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Homespun companies identify with local needs

Article - November 21, 2014

Companies like AVOD and Teejan are attentive to the needs of the markets, and successfully grow their activity base and product lines accordingly


His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said’s long-term development plans have spawned homespun success stories, including the Teejan Group and Areej Vegetable Oils & Derivatives (AVOD).

Since it was founded as a trading and services company in 1974, Teejan has grown to be one of the leading groups in Oman, with construction its strategic business base. It began building schools (to date more than 150), hospitals and health centers, and then widened its portfolio to include industrial projects.

“Later on we built malls, factories in Sohar, a power plant in Salalah, and other buildings – iconic buildings,” Hamed Al Harrassy, founder and Chairman of Teejan, says, citing the example of the cruise ship terminal on Muscat’s Muttrah corniche.

Wholly Omani-owned, Teejan has grown over the years into a diversified conglomerate, doing business not only in construction, but also in different fields of engineering, the food and beverage sector, and information technology.

“We are gold partners with Microsoft to license the government and big institutions – and we have been successful in that. We have another partnership with a company called EON, from Silicon Valley,” Mr. Al Harrassy says with justifiable pride.

Like Oman, Teejan’s success is based on diversification. “If you look at businesses in Oman, the most successful ones have diversified,” says the firm’s chairman. “They see this country as a small market so they have to create an opportunity to spread their sources of income in case one doesn’t work out. It is the vision of the government and the vision of the companies as well.”

Mr. Al Harrassy also attributes the success of Teejan and its contemporaries to the stable economy, made possible in large part to H.M. Sultan Qaboos’ leadership. “The economy has always been well looked after and good planning has benefited the country and the people,” he says.

Areej Vegetable Oils and Derivatives (AVOD) is another Omani success story. Founded 30 years ago, AVOD exports high-quality cooking oils, ghee, margarine, specialty fats, and butter products around the world from Oman, with clients from Azerbaijan to Zambia, Australia to the United States. Global foods giant Unilever sources its vegetable ghee, corn oil and frying solutions from AVOD.

Three of AVOD’s products – Khafeef light frying oil and Minara and Sohar cooking oils – won the prestigious “Superbrands” title in 2013, and Khafeef was named Brand of the Year last year at an event in Muscat. The Superbrands award recognizes a product for its marketing, quality and exceptionality. Participation in Superbrands is by invitation only, and offered to the most outstanding brands in their field.

AVOD Executive Director Prem Maker says the company developed Khafeef after finding that consumers were not satisfied with the results they got from frying with different oils. After numerous tests and countless fried chicken fillet dinners, AVOD found that a blend of corn oil and super palm olein – from palm fruit – worked best.

“It took a few years to develop the technology internally,” Mr. Maker says.

Khafeef is at the cutting edge of what could be called food technology. Dr. Wafaa Hilmi Ayesh, the head of Clinical Nutrition at Rashid Hospital in the United Arab Emirates, says Khafeef contains more anti-oxidants and Vitamin E than any other frying oil, doesn’t become thick and sticky during frying, and is free of trans fatty acids, or trans fats.

Mr. Maker emphasizes that AVOD stays abreast of Oman’s, and the region’s, needs. “You have to leverage yourself with what the country needs and where it is going. We are in the fast-moving consumer goods business and so we focus on brands that create value, and on constant innovation,” he says. “We are in the process of launching another brand for the GCC, and hope to make it a Superbrand.”

Not only does AVOD address consumer needs, the company also adds to Oman’s skills set through its in-house technical training programs.