A founding member and key contributor to the success of Takatuf, Ibrahim Al Harthy oversees the organisation as its Acting Chief Executive Officer. Al Harthy’s professional background is rooted in diverse HR roles, enabling a leveraged accumulated experience to support Takatuf’s insightful and powerful business solutions. Al Harthy’s sits on the boards of Takatuf Petrofac Oman and Oman Institute for Oil and Gas training institutes and is Chairman of Sohar Aluminium’s Human Resource Committee. Al Harthy holds an MBA from Victoria University, Australia and a BSc in Business Administration from Sultan Qaboos University, Oman.
How do you assess your five years of operations?
Takatuf was created by Oman Oil in 2011 to address fundamental business needs. At that point, the company had ambitious plans to grow and decided to come up with a centralized unit to help address some of the challenges around people and employee relations, as well as to propose innovative solutions that would help to achieve the plans. In this context, Takatuf was created to hold down many of the human capital plans for Oman Oil. Our focus has shifted over these years because we have realized that those challenges are not special to Oman Oil and belong to a national perspective. Five years after, we are set to grow beyond Oman Oil’s boundaries and provide advisory human capital support to all industries in Oman and the region. We have two training centers under development and we want to market them beyond the boundaries of the Sultanate.
How does Takatuf represent a bridge between academia and industry with initiatives like the Takatuf Scholars Program?
The focus of this program is not simply to send a student abroad with a scholarship; we aim to find the right person who will not only study but will be able to learn 21st century competencies and employability skills. Many of these students, when they graduate, are ready to hit the ground running, Therefore, it is a very sophisticated, well designed program with rigorous selection, mentoring, and monitoring for at least seven years. In 2017, we will have 83 Omani students enrolled in A league boarding schools and Universities across the world in Europe, the US, Canada, and Japan. On the other hand, our two centers under construction will bring international standards that Oman has not witnessed before. We want them to be benchmarks; one for vocational development and one for petrochemical technical professional development within the upstream oil and gas industry. We will help address the issue of quantity and quality with more qualified engineers with international skills.
How are you contributing to the Omanization of companies operating in Oman?
Oman has ambitious plans to invest in multi-billion dollar asset projects over the next few years, and these projects need to be led by educated skilled workforce. At the same time there are national challenges, many of which have been discussed in Tanfeedh. Referring to employability of Omanis, there is a gap between supply and demand but also in terms of the quality of graduates we have. The World Economic Forum highlighted the inadequately educated workforce as being one of the challenges for investors to come to Oman. This is due to the lack of proper development in many companies but also due to the introduction of new technologies which require professional development for the local workforce. In addition, we also have the challenge of retaining the local workforce, which is a key issue associated with the fact that the population of Oman is very young. In Takatuf we came up with some initiatives that will produce a pipeline of well-educated talented workforce who will become the future leaders of this country. Overall, our programs are based on what the industry needs over the next few years.
What is your strategy in this new era of operations outside Oman’s borders?
The management consulting business is challenging and requires decades of accumulated expertise and solid credentials. We started working outside Oman Oil Group in 2015 and are fairly represented in the majority of sectors of the country; we are in utilities, finance, services, IT, logistics, and obviously oil and gas. This variety shows the recognition of Takatuf as a solid brand name within the human capital advisory space in the Sultanate. Although we are proud of what we have built so far, this is a long journey and there is a lot more to come. One of our advantages is that we are a locally grown organization born as a result of a genuine need to address the needs of the country. The blend between our Omani professional members and international expatriates who work in many different industries gives us a solid understanding of the regional context. We have been approaching many organizations within various industries and the response has been very positive. What makes many organizations want to work with us is the fact that innovation and excellence are core values in whatever we do. Everything is highly customized and nothing is off the shelf. We participated in the HR Summit and Expo 2016 in Dubai to tap into a new market in the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Our business plan is to expand regionally within the GCC and Iran; we are mature enough and some of the solutions we have established in Oman are readily applicable outside the country. Although it is a very crowded market with many international and local firms, we have a unique value proposition that has proved to be working so far.
What is your outlook for 2017?
As oil prices have been dropping this has affected the overall economic climate not only in Oman but in the whole world. Although there will be lots of challenges related to business we see opportunities. We will continue to solidify our presence in Oman, growing our portfolio and coming up with innovative solutions that will help address some of the current and upcoming challenges. In addition, we will be able to penetrate neighboring markets within the region. This is our plan for the future, and I am confident that in 2017 we will be in at least one country outside of Oman.
Republished with permission from The Business Year.