Building New Bridges Between Oman and Italy

27 Sep 2018
POSTED BY Alvin Thomas

Oman and Italy might seem unlikely economic allies, but one  progressive businessman is ensuring a link he hopes will endure.

business architect by trade, Cav. Giovanni Piazzolla has some plans – and they concern the relations between two countries: Oman and Italy.

While many may call it patriotism – especially considering he was born in Italy – the reality is that he has been working towards strengthening ties between the two nations since his early days of life in Oman; a goal he takes forward with The Omani-Italian Friendship Association (TOIFA), which launched in January 2017 with the motto: ‘Friendship is Global and has No Barriers, Unity is Strength and Together We Grow’.

Taking up the prominent position as the Director of Al Nahdha Group – a leading company in the oil and gas industry in Oman, Cav. Giovanni’s dreams don’t end with the success of his firm, as is clear from our interview.

He says: “Believe it or not: Oman and Italy share quite a lot of values. Both have an outlook towards quality, respect towards the people around us, and even similar family values – and that’s why there’s a comfort level between the
two nations.”

It’s a comfort level his association intends to capitalise on to further deepen ties – and in the process, in helping to establish a strong presence of Italian companies in Oman.

Here’s an excerpt from our interview:

Y: The Omani-Italian Friendship Association has slowly been making its mark, helping foreign communities network better. But what are the roles the association undertakes in Oman?

G: TOIFA was established under the patronage of the Italian Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Obviously, having such important and reputable institutions to support the development, the association is justified by the development of bilateral communications between the two countries.

These ties not only involve business-oriented modules but also aspects relating to culture, sport, and the interests that we would have with each other based on a development that has been mutually effective over the past few years.

It did take some time to establish the association, but once it had come into place, there have been many positive signs to facilitate the immediate requirement of these activities. We intend to develop synergies between the countries and bring cultures together. We try to train people whenever possible, and we have great expectations of recognition of the association, because we can then support the relations even further than what existed.

As a matter of fact, we have organised a calendar over the course of the year; activities under many different perspectives: these include business-oriented events, networking and social-networking events, and events at which people can even bring their families.

Of course, the achievements also come from the support we receive from the Italian Embassy – thanks to their regular support and feedback, they can customise certain situations to bring a larger audit of available opportunities.

Every year, we have a great event, which is ‘The Week of Italian Cuisine in the World’, in which we have chefs coming in from Italy and teaching the crowds here about the Italian way of food.

And when you’re together in a suitable environment such as that, then you can express comfort, and it can then lead to the formation of new connections. That’s when the networking kicks and the opportunities come in – and the association helps to develop and make the maximum out of it.

We are going to collaborate with very reputable institutions: for example, we have tied up with UFC Gym Oman – one of the leading certified sport companies over here. This will enable us to conduct our sports-related events. We are planning on having some Italian sportsmen and sports teams to visit Oman and interact with Omani players.

We have also tied up with ‘The Theatre of Contemporary Arts’ that is now looking to expand its horizons into an emerging market; like the Sultanate for instance.

Y: Oman and Italy has seen increased trade over the course of the last decade. What has invoked such a spike – a quick growth of sorts – to produce such a strong development?

G: I am happy to say that one of the reasons is the demand for good-quality services and products – something both nations are providing. We [Italians] are well-known for our good sense of finishing – but are also known for having very capable companies that invest in developing sectors across the Sultanate at this moment.

For instance, the refinery in Duqm is a major project that will surely affect neighbouring countries in a positive way. So, the demand for development comes from a participation of nations and countries that are well equipped to fulfill needs. When we come to the oil and gas, and power sectors, Italy is vital and its presence is much required.

Over the years, we have been able to customise our expectations as Italian companies, and work towards a market that is price-oriented. You can surely confirm that there are a lot of development opportunities happening under the Italian flag over the past years and for the next few years, which means bilateral relations and adaptation to developing markets have developed. This is why the commercial exchange between the countries has developed.

Y: Are Italian companies now expressing interest to invest in Oman?

G: It’s not only the Italian companies that are interested, but also the Italian government. A lot of institutions are inclined parallel to the decisions of the Italian government. And thanks to that, a positive report has been established with companies being established here. The results will be having big companies investing here – and that’s a positive forecast for upcoming projects that are going to be developed in Oman.

Y: What are the expectations of TOIFA in the decade?

G: I think [networking in Oman] is the first step that would justify a well-structured development of ties over the next 10 years. But, I am confident that through the support of all supporting institutions (Italian Embassy in Oman, sponsors, and partners), TOIFA will be able not only to provide the necessary information required to interest potential investors, but also provide a situation wherein delegates will be coming to express interest over the next 10 years of activities in the Sultanate.

In short, it is a very important moment for Italy in the Sultanate.

Y: The existence of TOIFA certainly creates a medium for those in Oman to converse with Italy and its prospects for the Sultanate. But, what essentially gave birth to this association?

G: The creation of TOIFA was to justify a well-structured development that needed to have a face and a name; an institution to deliver the message to those in Oman.

As an association, we are able to add a bit of flexibility to our outreach. If you are a formal governmental association, then you need to justify certain events and actions with a governing body. In our case, we do it, but it’s within ourselves.

The board of directors of the association is formed by very well established entrepreneurs in the region. We’ve got Nabeel Jawad Sultan Group, Naranjee Hirjee & Co, Khimji group, MHD group, Al Nahdha Group, and the likes – and they’ve been selected because of the outreach we have from the special specific sectors that they operate in.

Together we can put a community that is well diversified, multi-ethnical, and multi-faceted in all these sectors.

Y: Al Nahdha Group has been showing strong signs of progress, and its role in the oil and gas sector has been vital. Can you tell us of some of your accomplishments?

G: I had the pleasure to form this company several years ago – albeit with a modest start. We have since developed ourselves and today we are a turnkey solution for companies that participate in projects and require a ready-to-utilise structure.

Obviously, the biggest constraint when a company comes from abroad is to get people, equipment, and workshops to offer turnkey solutions to their own convenience. We need to be a one-stop solution and whatever is required should be offered.

But our structure has been and is being utilised by companies that are not in the oil and gas industry – and that’s the beauty of it. We have our own section of activities and it can be made use by various companies in sectors.

TOIFA’s ‘Opening Season’ event took place on September 26 and helped to bring to light realities that form the ties between the two countries.

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