Oil and gas entrepreneur Qais al Khonji has become one of the Gulf’s top movers and shakers. Hasan al Lawati met him.
Omani businessman Qais al Khonji has been listed among the GCC’s top ten entrepreneurs in 2017 by Gulf Business.
He is the only Omani national on this year’s list, as published by the UAE-based magazine.
Nominees were chosen based on their company’s financial performance and the achievements of the person cited.
Thirty firms were asked for their audited revenue, and a shortlist of ten was compiled.
An online vote is ongoing on the magazine’s website to select the top entrepreneur from the 10 nominees.
Mr Al Khonji said: “It feels great to be the only Omani and I hope to see more Omanis on the list in the future.”
He said that many Omani entrepreneurs deserve to be recognised.
The 38-year-old is well-known for helping Omani citizens to set up their own businesses.
Being a board member of Sharakah, a government body that funds and supports start-ups, Mr Al Khonji said that at least 300 Omanis apply for SME ventures every six months.
“Around 30 to 35 per cent of them fulfil the requirements,” he said.
But Mr Al Khonji pointed out that, according to international studies, only one in ten projects is successful.
“However,” he said, “the chances of success in Oman are even tougher in its small market.”
Despite this, Mr Al Khonji is optimistic about the future of SMEs in Oman.
“I feel that the market is growing and the mindset of young Omanis about starting businesses is positively changing but it will take some time for them to mature.”
To Mr Al Khonji, entrepreneurship is about taking risks and trial-and-error.
“I started a couple of ventures in 2010 that did not make it. Nevertheless, it was a good experience for me and it helped me to get to where I am today,” he said.
Mr Al Khonji’s first steps in the business world were through starting a training consultancy.
“I found out later that it was not the right place in which to start and went straight away into the oil and gas sector.”
He is encouraging businessmen to start ventures in that field.
“It is a very profitable sector; it requires taking risks but the return is heavy. However, it takes lots of investment and at least four years to break even,” he said.
When asked if start-ups can boost employment rates in Oman, Mr Al Khonji said: “I do think employment in Oman has improved when compared to the last five to seven years.
“The evidence is that the population of expatriates is now almost equal to the Omani population, and that is a sign that the employment process has been eased up to the maximum.”
Mr Al Khonji set up GENESIS Projects & Investments LLC in 2013.
Using Iranian and Indian technology, the Omani company provides core laboratory tests to produce reports in order to enhance oil production. It also offers lube analysis to help oil machinery perform more effectively.
Mr Al Khonji also has another business, GENESIS International, a company that makes equipment to sell for educational purposes.
He is also the founder of Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO) in Oman, which has 50 members. EO is a global, peer-to-peer network of more than 12,000 influential business owners.
Talking about his forthcoming plans, Mr Al Khonji said: “My plan is to expand locally and to have a solid ground in Oman but we are looking for any joint-venture in the region because we have the know-how and expertise to achieve the same success on a bigger scale.”