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Opportunity from adversity during the lockdown in Oman

10 Feb 2022 lockdown

The COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to many startup businesses among the younger generation in Oman who made the most of their extra time and talents during the lockdown.

The coronavirus, apart from unleashing global restrictions in movement and economic downturns, also gave rise to a sudden boom in entrepreneurship for small businesses in Oman. While most people sat at home and rued over their hapless fate, there were some who burnt the midnight oil and turned their ideas into reality.

Some Omani youth devised innovative entrepreneurial strategies to concvert adversity into opportunity. Consequently, small and medium businesses started to take centerstage as young Omani men and women swung into action to create a host of products as well as services.

One among them was Ahmad al Jabri, a young businessman from Yiti, who worked as a tourist guide. He previously depended particularly on foreign cruise liners that halted at Muttrah Corniche and took tourists around to showcase the rich heritage of Oman.

“Due to the onset of the pandemic, imposition of strict lockdown and closure of borders, many people were left without much work. Considering that getting a 9-5 job at a corporate in line with my qualifications was not really a worthwhile proposition, I felt the need to explore other alternatives,” Jabri said.

Since expatriates in Oman had limited choices to travel and explore during the lockdown, as they couldn’t exit the country, many like Jabri seized the opportunity to provide them with domestic travel options.

“I started organising treks on traditional hiking routes discovered by our ancestors for people to explore, like the unseen beauty of Yiti village,” he said, adding that the response was overwhelming from locals as well as expatriates. He soon extended his ventures into photography by the name of Al Jab Photography.

Like Ahmad another young Omani college graduate Majid al Jabri, a resident of Bander Al Khairan who was also hit hard by the effects of pandemic said, “Making productive use of the time in the lockdown, I along with my friends and family transformed a barren island near my home into an Arabic style camp with traditional Omani majlis, tents, basic facilities like toilets, a kitchen, a power generator and barbecue equipment for people to rent. We also make and serve fresh Omani food cooked by my family members.”

To promote his business, he posted glimpses of the setup on social media handles like Instagram and Facebook which were widely liked by his target audience during the COVID-19 restrictions and turned into regular bookings. His venture is now doing good under the name ‘Al Bandar Sail Camping’.

“Within a few weeks, I got noticed and gained popularity as many residents started to venture into the unexplored camping arena,” he said.

As his business started to grow he made relevant investments and expanded by including adventure water sports like kayaking, jet skiing, and diving in the crystal clear waters of Bander Khairan as part of the camping package. This further attracted more patrons and his venture and has now become a flourishing business.

Exploring the growing demand for camping, another enterprising youth, Talood Mohammed al Mashri, also made the most of this opportunity.

“I realised, how a simple aesthetic setup can attract the social media driven population,” he said, adding that he set up his own ‘fairy tale island’ in the wilderness near Al Khairan beaches and mountains. His business has been growing exponentially under the banner of ‘Bander Camping’.

Transitioning from an engineering accounting manager to starting a food supply business, since there is ‘a lack of availability of healthy cuisine in Oman’, Yasmeen al Alawi, another young entrepreneur, started ‘Sprout’, a food supply outlet that provides healthy and nutritional food made from original recipes. She herself perfected these recipes, after a lot of trials and research, with the help of her family.

Asserting that the pandemic has given rise to changing eating habits as people spent more time at home, Yasmeen said, “Since the pandemic we have started to get more business as I see people giving more thought to eating healthy to reduce illness.” She hopes to reach out to more people in the near future to popularise the concept of healthy eating.

(Contributed by Gaurika Joshi)

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