Empowering people

Eshraqa, the social development arm of Khimji Ramdas, envisions local people achieving their full potential by establishing an environment conducive to improved creativity, productivity and well-being

Khimji Ramdas (KR) has had the privilege of supporting Oman’s development and investing in the socioeconomic prosperity of local communities for around 150 years. The KR Group stands strong in its commitment to building strategic plans to inspire sustainable developments with a range of programmes spearheaded by the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team.

Says Nailesh Khimji, director of Khimji Ramdas: “Over the years, various CSR structures have positioned KR as a change agent across the nation, through which our achievements have been recognised at the local, regional, and international level. As we go above and beyond the call of duty in tending to the needs of local people and doing the very best we can, I feel confident in saying that the KR Group is creating a profound impact on Oman’s development, as defined by the values of cooperation and the continued success and emergence of the Sultanate overall.”

Interlinking the critical components of education, health, and community wellbeing, Eshraqa envisions local people achieving their full potential by establishing an environment conducive to improved creativity, productivity and wellbeing. These three pillars consequently form the foundation and focus areas for KR’s social investments.

“We employ a unique approach of focusing our CSR initiatives in one or two governorates over a two-year timeframe,” explains Nailesh. “This helps us to maximise the impact and ensure all Wilayats are covered in a structured manner. We focussed on the Wilayat of Samail from 2016-2017 and moved towards the wilayats of Izki and Bid Bid for 2018/2019. The care bestowed by Eshraqa does not come to a close at the border of a particular province, however; Eshraqa retains an objective focus on meeting the requirements of communities that need it most with a national focus. Thanks to the strategic investments of our various CSR platforms and initiatives, a new dawn has shed its light upon local people and entrepreneurs across Oman.”

Supporting communities

The quality of a society is representative of the people within it, thus Eshraqa strives to support communities in becoming more economically independent by partnering in their success across every aspect of life. As a means of enhancing the quality of everyday living for each community we touch, KR’s social investment arm delivers initiatives focussed on infrastructural growth, youth development, monetary and equipment donations, human capital investments, building professional skillsets, sponsorship, research, testing, medical advancement, outreach, women empowerment, environment and sports. Each area of activity encompasses the core pillars of education, health and community wellbeing.

Nailesh says Eshraqa strongly believes that education is a key ingredient in the recipe for economic sustainability, societal harmony and individual excellence. “We have taken the lead under our Training Initiatives for Nationals programme (TIN), which generates a very measurable impact amongst the Omani youth,” he adds. TIN has three aspects to it, including training for employment, which covers vocational training and the campus to corporate programme, training for development, covering leadership workshops for Omanis, and train the trainer programmes, whilst Eshraqa Entrepreneurship Academy supports budding entrepreneurs find their feet in viable yet competitive markets.

Committed to building the knowledge, skills, and aptitude of talented Omanis to enhance the proficiency and competitiveness of the national workforce, TIN supports Eshraqa’s objective of optimising learning and development across all trades and professions to meet the Sultanate’s manpower requirements. The platform is centred on vocational training for school graduates, entrepreneurial guidance, coaching for leadership roles, and sharpening skills to make people more employable.

TIN nurtures talent from across the Sultanate, and has to-date trained over 1,400 Omanis, mentoring over 1,000 through the campus to corporate leadership programme, with more than 100 entrepreneurs benefitting from start-up weekend, and 325 youth at INMA leadership workshops for SMEs.

Maintaining its focus on the national workforce, Eshraqa has funded the Omani employees of KR to attend workshops across Asia, including trips to Malaysia and the Indian subcontinent, as well as other key contributions to learning for aspiring professionals. This has observed collaboration with market leaders such as Takatuf on its scholarship programme, which offers two Omani students a six-year international academic studentship in Canada. The founders of Eshraqa are also founding members of Muscat University.

Eshraqa has been a strong supporter of the the Environment Society of Oman’s (ESO) annual activities such as Omani Environment Day and Earth Hour, geared towards implementing eco-conscious solutions for reducing the nation’s carbon footprint. Eshraqa remains a dedicated supporter of the ESO’s annual Environmental Public Speaking Competition, providing training for the national level winners representing the Sultanate at the regional finals in Dubai. The Omani teams continue their winning streak, at the regional environment speaking championship for the third consecutive year.

One modest project that KR Group takes great pride in for its learning investment with youth is the Sindbad Children’s Mobile Library, a storytelling initiative that promotes a culture of reading and improves literacy for children across Oman. Eshraqa has provided two new trailers and donated 10,000 books and colouring pads to-date.

Eshraqa plays a significant role in enhancing the efficiency of the health sector as an imperative foundation in any emerging economy. Some of the groups, associations, and initiatives served entail interactions with the Association for Early Intervention for Children with Disabilities, the Down Syndrome Association, Oman Association of the Disabled, and the Association for the Hearing Impaired. Says Nailesh, “Some of our most recent donations include 10 Braille U2 Sense Machines for Al Noor Association for the Blind and 15 laptops to SQU graduates with clinically diagnosed disabilities. Providing equipment, sponsoring activities, contributing to infrastructure, and enhancing the learning of these communities has been praised far and wide, with prospects and people to be proud of on all sides.”

Eshraqa’s outreach programme helps deliver critical insights on local health care, such as Oman National Nutrition Survey (ONNS), a first-of-its-kind initiative undertaken in the Sultanate under the auspices of the Ministry of Health. Eshraqa’s partnership aimed to assess and analyse the nutrition levels of Omanis, notably women and children as the anchors of society. Another significant support was providing vital-sign monitors at the paediatric intensive care unit at Samail Hospital, an essential piece of equipment required to raise the standards of care for children in surrounding communities. Our focused efforts to improving hospital facilities include delivering an ultrasound machine at Fanja Hospital, electronic patient beds at Izki Hospital, and vital-sign monitors at Bidbid Health Centre. Eshraqa has been orchestrating blood donation camps, driving health related events, and other awareness- focussed activities through its annual contributions.

Sports play a big part in Eshraqa’s social endeavours. Nailesh says, “As a socially focussed investment arm, we believe that children and older youth deserve the opportunity to refine their skills in order to reach their maximum potential – and perhaps even one day represent the Sultanate on the international stage.” Eshraqa works far and wide to produce the foundations required for basic practice and involvement in sport. Some of its sponsorship efforts include Oman Karting Team, the Swanyi Beach Tournament (by Al Swayni Sport Services); sportswear for Al Itifaq Team and Widam Al Ghaf, the Ministry of Sports Affairs’ Shaqi Farikak, the Summer of Sports event, and Nakhal Sports Team’s teacher football tournament. Recently, Eshraqa sponsored the Paralympic Team to partake in the World Para Athletics Grand Prix Series 2018 in Tunis. The Omani delegation including eight athletes who competed among 20 other countries and came home with a total of 12 medals (two Gold, six Silver and four Bronze).

Similarly, Eshraqa has helped to organise Mass Weddings in the Wilayats of Izki, Yiti, and Bandar Al Khairan to help financially challenged Omanis move forward with this important life event. Mosques have been built nationwide, in addition to multiple Majlis in remote communities throughout the interior. Eshraqa has also contributed to Women Empowerment projects, providing sewing machines to Basmati Al Khair Association, and a digital literacy programme for housewives who are members of the Omani Women Association.

Furthering its investments on social welfare, the team distributed 8,000 Ramadan boxes to families in need during the build-up to the Holy Month of Ramadan in 2018. The team visited 18 charities and non-profit organisations to reach beneficiaries across the nation with packages that contained essential items.

One of Eshraqa’s key ongoing achievements is currently providing infrastructural aid to government schools supporting education and training in the wilayats of Samail, Izki, and Bid Bid. Twenty three sun shades, 323 smart TVs, 250 surveillance cameras, and four artificial playgrounds with turf and porta cabins have been planned for delivery by 2019.

Unlocking the SME potential

With a view to place Oman as an exemplary case amidst the increasingly competitive and complex global arena, KR’s social investment arm works to unlock the potential of the SME sector through training and ground level support.

“Starting a new business in an emerging market beset by economic fluctuation is no mean feat,” says Nailesh. “Be it with conventional or new and exciting concepts, Entrepreneurs looking to establish themselves in Oman tend to experience undue pressures and constraints owing to gaps in knowledge and the need for training. Eshraqa Entrepreneurship Academy (EEA) is a fantastic example of the benefits that come from collaboration. As a platform defined by partnership the EEA produces high calibre training and mentoring programmes to meet the needs of different groups across Oman, providing assistance from experts on a range of subjects including funding, feasibility studies, business planning, operations, and facility access, in addition to assistance in the backward/forward integration of businesses with suppliers, customers and clustering.”

Entrepreneurial development is essential to Oman’s continued progress, and like any investor delivering holistic contributions, Eshraqa has taken an admirable stance in assisting micro, small, and medium-sized businesses. In collaboration with Riyada and SME Fund, Eshraqa Entrepreneurship Academy mentors aspiring Omani talent. KR’s Leadership Academy has also created a strong skill development framework to transform thousands of young Omanis at key stages of professional advancement, which the group believes is essential, as these are the people who will start the SMEs that form the backbone of Oman’s economy. “The investment does not stop there however, and this is a point often missed; those who are trained are not only valuable in that they can produce a better performance or output, but in that they become the inspiration for future entrepreneurs and colleagues. Those trained therein comprise a tool for enhancing the existing and future workforce as an increasingly competitive resource directed at national prosperity,” concludes Nailesh.

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