Friday, February 25, 2011

Mommy & Me


Mark your calendars for Um Faisal's first business venture, the Mommy & Me exhibition coming on Feb 27 and 28th at the Al Noor Hall in Madinat Qaboos.

Mommy & Me is an upscale Mother and Child exhibition, bringing together amazing shopping and expert advice from over a hundred names in the baby and family business all under one roof. From large corporates to small businesses, the goal is to gather an unparalleled group of products and services that will cater to the needs of families in Oman.

Whether you are parents of little ones, parents-to-be or have children in your lives, Mommy & Me will have something for you.

Mommy & Me isn't just shopping. It’s also about sharing information and resources. There's non-profit zone where important support groups and organisations for children and their families will be present to share their knowledge.

Mommy & Me is an event for the entire family. There will be a variety of entertainment and food on offer, making Mommy & Me a fun day out for everyone.

Along with shopping and entertainment, there are seminars on both days of the event. (Advance registration is required for all seminars.) Seminar schedule: here.

For details please check the Mommy & Me website: mommyandmeoman.com

Interact on the Mommy & Me Facebook page and see the special offers by exhibitors.

Also, follow Mommy & Me on Twitter: @MommyandMeOman

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The end [?]

This morning I was in a meeting with a well known businessman. It was a senior level meeting and most of our discussion was pretty much off the record without having to really say it. But at one point in the middle of the meeting the client mentioned that what he was about to say was off the record. "Of course," we replied. But he looked at me and smiled then said "don't put this on your blog."

That's when I had to admit to myself that this blog is over. This is something I've been thinking about lately, especially after last week's Muscat TweetMeet where I was asked a lot about what happened to my blog. I have reached a point in my career and my personal life where I have to stop myself from writing on many topics for this exact reason. Can't write about companies because as a banker every company is either a present, past or potential future client. Can't write about politics, because let's face it we aren't exactly in a free speech heaven. Can't write about... (you get the picture)

I will probably continue writing the occasional post, but I will never be able to post the kind of stuff I used to write back when the blog was at its most active. It's not the end, it's just an official admission to myself that my reality has changed, that's all.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

So Oman Mobile disconnected my phone today

I was woken up at 5.45am this morning by an SMS from Oman Mobile: "Dear Customer, you reached 75% of your credit limit (R.O. 150). For customer service please dial 1234." I ignored the message and tried to get a few more precious moments of sleep before the alarm rings at 6.20 as usual.

At 10.15am, another SMS: "Dear Customer, your outgoing calls have been barred out due to exceeding your credit limit (R.O. 150).... "

How did I go from 75% of quota to exceeding it in four and a half hours without even using the phone in that period?

And why is my credit limit is 150 rials and who set it at that?

My monthly bill is about 30 to 40 rials, sometimes more, often less. When I'm traveling or if anyone from the family is away the bill goes up to much more than 150. My credit has always been good and I've been an Oman Mobile customer for 13 years now. They never once thought of increasing my credit limit on their own, and I've never bothered to ask for one.

How did my bill reach 150 rials when I haven't made any international calls this past month and except for 24 hours in Abu Dhabi for the Coldplay concert, I hadn't even left the country?

I called 1234 and was told that my bill is 38 rials for March (this bill still hasn't reached me in the post) and 116 for this month so far, of which 112 rials is data usage. I asked what was my data usage in megabytes or gigabytes and was told that they are unable to tell from their system, I had to go to the nearest Omantel counter. No problem. I walked to the CBD counter, just a five minute walk from the bank. Three different guys there scratched their heads together and finally came up with the answer "we'll call you back" (that was 4 hours ago, still no call).

So I came back to the bank and looked up the tariff on Oman Mobile's website to try to figure out my usage on my own. It says that for Pay As You Go 3G usage the tariff is:

0-20MB. 0.5 baisa per kb
20-100MB. 0.25 baisa per kb
>100MB. 0.005 baisa per kb

In other words, as I calculated, for the first 20MB you would pay 10.24 rials, then you'd pay 20.48 rials for the next 80MB and after that it would 50 baisas per MB (5 rials per GB).

Based on that my bill would for something like 16GB of data which is absolutely impossible. The only internet data I consume my phone is for Twitter (using Twibble, which is just text), and whenever I'm waiting in a queue somewhere I spend my time catching up with feeds on Google Reader (again mostly text). I don't even use 16GB of bandwidth on my home adsl account which is online 24/7.

I emailed someone high up in Omantel to ask if my calculations are wrong. He replied that I was right, but their system first keeps track of usage based on the most basic 0-20MB Pay As You Go tariff and then "the adjustments of usage beyond the first 20MB will happen at the end of the month."

In other words I have been criminally over charged. My usage was probably around 300MB but since the end of the month is still 11 days away, the system hasn't made the tariff adjustment yet and what I paid today is about triple what I'm supposed to pay. The stupid arbitrary quota made the system disconnect my phone and the people at the counter don't know how the billing system works so they just took the present outstanding as shown on the screen and made me pay that amount. I won't know how much I overpaid till the credit shows in my bill next month.

The way out of this would be to subscribe to one of their monthly data packages, cheapest of which is 19 rials for 1GB, the next is 15GB for 34 rials. No middle ground.

Does this make sense to anyone?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Muscatis Blog Fifth Anniversary

My first post on this blog was March 30th, 2004, the day I finished the course work for the MSc in Business Information Technology Systems (BITS) at the University of Strathclyde Business School in Glasgow. It was going to be a diary as I search for a dissertation topic, find an supervisor and complete my MSc. It didn't work out that way. I didn't post again on the blog except one time on June 19th. Finally on July 29th, 2004 the blog was reborn as a shared blog between the two of us and it took off from there.

It's like March 30th was the malka and the wedding itself didn't take place till July 29th, so which of the two dates should be the anniversary? If you ask Um Faisal, I bet she'll say it's the latter :)

5 years of blogging. Wow.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Omantel vs Ali Al Zuwaidi

Links:

1) My original post from September on Article 61 of the telecom law which makes owners and moderators of websites responsible for the content published on their sites and how it was being used to prosecute a moderator (Ali Al Zuwaidi from Sablat Oman).

2) MyITLawyer's blog post yesterday on the progress of Al Zuwaidi's trial.

3) The public prosecutor's reminder to the public about Article 61, which incidentally covers all electronic communication, even SMS. (Arabic)

4) An Omani writer finally speaks up on the case in an opinion column in yesterday's Al Shabiba newspaper, and ends with asking "where is the Omani Writer's Association" in the middle of all this? (Arabic).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Twitter

I lost my blogging momentum. Is it because I have nothing to write, or is it because I'm more active on Twitter?

I added the Twitter widget to the blog so you can read my last 5 tweets. Or you can just follow me on Twitter. It's addictive.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

In case you didn't know

Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone from Oman Mobile!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

"The Musandam Experience"

Gary Arndt has been traveling the world for the past two years. He has been in over 50 countries so far. Last week he was here in Oman. I have been following his travels in the UAE and Oman on his blog and on Twitter. While in Muscat last week, Gary heard about the Musandam ferry and decided to take it. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get any information on it. This is what he wrote on his blog:

Having read numerous articles about the ferry to Musandam I figured it would be as easy as taking a bus or a plane. All I needed to do was find out the schedule, get in a taxi and go to the ferry terminal at the right time.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

It seems that everyone I’ve talked to in Oman has heard of the ferry, but no one actually knows anything about it. I’ve spoken to five travel agents near my hotel. None of them offer ferry tickets nor know where to go to get tickets. No one in my hotel knows anything. None of the cab drivers know anything or where to take me to get a ticket. There is no website for the ferry company. All the searches you do bring up articles about the ferry, but no actual information on how to get tickets nor can I find links to a website from the articles. I have been told by one taxi driver you get tickets in Ruwi, but he didn’t know where that was. One Omani told me that they are only for government officials (which I have no idea if that is true).

This huge investment the government made in high speed, world class ferries is pretty much useless as no one knows how to take it, even if they wanted to.
In the end he managed to get to the ferry with the help of blogger, Arun Rajagopal, who tweeted the information to him on Twitter (isn't social media great?).

Gary later posted a damning review of the whole situation on his blog in which he calls the Musandam ferry: "perhaps the worst run business I have ever witnessed in my life". He goes on to detail why as follows:

Why is this a horrible business?

  1. The car ferry has never transported a car. In the excitement to have the world’s fastest ferry, they never built a ferry terminal to support loading cars onto the boat. It only carries passengers right now. I have seen no activity towards building an actual terminal for cars.
  2. The flight to Khasab is 55 minutes versus 5 hours for the ferry. The cost is the same. An airplane can carry as many vehicles as the ferry right now: zero. You have to show up at the ticket office two hours before the ferry leaves to get on a bus to take you to the ferry.
  3. The operating costs of the ferry are enormous. It burns 18,000 liters of fuel each trip. Even though Oman is an oil producer, with subsidized fuel it is almost impossible to break even with a full boat. There were about 10 crew on board the ship that I could tell and there would probably be more if they had to load cars. The snack bar was open and everything was free. There were about 20 passengers on the boat when I took it.
  4. There is no website where you can buy tickets. There are no agents which you can buy tickets from. I’ve seen no marketing material of any sort except for a very nice full color brochure you get after you buy a ticket. There has been no advertising and no one in Muscat seems to know anything about the ferry other than it exists and it is the best in the world.
  5. Musandam, the destination for the ferries, has a total population of 30,000 people and three hotels. They probably couldn’t support a full boat of people if they had one.
  6. The ferries were not designed for long haul routes. They were designed for trips no greater than an hour. The engines are being used far more than they were designed for with 5 hour trips. As a result, mechanical problems and issues with spare parts will start creeping up over the next few months.

He ends his rant with: "The ferry is sort of a microcosm of what you see in much of Oman: pretty cool looking, but sort of dysfunctional once you look behind the scenes." [link]

Ouch!

It's been six months since the ferry was launched, what excuse does the National Ferr Company have for still not having set up a website for its service? You'd think that with their ferries going close to empty most of the time they'd actually do everything they can to let the whole world know about them. This is definitely not the kind of comments the Ministry of National Economy was hoping for when they launched this service, but then again who can they blame but themselves for the continuing bad publicity that this service keeps getting.

You can read all Gary's posts about Oman by clicking here.

Related post: Ferry to Khasab

Monday, January 26, 2009

Brand Oman


Last night Oman finally launched the country's official branding in a grand event which you can read about on Sangeetha's blog. Discussion immediately followed in the comments on her blog as well as on follow up posts on Blue-Chi, Arun and Kishor's blogs. The branding was done by Landor, who were originally contracted by the government for this exercise back in November 2004. I am not sure what caused the four year delay, if anyone out there knows I would love to know.

Decyphering the logo:
  • The symbol incorporates the name Oman, calligraphically rendered in Arabic

  • The extreme right arc symbolises the 'ship' befitting maritime glory of Oman

  • The center arc denotes the silhouette of the majestic 'mountains' of Oman

  • The bottom arc depicts the rich 'marine environment' of Oman

  • The left extreme curly arc represents the smoke of Omani 'frankincense'
My view (as previously posted as a comment on Arun's blog and later amended on Sangeetha's):

Something in the logo just isn’t right. It’s off somehow, but I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly about it that’s off. 1) It is a weirdly non-symmetrical pattern. 2) It leads your eye to its left. Even when told that it is Arabic caligraphy, my eye still went from left to right. It flows that way. 3) It looks more like sanskrit than Arabic to me. 4) If I wasn't told it was Arabic writing, I would have assumed it was just a drawn logo that didn't make sense. In a word, gibberish. 5) Why in the world does a logo need to be explained(I mean come on, who has the time)? 6) Most importantly, the colors are cold. There’s no warmth in them. Uninviting, that's the word that comes to mind. These are colors for a corporate logo, not a country.

I find it strange that Oman's national symbol, the khanjar, has been removed from Oman Air and hasn't been used in the country's own branding. Someone apparently in the know has commented on Sangeetha's blog that the government is conciously distancing away from the khanjar as a national symbol because it is a weapon since we are living in a "sensitive" world. If I was involved in the branding exercise, I wouldn’t have agreed with the thought process which analyzes the khanjar as a weapon. Most countries only dream of having as strong a national symbol as the Omani khanjar. I refuse to believe that they couldn’t think of variations on the theme. They could have tried to redraw the khanjar, or use it as an inspiration for a new logo. Oman Air went for an extremely generic logo which is apparently based on smoke from burning of incense. Smoke, on a plane?!!!! And now brand Oman is Arabic calygraphy?

Another thing, I would have marketed Oman simply as Oman, not Sultanate of Oman.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How do you like them BlackBerries?

Corporations have been showering Oman's Gulf Cup winning team with hundreds of thousands of rials in cash and cars. So what does Omantel, the country's biggest and most profitable listed company award the team? Free BlackBerry devices with one year free service.

Classic Omantel.


Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone from Oman Mobile!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Where to begin?

I love Amazon.co.uk's January sales. I always go a bit overboard with DVD orders in the after xmas sales, and this year was no exception. With this present economy, Amazon.co.uk started the January Sale well before xmas. This pic shows the contents of two out of the three packages I received yesterday. Almost all them were bought at 40 to 70% off and with the British Pound down from about $2 to $1.5, Amazon UK is now a better place to buy DVDs than Amazon.com. The cost of postage is negligble after VAT is deducted, as compared to Amazon USA where the shipping cost is too restrictive and Aramex Shop and Ship is now ridiculously expensive. I choose Air Post, the packages were dispatched on January 11th and collected here on the 17th.

Now which one to watch first?


Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone from Oman Mobile!

Oman wins Gulf Cup. Holiday for all*

Oman won the gulf cup and the Sultan ordered a national holiday. What a day!

To the young people out there and the expats who have only been in Oman a few years it might seam ridiculous to get a national holiday for winning a football tournament, but you have to go back and look at Oman's football beginnings back in the 70's. We were the team that always ends in last place. Other countries used to go into the Gulf Cup with the "at least we'll beat Oman" attitude. We used to get creamed as much as 8 - 0. Until Gulf Cup 17 in 2004 Oman hadn't even achieved a podium finish. We reached the final in 2004 and proved in 2007 that it wasn't a fluke by doing it again. Oman started Gulf Cup 19 as the favorites. This is no small thing.

We won. It's a new era for Omani football. I hope the government is generous in its rewards for our boys.

* holiday for everyone in Oman except apparently my wife whose workplace isn't part of either the public or private sector.


Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone from Oman Mobile!