Friday, December 26, 2008

Omani brands


1. Bad branding

Oman Mobile has one of the ugliest logos ever and I can't wait till they get rid of it in 2009. I've been an Oman Mobile user since GSM first started in Oman back when they were GTO. As superficial as it is, if seriously think that if I was new in Oman now, I'd probably Nawras because of their better branding.

Another Omani company whose branding I don't like is Al Maha. Their logo is not bad, but the branding itself, the look and feel of their petrol stations, is a big turn off. In fact, I don't think I've filled in an Al Maha station in the past ten years. Earlier this decade they've refreshed their brand, but they didn't go far enough.

Q: Can bad branding turn you off a brand?


Andy Warhol Omani style

2. The cover story on this month's issue of BusinessToday is the Best Brands Survey Oman 2008. The survey's participants named the following as the top brands in Oman:

Toyota
BankMuscat
Nokia
Nawras
Sony

However, when asked to name the top Omani brands the top five were:

Amouage
Oman Cables
Chips Oman
Nabil
Al Mudhish

How can BankMuscat and Nawras be named among the top 5 brands in Oman but not the top 5 Omani brands? The magazines explanation is: "
It appears that people have a better memory for products they use in their daily lives than for banks or airlines." Who are these people they interviewed and how come Oman Cables is a product they might use on a daily basis?

Q: What do you consider to be the top Omani brands?

They're all feeling it

In the past month Jumbo Electronics and Lulu both announced promotions with six month interest free finance on electronics. Today I was at Carrefour and in the electronics section all the products had big price stickers with the monthly instalment amount instead of the full price.

Everyone's feeling the heat.

I guess for now they are hanging tough trying to maintain sales by promoting instalment schemes. I wonder how long before they start to drop prices.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Change at Omantel

There's an interesting interview with Omantel's CEO, Mohammed Al-Wohaibi, on the telecom journal Comm website.

Omantel is in the process of merging back into being a single company after their disastrous decision in 2004 to split the company into two separate companies. After the completion of this process, Oman Mobile will not longer exist, most probably not even as a brand. All the company's products will be sold as Omantel. Thankfully, Oman Mobile and its incredibly ugly logo and colors will disappear from existence. Omantel will rebrand with a new logo, supposedly by the first quarter of 2009.

Current market talk is that the government has differed the partial sale of their stake in the company to a strategic investor. Due to the current fall in the company's stock price, the government feels that the offers they get will be too low. I am not sure how true the talk is of the government expecting 3 rials per share as the sale price.

I don't understand how the company can go through so many changes, especially such as the new logo and branding, when at the same time it is being shopped around. Wouldn't the new owners want a say on the branding?

The interview is worth reading. He is canded on some things and typically political on others. On the subject of all the MVNO licenses that the TRA recently awarded:
I would say that a more prudent strategy would have been to issue two MVNO licences and then see how the market reacts. Maybe in one or two years’ time if the regulator wanted to introduce more competition, then issue a third or fourth licence. But to issue an MVNO licence to anybody who knocks on the door and fulfils minimum requirements? I think that is quite risky. We have to appreciate that throughout the world, failure of MVNOs is very high,”
He also mentions that Omantel has approached the TRA for a WiMAX license. Nawras has received a WiMAX license along with their fixed line license. This gives Nawras an advantage in that they can provide broadband internet without having to build expensive cable infrastructure. In his words: "The regulator has offered WiMAX to the second operator, which does not create a fair ground to compete."

Link: All Change At Omantel

Monday, December 22, 2008

CCC now smoke free

I have to admit that I am not a frequent visitor to the CCC shopping center in Qurum. It must have been three months since I last been there. I stopped there today in a rush to buy some baby formula from Al Fair and found these banners everywhere declaring that they are now a smoke free shopping center. As they say in "Times of Oman"-ese: Kudos to them, and hopefully other shopping centers and malls will follow.

My son used to really love that small play area in the CCC and we took him there regularly when he was younger. Unfortunately, the play area is surrounded by small coffeeshops and by night time all of them would be full of smokers. It's great that the CCC management/owners voluntarily chose to become smoke free.

I remember 4 years ago I tried to start an email campaign to get people to write to Muscat City Center to ban smoking. At that time I received an email reply from the mall's general manager, Mr. Ibrahim Al Qasmi, telling me that they more than comply with all government regulations and that Muscat Municipality was planning to ban smoking indoors in all of Muscat by September 2006, to which MCC will gladly comply. Well Muscat Municipality never banned smoking, and now we have two City Centers, Seeb and Qurum both of which allow smoking. I emailed Mr. Al Qasmi again tonight to ask him if there's any chance City Center might voluntarily ban smoking. I'll let you know how he replies. If anyone's interested in emailing him his email is: alqasmi@mafgroup.ae (this is not private, it was posted on Oman Forum at that time when we tried to do the email petition thing).

It's All Good



Mazoon Mobile's logo and slogan [link].

According to Wikipedia, the shaka or "hang loose" hand sign is:

associated with Hawaii and sports such as surfing, kitesurfing, skateboarding, skimboarding, snowboarding and skydiving. It consists of extending the thumb and pinky finger while keeping the three middle fingers curled, and raising the hand as in salutation with the back of the hand facing the person that is being greeted; sometimes the hand is rotated back and forth to emphasize the sign.

Hawaiian locals use the shaka for various meanings, like "all right", "cool", "smooth", etc. Residents of states other than Hawaii who use the shaka may describe it as meaning "hang loose" and in California, the symbol itself is more commonly called the "hang loose" sign rather than the "Shaka" sign. It is also used to convey what locals in Hawai'i call the "Aloha Spirit," a gesture of friendship and understanding between the various ethnic cultures that reside within Hawai'i. It can also be used to signal a "hello", "goodbye", " 'till next time", "take care", "Alright!"

All good, but what does it have to do with a company named Mazoon, the ancient name of Oman? I'm guessing that maybe locally that hand sign probably looks like a phone and it means "call me"?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

That tag

Seems like every blog I go to these days has the same tag going on, the one about "5 things people don't know about you." I'm not going to repeat that here, not that anyone's tagged me to in the first place. However, for the sake of keeping up the post count on this blog, I guide your attention to the following posts from way back in March 2005:

Muscati's Confessions (AKA 44 things about about me)
Less than 100 things about me (AKA UmFaisal's 45 back when she went by the nick OceanDream)


Remember those days, back when this was actually a blog where both of us used to post? Good times...

Blogroll deleted

While chatting with some friends this evening a certain blog was mentioned and then another friend who hadn't been to that blog asked me "is it linked on your blog, I'll check it out from there." I realized that I haven't updated my blogroll ever since I started using Google Reader. In other words, in a long long time. First thing I did when I got home was to go to the blog's dashboard and delete the blogroll in its entirety.

I am an RSS addict. I have about 200 feeds which I am subscribed to on Google Reader. I don't post a lot on my own blog, but I subscribe to and read everyone else's. I add all the posts that I like to to My Shared items which you can see in the box to the right here on the blog, and to which you can even subscribe to in your reader, if such links interest you.

Shura Council rejects weekend change

Amjad replied to my previous post with a link to a topic on Omania.net. Apparently the Council of Minsters had requested the view of the Majlis Ash'Shura on the shifting of the weekend to Friday/Saturday. The Majlis appointed a team to prepare a study. A survey was done. Opinions of experts were taken, and a conclusion was reached. The conclusion is to there is no justification for a change in the weekend for various "religious, political, social and economic" reasons. And that modern technology and international communication methods are widely available and easy to use and are not a justification for a weekend change. Further to that, the Majlis concludes its study with a request for the private sector to adopt a two-day weekend: Friday and Saturday, "for the public good"!
سبلة عُمان: رفض مجلس الشورى مقترح تغيير الإجازة الأسبوعية إلى يومَي الجمعة والسبت المحال من جلالة السلطان المعظم عن طريق مجلس الوزراء، وكان المجلس قد كلف فريقاً لدراسة الموضوع ولهذا الشأن تمت الإستعانة بآراء المواطنين، وأصحاب السعادة أعضاء مجلس الشورى، وعدد من الهيئات والمختصين عن طريق توزيع إستبيانات مخصصة للإطلاع على الآراء المختلفة والإستماع إلى وجهات النظر المختلفة، وبناءً عليه فقد أخلصت اللجنة إلى عدد من النتائج الموضوعية، أجمعت إلى عدم وجود ما يبرر تغيير الإجازة الأسبوعية للجهاز الإداري للدولة إلى يومَي الجمعة والسبت وأعزت رفضها إلى أسباب دينية وسياسية وإجتماعية وإقتصادية متعددة .. كما أن التقنية الحديثة وطريقة الإتصال بالعالم الخارجي التي أصبحت سهلة وميسرة لا تستوجب هي الأخرى جدوى التغيير، ومن جانب آخر فقد حث المجلس عن طريق دراسة اللجنة القطاع الخاص إلى ضرورة وجوب تغيير الإجازة الأسبوعية لمدة يومين: الجمعة، والسبت تماشياً مع إعلان غرفة تجارة وصناعة عُمان لما فيه الصالح العام.
I hope the Council of Ministers ignores the Majlis' conclusions and still recommends the weekend change to His Majesty for his approval.

Update (22/12/09)

I've been following the discussion on omania.net. After 6 pages of discussions in the past two days the overwhelming majority there supports the Majlis' conclusion for the following main reasons:

1. Public sector has the day off on Thursday and can go finish their business at the bank (Omanis love going to the bank) and private sector gets the day off on Saturday and can go finish their business at the government (as if anything in the government can get finished while you wait). Friday is shared by all, and it's a day for prayer and getting together as a family.
2. There's no need for Oman to copy any other country in the world. We have our own weekend, we don't need any other country. If any other country needs us why don't they change their weekend to suit us.
3. Saturday off is "un-islamic". Saturday is the Jews' day off. By switching our weekend to Friday and Saturday we will be copying the jews and the christians.
4. Having the weekend distributed over three days reduces traffic.
5. We are too used to our weekend as it is, why change?

In 6 pages of discussion there are only three posts about the social aspect. It is obvious that most of the people posting there are unmarried, don't have families, or simply don't care about their families. Aren't they aware that in 2008, for the first time, more Omanis are employed in the private sector than in the government. Now more than ever, we have families (like mine) where the father and mother either both work in the private sector or one of the two does. How is it good for families to have days off that don't match their children's? If both parents work in the private sector and get Friday/Saturday off, what are they supposed to do with their kids who are alone at home on Thursday? Fill the fridge with junk and tell the kids to sleep till noon, fix their own lunch and then watch TV till the folks come home in the evening?

How are Thursday/Friday our traditional days off or how is Saturday un-islamic day for a weekend? First of all, Oman didn't even have a two day weekend till twenty years ago. Before that everyone worked Thursday. So tradition has nothing to do with weekends. And as for islam, in the olden days they used to work 7 days a week. In the Quran muslims are told to close shop and stop doing business on Friday for the Friday prayer. But once they are done with the prayer they are encouraged to "disperse in the land and seek the bounty of Allah" (Surat Al Jumu'a). In fact, if Islam is used as a justification then there would be no weekend, no day off in the week, because in the days of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), they did not take a day off.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Saturday

I've bitched and whined for years demanding a two day weekend for the private sector. When it finally happened for banks six months ago the transition wasn't very smooth. At work, it was an effort to get people to finish the same amount of work in 5 days. We had a tough time getting through to people, and I still know people who go to work on Saturdays because they can't get their work done. And on the home front, it's still a struggle because I have no idea what to do with my Saturdays since I'm the only in the household with the day off.

It's Friday night. I'm sitting in bed typing in the dark because I've spent the past hour and a half trying to get my son to sleep because he has school tomorrow. And although Saturday is now part of my weekend, I'll have to wake up at 6.15am in the morning to wake him up and then once he's ready I'll have to drive him to his school drop-off where we wait for my sister's kids to pick him up to go with them. By then its 7.20am and I have no idea what to do next. Can't rush home and get in bed again. It's too early to go for breakfast and all my friends are either on their way to work or still sleeping. I can't go grocery shopping. I tried it once but apparently Carrefour doesn't open till 9. I went to Lulu once but the shelves were still being restocked from Friday's shopping mayhem.

(My wife having just read this would like me to add that I only started taking Faisal in the morning since she gave birth and before that she was the one doing the morning school run which allowed me to sleep in on Saturdays. I'd like to clarify that I believe that the morning school thing has now become my duty and will remain so even after she gets back to work after maternity leave).

Saturdays have been a whole lot more tolerable since Um Faisal is home on maternity leave. But that will soon come to an end. In fact, they've already asked her if she can cut her maternity leave short and come back to work a month early.

What we need is for the whole country to be on a Friday/Saturday weekend. Wasn't this supposedly how it was supposed to happen, that first the banks will switch and then the government will follow? It was assumed that the announcement would be made in August before the start of the school year. When that didn't happen, people said it will come before the second semester. Well it's almost the end of December and nothing's been announced yet.

Does anyone know if this going to happen?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Of shopping malls and diaper changing rooms

When we were at Qurum City Center during the eid holiday my wife went to the changing room to change our baby’s diaper while I went to browse magazines at Borders. Two minutes later my wife called me to come quickly. Turns out that men keep opening the door to come into the room thinking it is a bathroom. The changing room is located right in between the ladies and gents toilets. It has a large baby sign on the door so there's no way to confuse it with the men's room, but it does have a toilet in it so I bet a lot of people do come in to use it for that. I had to stand outside guarding the door till she was done.

A couple days earlier at Muscat City Center, the wife went to the changing room and it was locked. She thought it was occupied when all of a sudden the cleaning lady came and unlocked the door for her. She told her that too many people come to use the toilet in the changing room and make a huge mess out of it so the management decided to keep the room locked until its needed.

Why not just have a changing room with a changing table, sink and no toilet?

Bareeq Al Shatti has a changing room which is basically just a toilet. It doesn't even have a diaper changing table. My wife had to go to the ladies toilet and change her on the counter between two sinks. Good thing she carries one of those folding changing mats in the baby's diaper bag.

(Can you tell we went out a lot during that 6 day holiday?!)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Reblog: Blue City bonds downgraded to junk

Head to Sue Hutton's newsBriefsOman blog for a very interesting discussion about the news about Moody's downgrade of The Blue City's bonds. Read the comments.

Wanna guess who "stakeholder" is?