesday (10 June 2014) launched a high profile advisory forum for women entrepreneurs in Oman. The first-of-its-kind advisory forum launched by the bank's al Wathbah SME department comprises a panel of distinguished advisors who are available to provide guidance and help for women entrepreneurs to develop the requisite attitude, skills and abilities for leadership in business.

The launch ceremony of al Wathbah Businesswomen's Advisory Forum at the bank's head office was attended by AbdulRazak Ali Issa, Chief Executive, the advisory forum panel members, dignitaries and senior bank officials.

AbdulRazak Ali Issa said: “Women entrepreneurs are changing the face of the global economy and Bank Muscat recognises this opportunity in Oman. The main objective of this strategy is to play an important role in filling the gaps and empowering Omani businesswomen to chart successful ventures by providing necessary guidelines, tools etc. The advisory forum marks a clear progression of the well defined strategy pursued by the bank in line with the directives of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said to support the SME sector and strengthen its role in the economic development of Oman in general, with a focus on women empowerment in particular."

The 10-member advisory forum includes four senior Management officials from Bank Muscat. The experts in SME business and leadership who will assist women entrepreneurs include Abdullah Al Jufaili, General Manager – Sharakah; Qais bin Mohammed Al Yousef, CEO – Al Yousef Group; CS Veera, CEO – Hormuz Investments; Kamla Al Aufi, Chairman – World Natural Stones; Malak Al Shaibani, Director General – National Business Centre; Sharifa Al Barami, Entrepreneurship Development Consultant; Waleed Al Hashar, GGM- Corporate Services; Ganesan Sridhar, GGM – Corporate Banking and International Operations; K Gopakumar, GGM – Retail Banking, Investment Banking and Global Markets; and Sulaiman Al Harthy, GGM – Islamic Banking.   

Ilham Al Hamaid, AGM – SME Credit, Marketing and Regional Corporates, said: “The primary objective of the advisory forum is to create an atmosphere amenable for women to thrive in business and further develop their economic potential. The target women entrepreneurs who can benefit from al Wathabh Businesswomen's Advisory Forum include any women-owned businesses in Oman, including those running home business, and registered with Al Wathbah Businesswomen's Forum."

The advisors will offer expert advice and support throughout the various areas and phases of a business, addressing business obstacles faced by women, sharing experiences to build up successful business ventures, motivating women to stretch the limits to overcome challenges and seize opportunities and providing tips on leadership skills.

To simplify the process of meetings with advisors, a dedicated webpage on Facebook has been created. Visitors of the page can go through the list of advisors available, select the most suitable advisor to them and seek an appointment. Meetings will be held at Al Wathbah Business Zone in Bank Muscat head office or any other location agreed between the advisor and the customer.

As part of efforts aimed at complementing the government efforts in strengthening the SME sector, Bank Muscat has drawn up a comprehensive plan to support women entrepreneurs in Oman. In the first stage of this strategy, the bank launched al Wathbah Businesswomen's Forum to help businesswomen identify opportunities and successfully promote SME operations. al Wathbah Businesswomen's Forum has succeeded in fulfilling 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 the progress and development in Oman.

Aimed at strengthening the SME sector, al Wathbah offers a comprehensive suite of tailor-made finance solutions. The bank also regularly conducts workshops and seminars to equip 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.

A unique SME financing programme launched by the bank has helped entrepreneurs overcome challenges arising from the requirement of collateral guarantee for SME finance. al Wathbah SME Non-Collateral Programme not requiring collateral guarantee is a bold step affirming the bank's commitment to encouraging an entrepreneurial culture in Oman.

The support to SMEs stems from the bank's commitment to create self-employment opportunities for youth who constitute more than 50 per cent of the country's population.