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69 things I will miss about Oman September 15, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Oman.
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In no particular order of importance…

  1. My den.
  2. Calm, quiet and almost soporific pace of life.
  3. Star Cinema and their very friendly staff.
  4. And the box seats in Orchestra, Star Cinema, usually Seat #23 or #25. Seat #4, Row 1 at any of the Mini Cinemas.
  5. The madness at Wadi Adai Roundabout: Thank God a signal junction is replacing the roundabout.
  6. Parking woes at City Cinema Shatti.
  7. City Cinema Sohar.
  8. The drive from Muscat to Dubai and back.
  9. The official superhero of my building: TopCat Ramos.
  10. Moviestudio and his amazing collection of movies.
  11. Mom.
  12. The crazy airport flyover.
  13. Muscat International Airport. Small but convenient. Friendly immigration, e-gate, reasonable duty free selection and helpful staff. And the free WiFi at the airport that made this post possible.
  14. Annapoorna restaurant in CBD.
  15. Lunch Thaali at Saravana Bhavan.
  16. The service station at Wadi Kabir omanoil filling station. For giving my rides ‘Cleopatra Shower’.
  17. Green Clean at Qurum City Centre. For giving my rides such amazing shine.
  18. Early morning drives.
  19. The luxury coaches of Muscat. The Beasts of Al Khanjry, Comfortline, GTC, CTC, Salalah Line, ONTC, Happyline, Al Turki etc.
  20. My ride.
  21. Friendly locals everywhere. Oman is really one of the friendliest nations on Earth.
  22. Times of Oman.
  23. @4jijesh.
  24. My Laundrywallahs from Unnau, Uttar Pradesh and their chaste Hindi.
  25. Rajan’s Barber Shop at CBD for close shaves.
  26. Brands Elite and their casks of Stanley’s White and Red Lambrusco.
  27. The superb view of the hills from my den.
  28. The flowers at Al Fair Sarooj. They have made many a diva happy.
  29. Shell Filling Stations.
  30. National Bank of Oman Cash Deposit Machines.
  31. The Dodge Chargers that make my head turn.
  32. The crazy shop names.
  33. Beef Ularthiyathu at Divine. Also the lunch thaali at Divine.
  34. Salalah.
  35. Chilis at Muscat City Centre.
  36. Aldo at Muscat City Centre.
  37. When it rains.
  38. Uptown. The entire gang with a special mention to Nash.
  39. Split Chili at Uptown.
  40. Murgh Malai Tikka Masala and Garlic Rice at Uptown.
  41. The uber cool Oman tweeps.
  42. Marina Bander Al Rowdha.
  43. Dolphin Watching.
  44. Wahiba Sands.
  45. Bus stop at Thumrait.
  46. Counting the million stars at Haima desert.
  47. Landing and take off at Muscat International Airport.
  48. Amazing Shawarma at Muscat Bakery in Wadi Adai.
  49. Swami’s Hotel at Ruwi High Street.
  50. Happyline Transport.
  51. Woodland’s for the occasional takeaway.
  52. Nirvana. Because I love red and the ambience and the Corona is just spiffy.
  53. Khyber. For their excellent service and garlic pickle.
  54. UMS. For the memories.
  55. Wunderman Oman. For broadening my horizons.
  56. Bus Street at Ruwi, next to Sultan Qaboos mosque.
  57. The Grand Mosque at Bausher. For its grace and elegance.
  58. The Royal Oman Police. For being such stars in uniform.
  59. Ghazal at Grand Hyatt. For the great band.
  60. White Tiger Restaurant at Barka, next to omanoil. For the superb Beef masala.
  61. Al Bahja cinema.
  62. Plane spotting at Muscat International Airport. The Oman Air A330s make me beam.
  63. All the friends out here who are like family.
  64. How the roads go quiet during Ramadan. Lame.
  65. Shopping for Jeema water and 6-packs of Coke.
  66. Ranjan, Man Friday who cleans my den every Friday.
  67. White Chocolate at Starbucks.
  68. Nuts & Bolts. The newest pub in town. And themed on automobiles.
  69. Driving Chargelina around Muscat.
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40 out of 40 for Oman Air September 2, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Airlines, Aviation, Branding, Marketing, Oman, Travel.
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2 comments

Launches 40th destination ahead of 40th National Day of Oman.

Pic credit: Christophe Selzere, JetPhotos.Net

Congratulations to Oman Air, the national airline of the Sultanate of Oman, who launched Kathmandu, its 40th destination today. 2010 is of great significance for the Sultanate as it marks the 40th National Day of Oman (the birthday of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said is on 18 November). Every corporate in the country is involved in a marketing activity to do with the #40, so it is great to see Oman Air celebrate in a unique manner by launching their 40th route.

Oman Air commenced operations in 1993. It achieved modest growth as a privately owned regional player till 2007, when the Government of Oman pulled out of Gulf Air, designated Oman Air as national carrier, recapitalized it and focused on developing it as an international airline. In 2007, Oman Air went long-haul by launching Bangkok and London. From then on, there has been no looking backwards for Oman Air, with a penchant of doing business differently from its bigger cousins in the region.

Pic credit: Smit ZhiFei, JetPhotos.Net

Oman Air - Flying High

2008 saw a slew of changes at Oman Air. In February 2008, Oman Air unveiled its new branding and aircraft livery as a part of its plans to go international. The characteristic Red, White and Green national colors and traditional Khanjar gave way to Turquoise Blue, Silver and Gold along with a Frankincense smoke plume in an effort to project Oman Air as the new wings of Oman and the ambassador of a nation known for its timeless traditions, vibrant heritage and legendary hospitality.

The year also saw the launch of new routes to the Indian Sub-Continent and the unveiling of a new fleet and long-haul route expansion program. In July 2008, industry veteran and former chief executive of Srilankan Airlines, Mr. Peter Hill took over as the new CEO of Oman Air following the untimely demise of CEO Ziad bin Karim Al Haremi, who played a stellar role in initiating the redevelopment and change of image of Oman Air.

2009 was truly a bellwether year for Oman Air. Under the leadership of Mr. Peter Hill and a revitalized management team, Oman Air went all out to dazzle the industry in a year of superlative achievements. The year witnessed in rapid succession the arrival of the first of Oman Air’s brand new A330s, the launch of Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Male and Colombo, the unveiling of new Balenciaga designed uniforms, the launch of industry-leading First, Business and Economy Class cabins on the A330 fleet. A $10 million destination marketing campaign in association with Ministry of Tourism saw both Oman and Oman Air make great inroads into European markets. During the 2009 Dubai Air Show, Oman Air finalized an order for 5 Embraer 175 aircraft with another 5 options.

Oman Air First Class Cabin

Oman Air Business Class - 1st in world to offer 4-abreast seating in cabin

In 2010, Oman Air became the first airline in the world to offer in-flight mobile and WiFi connectivity through OnAir onboard its long-haul Airbus A330 fleet. It is interesting to note that Oman Air covered impressive strides during a period when the airline industry was weathering a downturn.

Having made significant investments in infrastructure and improving its products and services over the last few years, the future looks robust for Oman Air. The airline has a strategic vision of differentiating itself from its regional competitors by being a niche boutique airline that is focused on driving point-to-point traffic rather than being a hub-and-spoke carrier.

The results of ‘Change is on its way’ and ‘Discover the future of air travel’ are promising. During the first half of 2010, Oman Air saw a 40% increase in available seat-kilometres, a 73% rise in revenue passenger-kilometres and a 14 point improvement in seat factor, over the same period last year with passenger numbers up by 46% and cargo by 44%.

Along with the ongoing development of Muscat International Airport, Oman Air is playing a key role in the development of 4 domestic airports coming up in Sohar, Ras Al Hadd, Adam and Duqm. In October 2010, Oman Air will launch Milan as its 41st route. The airline will take delivery of its 7th A330 in 2011along with the first of Embraer jets that will ply on domestic routes. Plans are on to refurbish the existing B737 fleet to the same standards as the luxurious A330 fleet. Oman Air will take delivery of its first B787 Dreamliner in 2014 (the airline will be acquiring them from ALAFCO). The first of 6 737s on order are expected to arrive in 2014 as well.

The fortunes of Oman Air will be tied to the successful joint promotion of Oman as a must-visit luxury destination by both Oman Air and Oman’s Ministry of Tourism (a point Mr. Hill emphasizes often to fill the birds), development of ancillary services related to hospitality, tourism, ground services etc., and a continual improvement of travel services in a region that offers unparalleled choice to the flying public and intense competition between regional legacy carriers such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways who are truly global in their reach and cut-throat Low Cost Carriers such as Flydubai and Air Arabia.


Mabrook, Oman Air. More power to your wings. Fly higher for Oman!

Great value Eid holiday airfares from Muscat to 15 cities around the world August 26, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Marketing, Oman, Travel.
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The Eid holidays are upon us and there is very much a chance that those in Oman will get a week off from Thursday, 9th of September 2010 to Wednesday, 15th of September 2010(?).

If that happens, happy long week holidays to all you.

And just in case, if you are planning to fly out of town, here’s a quick look at airfares in Muscat.

Understandably, most of you must have already booked your tickets, especially to India. If not, you can use this guide to snap up the last remaining deals.

From my research, Bangkok looks like the cheapest value long-haul destination to fly to. And towards India, Air India Express continues its reign as the best great value airline to fly to that part of the world. Flying out on Thursday, Wednesday, 15th of September 2010 will prove to be more expensive that any other day, as most people would want to start their holiday at the break of the weekend. If you can fly out on Friday, 10th of September or Saturday, 11th of September, you can save a couple of Rials. Lastly, flying on a low-cost airline such as Flydubai, Air India Express or Air Arabia can get you a better value than a full-service airline. And it goes without saying that the fares will rise as we get closer to Eid.

These airfares apply on a single adult, return journey from Muscat and are inclusive of all taxes and surcharges. They are valid as of 26 August 2010, 1pm – Oman time.

Journey dates: outbound – Thursday, 9th of September 2010 and inbound – Wednesday, 15th of September 2010, unless mentioned next to the itinerary. All journeys are non-stop, unless indicated.

Let’s roll with the fares.

1.    Cochin: MCT-COK-MCT: 194 Rials on Jet Airways.

2.    Mumbai: MCT-MUM-MCT: 131 Rials on Air India.

3.    Trivandrum: MCT-TRV-MCT: 196 Rials on Jet Airways. 176 Rials on Air India Express if outbound: Friday, 10th of September 2010 and inbound: Thursday, 16th of September 2010.

4.    Calicut/Kozhikode: MCT-CCJ-MCT: 142 Rials on Air India Express.

5.   Delhi: MCT-DEL-MCT: 140 Rials on Air India Express. 134 Rials on Gulf Air with layover and change of aircraft at Bahrain.

6.    Mangalore: MCY-IXE-MCT: 184.5 Rials on Air India Express, if outbound: Friday, 10th of September 2010 and inbound: Thursday, 16th of September 2010.

7.    Dubai: MCT-DXB-MCT: 38 Rials on Flydubai.

8.    Bangkok: MCT-BKK-MCT: 153 Rials on Qatar Airways with a layover in Doha & change of aircraft in Doha.

9.   Kuala Lumpur: MCT-KUL-MCT: 241 Rials on Qatar Airways with a layover & change of aircraft in Doha.

10.   London Heathrow: MCT-LHR-MCT: 259 Rials on British Airways with stopover at Abu Dhabi, no aircraft change.

11.    Amman: MCT-AMM-MCT: 209.860 Rials on Flydubai with layover and change of aircraft at Dubai.

12.    Cairo: MCT-CAI-MCT: 232 Rials on Emirates with layover and change of aircraft at Dubai.

13.    Frankfurt: MCT-FRA-MCT: 225 Rials on Gulf Air with layover and change of aircraft at Bahrain.

14.    Colombo: MCT-CMB-MCT: 192 Rials on Emirates with layover and change of aircraft at Dubai.

15.    Kathmandu: MCT-KTM-MCT: 123.700 Rials on Oman Air, if outbound: Thursday, 9th of September 2010 and inbound: Thursday, 16th of September 2010.

To get these offers, visit the respective airline website, check with your travel agent or head to Expedia.  Please note that air fares of Oman Air, Air India Express &  Flydubai are not listed on Expedia.

Tom Peters has a message for Oman April 19, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Marketing, Oman.
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World-renowned Management Guru Tom Peters will be in Muscat on 4 May 2010 for a one day seminar on ‘Excellence – Continuing The Search’. The seminar is organized by Khimji Training Institute LLC and presented by Nawras Business Solutions.

Tom describes himself as a “gadfly, curmudgeon, champion of bold failures, prince of disorder, maestro of zest, professional loudmouth, corporate cheerleader, lover of markets, capitalist pig.” (An impressive bio by all means).

When he wrote his best-selling book ‘In Search of Excellence’ with Bob Waterman over 25 years ago, Tom was the first to introduce the corporate world to the concept of Excellence which is today a universal idea-ideal that translates and transports across all borders.

In 1999, ‘In Search of Excellence’ was honored by NPR as one of the “Top Three Business Books of the Century”—and ranked as the “greatest business book of all time” in a poll by Britain’s Bloomsbury Publishing.

This morning, I asked him on Twitter about what his 140-character motivational message on the theme of Excellence for Oman was. He was very kind enough to reply and said:


Don’t think of Excellence as a “lifelong aspiration.” Forget that! Instead: HOW CAN I EXPRESS EXCELLENCE IN THE NEXT HOUR??

Reflecting on that, I think we focus so much on the future that we lose sight of the present picture. We think we will strive for excellence in some big action in the future while we can do better by applying excellence to an action right away. Yes, so it’s better to focus on excellence with a sense of immediacy in everything we do, however minute or mundane the task may be.

This is Tom’s second visit to Oman and I wish him & the attendees of his seminar an excellent and productive session. I also hope that the ash cloud over Europe dissipates in time so that he doesn’t have to circumvent the globe to get to Muscat.

More on Tom Peters:
Tom is widely credited with almost single-handedly “inventing” the “management guru industry,” now billions of dollars in size. Since 1978, he’s given well over 2,500 speeches, flown 5,000,000+ miles, spoken before 2-3 million people and presented in 48 states and 63 countries.

Tom was the first guru to stress on the importance of design as an extraordinary competitive advantage. He was also the first to voice the need for employees to re-shape their careers around the idea of “brand you” (every person a “businessperson”) if they were to add useful value to their firms and survive the perils of cutthroat global competition.

You can read more about Tom Peters by clicking here.

Chipping for Oman at Dubai Twestival February 17, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Oman, Social Media, Travel.
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The Dubai Twestival Tee
Dubai
was one of the 175 cities around the world to organize the Twestival on 12 February 2009. Nearly 150 Tweeters gathered at Le Meridien Mina Seyahi’s fab Barasti Bar for the Dubai Twestival @DubaiTwestival.

Dubai PR agency Spot On @spotonpr estimates that out of the 1,500 Twitter users in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), over 500 are based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Currently, UAE has the fastest growing Twitter audience in the region with over 20% per month. Considering that Twitter was banned in UAE till August 2008, these numbers are quite impressive.

With not more than 15 active Tweeters based out from Oman, we couldn’t have a Twestival in Muscat, so I decided to join the Twestival crowd at Dubai. Even more exciting for me was the fact that I drove down from Muscat to Dubai and back (my first time ever) – a distance of 800km.

The ride was exciting and before I left I was like I need to take something special for the Twitterati in Dubai. I first thought about postcards that capture Oman’s beautiful imagery, but then I hit upon a better idea.

Arun Rajagopal with PK Gulati at Dubai Twestival
If you live in
Oman, you would have definitely tasted ‘Chips Oman’ which is one of the most popular snacks in this country. It’s like staple food out here along with Mountain Dew. So I took bags of Chips Oman crisps across the border, because they stand for Oman (a chips brand named after a country is just yummy!). You might take a look at the Chips Oman page on Facebook as well.

Yes, so I made it to Barasti with bags of chips in hand. It was great meeting a lot of interesting tweeps at Dubai. There was a clear sense of camaraderie that goes with being a part of a small community. And it’s a community that will go stronger and get better over time.

I particularly enjoyed meeting @PKGulati, @Renroon, @divine_dee, @kangayayaroo, @umarpirzada, @ MaliZomg, @Lhjunkie, @mayG_UTP, @mnystedt, @DaddyBird, @skinnylatte, @esperanca, @DrBaher, @dxbluey @Carringtonm & many others. I didn’t get to say hello to a lot of people & I’m hoping to connect with more at the next outing.

I missed out on my Dubai Twestival Official Tee (actually left it on the couch & found it missing by the time I remembered) – that was a disappointment considering it would have made a lovely souvenir for my trip.

Many, many thanks to the organizers of the Dubai Twestival who made it all happen. It’s no small task to put up an event of this magnitude – and the outcome was simply splendid.

Another highlight of my Dubai trip was getting to meet David Koopmans from Melbourne @koopmans but that is fodder for another post! Tweet on, people…

News on Dubai Twestival (very extensively covered in local media):

Snaps from Dubai Twestival:

Pics credit @bojicas

Five in the Morning from Oman February 9, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Digital, Oman, Social Media.
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5 O’Clock, originally uploaded by surlygrrrl [ELBfoto].

When Steve Woodruff asked me to host the ‘Five in the Morning Series’ out of Oman, I had no hesitation to jump in the bandwagon.

Actually, running the series from here is a breeze. (Because 5am EST in the US is 2pm in Oman).

I’m going to use this opportunity to turn the spotlight on a couple of bloggers out of the Arabian Gulf region. They don’t educate us on social media per se, but they ‘live social media’ on their blogs by telling the world about the good, bad and ugly in their societies. No holds barred. Plus, isn’t it great to turn the mirror on a part of the world that is so less understood by the whole wide web of the world out there?

So without much ado, let’s get the show going.

Oman:
The Muscatis (Muscati and his spouse Um Faisal which means ‘mother of Faisal’) publish interesting ramblings, musings and outbursts from the land called ‘Oh-man!’ on their blog.

Saudi Arabia:
Saudi Jeans written by Ahmed Al-Omran aims to provide news, commentary, and personal views on political and social issues in Saudi Arabia, with a special focus on freedom of expression, human rights and women’s rights.

Bahrain:
Ammar aka Ammaro is a young blogger out of Bahrain who works in the financial services industry and keeps things kicking in the Pearl Island.

Kuwait:
Two forty eight am (The B-sides) is a blog by Mark and Nat, a married Lebanese couple who are living in Kuwait. Mark works in Advertising while Nat works in TV. Both keep Kuwait on the blogging radar.

United Arab Emirates:
The blog Dubai Media Observer offers a critical view of the media industry in the UAE. If you were looking for a blog that serves you a bit of intrigue, dollops of adventure and lots of controversy, I’d lead you to Secret Dubai Diary. To top it all, Life in Dubai is a great blog written by an Australian expat with thoughts and comments on how it is to live in a city of superlatives.

Big hat-tip to Amjad for leading me to some of these blogs. Thank you Steve for this great opportunity to have a go at ‘Five in the Morning’.

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From Minnesota to the World-Via Oman February 3, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Oman, Social Media, Travel.
2 comments
Muscat Festival 2009-10, originally uploaded by arunmct.

In March 2007, an enterprising guy from Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA set out to see the world. Not before selling his thriving business and home, putting his belongings into storage and spending some time with his folks before getting on the road.

For over 2 years, Gary Arndt has been traveling and blogging around the world armed with his laptop, camera and iPhone. On last count, he has visited over 50 countries. A few weeks ago, Gary was in Oman and I had the pleasure of hanging out with him.

As someone with a deep interest in travel, I found Gary’s accounts of his journeys highly fascinating and very insightful.

A visit to his travel blog Everything-Everywhere.com is more than a descriptive account of the places and people a nomadic traveler encounters. It’s a perceptive mirror of history, cultures, societies, quirky foibles, extraordinary experiences and the captivating minutiae of life across the globe.

Gary is not on a mission to change the world with his travels. There is no cause to support or an agenda to push. There’s no poring over a guidebook and attempting to recreate an experience. Off-the beaten path is more like it.

He does not make detailed plans before visiting a destination. He does not know when he will get back home. He is not perturbed that his cash will run out. He will probably not know which city will be next on his itinerary. He digs World Heritage Sites a lot. He enjoys meeting people in the places he travels to. He has been to those teeny-weeny islands in the Pacific that are probably unknown to many.

Gary plans to write a book on his travels. It will be beyond a travelogue that recounts ‘I went here. I saw this. I did that’. A chapter in the book will be on monarchs that will offer a fascinating perspective of rulers around the world. One could be on the history of Marshall Islands. Speaking engagements are also in the pipeline. His amazing collection of travel photographs could fetch him moolah.

Here are a couple of interesting thoughts that Gary left behind.

He believes that a year of international travel is as good as four years of a university education.

He says that a recession is the best time to travel around the world. Why would you want to work harder to make a living when all the economic forces are against you? You would rather go on a ‘sleep mode’ and then on a ‘refresh drive’ around the world.

He believes that the skills you learn from traveling stand in good stead when it comes to work or life.

He says that ‘cleanliness’ and ‘quality of highways’ are the best indicators of how developed a nation can be. He rates Muscat if not the best, among the best cities in the world.

He chronicled the saga of the Musandam Ferry on his blog. (Here’s another account on Muscati’s blog). Gary ran from pillar to post trying to find information on the ferry. His experience on how essential information on a service that is meant for tourists is not easily available to them should be an eye-opener for decision-makers who want to attract tourists to Oman. Change is on its way. The National Ferry Company has just launched a website with the info. Hat tip to Sangeetha at the Digital Oman blog.

His ride from Nizwa to Muscat is a fascinating testimonial of the outstanding hospitality shown by the people of this country. If you are a foreigner wary of the Middle East, Gary‘s experience will be a pleasant eye-opener.

If it were not for him, I would not have visited the ongoing Muscat Festival at Rose Garden, Qurum. It took the company of a tourist for me to go and experience the magic that is happening in my own backyard.

The Muscat Festival was a great opportunity for me to observe firsthand the amazing heritage and culture of this country, something I thought I already knew because I have lived here for 16 odd years. How wrong I was. A blog post on it is in the works.

People like him are the best brand ambassadors Oman can ever ask for. A few months from now, he might sit in a remote corner of the world and regale the locals there of how his arrival in Oman coincided with the country’s famous Gulf Cup victory. Hundreds of readers of his blog will learn about the Musandam Ferry fiasco. His book might feature an anecdote on his Nizwa ride and sharing lamb meat sticks with a stranger’ experience.

I wish Gary happy travels. Do follow his journeys on his blog. If his experiences motivate you to see more of the world yourself or make you look out more from your little shell, I’d say go for it.

Gary was profiled by ‘The Week’ during his visit to Oman. Read the story by Sujit Kumar.

A few thoughts on Brand Oman January 26, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Advertising, Branding, Conversations, Digital, Oman, Social Media.
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brand oman logo

Yesterday, national brand mark of the Sultanate of Oman was unveiled. This logo is an initiative from the Oman Brand Management Unit (OBMU).

Firstly, why is the need for Oman to go into national branding?

It’s important to project a favorable image of the country, especially after understanding how the country is presently viewed within its borders and overseas. There’s a heightened interest about Oman globally, considering its unique tourism appeal and its relative resilience in the current economic situation.

In the words of His Highness Sayyid Faisal bin Turki Al Said, who heads OBMU:

“We’re a relatively small country and generally little known.”

“Now is the time to identify what unique qualities Oman has to offer and balance this with what consumers actually want from us.

“Understand our compelling truth and look at what we have — natural resources, beauty, minerals, culture, infrastructure, education, technology — and then match these deliverables to what is really wanted from a global audience.

Here’s an explanation of the logo mark on Times of Oman.

From what I have seen of the Oman Air corporate rebranding exercise last year, I know that whenever a new logo is unveiled, you have two sides of opinion. Some like it. Some don’t.

A lot of local people do not get that the logo mark is calligraphy that reads ‘OMAN’. (I just did a small dipstick survey). People get it when I tell them it is calligraphy and ask them to read for a word. The hues are very refreshing. However, it’s only when you read the rationale that you understand the mighty burdens resting on the humble logo. Some have said the colors are similar to those in the logos of Oman Oil Marketing Co., Nawras and Renaissance Services in Oman. Read some comments in Sangeetha Sridhar’s post in the Digital Oman blog.

My point is: there’s no going back to the drawing board. From now on, it’s about how effectively you get the message across different touch points about what Oman means as an international brand.

Oman Tourism Logo

This is the current OMAN logo that is used by the country’s Ministry of Tourism, mostly used for promoting destination Oman. It’s likely the new ‘Brand Oman’ logo will take its place. How do both the logos compare?

Also, the new Brand Oman logo will not only be used to promote the tourism aspect of Oman, but also the national, international, commercial, industrial, economic, cultural, sports facets of the nation. I expect this logo to be present on any banner to do with Oman with a national or international purview… from summits, events, activities, campaigns, tournaments, festivals… you get the big picture.

It’s very disheartening that the Brand Oman website is not up and running. Please note that it’s www.brandoman.om and NOT www.brandoman.com.

In this age of social media, there’s no better medium that digital to reach out your message in a more compelling and conversational manner. I will recommend a URL that does not have ‘brand’ in it. To an end user, the word brand does not mean anything i.e. convey a positive, impressionable attitude. It’s more about ‘OMAN’ than the ‘BRAND’.

Try this: http://www.brandoman.om vs. http://www.amazingoman.om or just http://www.oman.om

Assuming you haven’t visited the website, which URL gives you a better image of the country?

A new print campaign has appeared in the local newspapers unveiling the logo with a message ‘Our universities are our legacy’. It’s too early to comment before knowing how it will unfold.

The challenge in the coming days is how interestingly OBMU will tell the story of Oman to the world. How various communication activities pertaining to Oman that happen across diverse touch points will be synergized to convey a single message, both locally and internationally? How will you bring in the voices of the amazing mix of people that make up this country?

All the best, ‘Brand Oman’!


Speaking at The New Media Event, Dubai December 9, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Digital, Oman, Social Media.
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From 14-18 December 2008, I will be a part of The New Media Event in Dubai, the first and the biggest ever event devoted to social media in this part of the world.

Held at the JW Marriott Hotel in Dubai, The New Media Event features over 20 leading experts from Middle East and around the world who will help attendees understand the growing power of new media in corporate world and identify the key social media tools, challenges, issues and trends that brands and organizations in the region need to be familiar with.

On 15 December 2008, I will be doing a keynote on corporate blogging with Rajiv Ahuja from Muscat who writes the only corporate blog from Oman – Khimji Ramdas Bright Sparks.

Our presentation ‘Getting On The Corporate Blogging Bandwagon’ will attempt to answer the following questions:

  • Should you be on the corporate blogging bandwagon?
  • What are the lessons to learn and the pitfalls to avoid?
  • How to get more value from your corporate blogging endeavors?

A part of our presentation will focus on Rajiv Ahuja sharing his learnings and experience from Khimji Ramdas Bright Sparks, the first corporate blogging initiative from Oman.

If you are attending the event, I look forward to meeting you there and I hope that you derive excellent value from the splendid lineup of presentations and workshops that are focused on ‘you getting social media right’.

I will live-blog about the event so that those of you with an interest in social media in the region but cannot make it to the event can also stay updated.

I think it is an exciting time for social media to take off in the region, with fears of a recession widespread in Dubai and more marketers interested in using social media to create more interactive conversations and effective relationships with their customers.

Based in the Sultanate of Oman, I have seen that interest in social media has been spiking recently especially in the corporate sector. Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM), the Muscat-based national ICT park recently organized a Digital Nation Seminar on Blogging on 10 November 2008. This was followed by a couple of stories in local media especially on blogging. (The Week article Blogging Goes Corporate quotes me and Rajiv Ahuja.)

Beginning next year, my effort is to help organize a forum like BarCamp in Muscat so that we can help popularize and familiarize social media among followers. It’s also a long-standing promise I have made to social media guru Connie Reece who is based in Austin.

My perception is that a lot of people in the Middle East know the social media tools, but are yet to get the big picture, the big idea of social media by using the tools in an effective way that delivers value.

I think primary concerns are:

  1. Is social media just a fad I can live without?
  2. I have my corporate website, isn’t that enough?
  3. What do I say and how do I say it?
  4. What will social media do for me?
  5. What are the metrics that will measure success?
  6. Will I lose control of the conversation?
  7. Is there a business model behind blogging?
  8. How much money will I make from my corporate blog?
  9. How will get various stakeholders to buy into my social media engagement?
  10. The fear of the unknown

These are natural concerns and I would recommend that you address them head on. It is by participating in events such as these that you will get the answers to these questions and learn the ropes of social media.

This is my first ever speaking gig and I will go into the event with the message that you can make a mark in social media if you LISTEN, OBSERVE, LEARN, BE HUMAN and TRY TO GIVE VALUE. Like my good friend and marketing champ CK says, social media is an exercise in getting the basics right!

It’s my pleasure to join the following speakers at The New Media Event in Dubai.

  1. Debbie Weil, Author, The Corporate Blogging Book
  2. Robin Hamman, Head of Social Media, Headshift (Former Head of Blogging, BBC)
  3. Marta Kagan, Director of Marketing, Viximo.com
  4. Philippe Borremans, Marketing Director, Blackline / Former Media Lead, IBM
  5. Mohamed El Fatatry, Founder, Muxlim.com
  6. Angel Gambino, Former Global VP Music & Content, BEBO
  7. Dan Healy, CEO, Real-Opinions
  8. Magnus Nystedt, Founder, emiratesmac.com
  9. Omar F. Koudsi, President & Co-founder, jeeran.com
  10. David Skul, CEO, Relativity
  11. Steve Vaile, Founder & CEO, H2O Media
  12. Rama Chakaki, Chief Operations Officer, H2O Media
  13. Scott Monty, Head of Social Media, Ford
  14. Rajiv Ahuja, Head, Corporate Communications, Khimji Ramdas
  15. Bobby Kakar, Head of Marketing – Direct Channels, HSBC
  16. Mohamed Nanabhay, Head of New Media, Al Jazeera
  17. Jonathan Woodier, Director Corporate Communications EMEA Global Consumer Group, Citi Group
  18. Philippe Deltenre, Media Strategist, Microsoft
  19. Duane Nickull, Senior Technological Evangelist ADOBE & Host, Duane’s World TV
  20. Ammar Bakkar, Head of New Media, MBC Group
  21. Catherine Captain, VP Marketing, msnbc.com

More on the The New Media Event to follow. Stay tuned, folks!

Happy Birthday, Qurum City Centre! October 27, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Oman, Pot Pourri.
Tags: ,
1 comment so far

The new City Centre at Qurum opened this morning. I was pretty excited to be one of the first to get there. The Qurum City Centre is a mini replica of the big one at Seeb. I took a walk around the mall and was glad to see some of my favorite outlets: Borders, Giordano, McDonald’s, Costa Coffee and Coffee Republic.

Fashion brands that hold court include Pierre Cardin, Giordano, Mango, Next, Monsoon, Promod, Nayomi, Damas, Adidas, Swatch, Steve Madden and so on.

They have a promising food court with Fillings, Hatam, KFC, Magic Wok, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Shamiana. Watch out for H&M, Jumbo, Nawras, Oman Mobile & Starbucks outlets opening soon.

Carrefour promises to be a great draw for all the people who can now skip the 80km odd drive to the City Centre at Seeb from Ruwi.

If you are living in Ruwi and looking for quick and convenient shopping, you should head to the Qurum City Centre, but if you are looking for more choice in terms of brands and product offerings, Seeb City Centre still rules.

I somehow feel the new City Centre doesn’t have enough parking spaces (they have 1000 bays). Also do watch out for construction on the roads leading away from the City Centre, it’s good to go easy on the gas pedal and to watch out for traffic.

Photo Credit: Saloni Suri of Asda’a PR, Muscat. I clicked a few pics from my phone as well, will upload them soon.