Doha Bank, one of the largest private commercial bank in the State of Qatar, organized a knowledge sharing session highlighting the current trends, growth prospects and the challenges faced by the Small and Medium Business Enterprises [SMEs] in the State of Qatar on the 28th July 2008 at Al Fayrouz Ballroom, Marriot Hotel, Doha, State of Qatar. The knowledge session was attended by Ambassadors, other dignitaries, Qatar Chamber of Commerce officials, esteemed customers of Doha Bank, large numbers of small & medium businessmen, industrialists, analysts and economists from across the State of Qatar.
Mr. R. Seetharaman, Chief Executive Officer, Doha Bank addressed the gathering as the key note speaker. Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Seetharaman highlighted the current global crisis, its impact on the functioning of the global economy, the financial stability of the world economies, the economic outlook on the world economies in consideration to the current financial crisis and the policy changes that are required at a macro-economic level and financial/monetary level to come out of the current financial crisis.
Mr. Seetharaman further elaborated how GCC and in specific the State of Qatar, have emerged as a role model for transformation on economic and social fronts. “State of Qatar has effectively followed the true principles of globalization that is driving the world economies through progressive liberalization and modernization under the astute leadership of His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar and His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, Heir Apparent of the State of Qatar” he said. Mr. Seetharaman further highlighted the socio-economic development projects such as setting up of Qatar Financial Center, establishment of world-class educational institutions and investment in large infrastructure projects. These developments across all the sectors have created a sound platform for the growth of ancillary small and medium enterprises (SME) in the coming years. Gauging this paradigm shift, Doha Bank in its commitment to partner in State of Qatar’s growth has dedicated a specialized banking product “Tatweer”, which offers a comprehensive range of products and services to meet the SME segment’s unique banking and financial needs. Further, Mr. Seetharaman highlighted the success of SME model in the world’s biggest economies like USA, Japan etc., and said “To enable State of Qatar to realize its Vision 2030 the role played by the SME sector will be a strategic one. This is possible through progressive collaboration among institutions committed to the development of SME sector, through stronger Public-Private Partnership in the coming years”.
Dr. Khalid Al-Hajri, General Manager, Qatar Chamber of Commerce and also the Guest of Honour for the evening while sharing his thoughts on SME business, highlighted the growing number of organizations in the SME sector in the State of Qatar, the positive factors influencing their growth and the challenges faced by them. Dr. Khalid also informed the august gathering the commitment of Government of Qatar by way of their pro-active allocation of QAR 2 billion towards the development of SME sector in the State of Qatar as pronounced by H.E. The Prime Minister of Qatar. Dedicated industrial areas are also being set up for the SME sector. In his concluding remarks, Dr. Khalid said “Future is for SME sector and increasing government interest by way of introduction of various measures, will enable SME sector to play a strategic role in State of Qatar’s macro-economic performance.” He endorsed the Public-Private Partnership model for the development of SME sector in the State of Qatar.
As a part of this knowledge sharing seminar, a panel discussion titled “SME sector - Challenges & Solutions” was also held. The panel had Ms. Muna Al-Naimi, Director of Studies & Projects Department, Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Mr. Kofi Milumbe, Manager In-charge International Financial Reporting Standards, Grant Thornton; Ms. Billye Atout, Senior Manager - Enterprise (A) - Small Enterprises Business Solution Q-Tel and Mr. Kevin Cain, Head Wholesale Banking Doha Bank as the speakers. The panel session was moderated by Mr. Seetharaman.
Ms. Muna Al-Naimi in her presentation highlighted the importance of SME business sector to the overall macro-economic fundamentals, the growth and prospects of SME business sector in the State of Qatar and the key role and initiatives undertaken by Qatar Chamber of Commerce in the development of SME business sector in the State of Qatar. Ms. Muna also highlighted succinctly the challenges faced by SME business sector especially in the areas of marketing & distribution and also suggested solutions to overcome the challenges in marketing & distribution by way of collaboration with similar enterprises in the value-chain.
Mr. Kofi Milumbe spoke about the financial challenges faced by SME business sector on a generic basis and especially in the areas of quality financial reporting and auditing. He also highlighted various measures being currently worked by the International Accounting Standards Board specifically to address the financial challenges facing SME business.
Ms. Billye Atout in her presentation gave a bird’s eye view of the Qatar ICT landscape and highlighted the technological challenges faced by SME business sector especially in the areas of IT resources, IT knowledge, IT security and IT customer service solutions. Ms. Billye outlined the technological challenges, the need for differentiated technological solutions to support the growth of SME business sector and suggested key decision choices to be made by respective SME business to overcome these technological challenges considering the respective nature of business.
Mr. Kevin Cain in his presentation covered the various business models existing for SME business, the International Finance Corporation classification of SME business, financial resource constraints faced by SME business, case-studies on SME banks across the emerging market region, SME financing in the Middle East region, SME finance product & service offerings existing, challenges faced in respect of SME financing and suggested solutions to overcome the structural challenges.
A brief product presentation was made by the QTel team about their customized SME offering – “Office in a Box” communication solution. It covered the core features of the product, the various solutions offered, the advantages and benefits to the customer and the pricing.
This was followed by an informative audio visual product presentation of “Tatweer”, highlighting the unique offerings of this product to the SME sector. It covered the various financial products and services offered, market positioning and the various add-ons. The presentation also showcased a few customer feed back on their experience with Tatweer.
Doha Souq – the “E-Mall solution” – was presented by one of the customers of Doha Bank. This presentation covered benefits offered by e-commerce to the SME business segment in reducing their costs and at the same time providing a wider business development coverage area through the high-end technological platform.
Dr. Magdi Iskander, an ex-World Banker shared his experiences on the SME sector from the global perspective. He mentioned that SME sector accounts for a minimum of 50% of the world’s GDP, constituting 51% of world’s manufacturing sector by volume and 33% of the world’s export by volume. World wide, the SME sector provides employment to 31 million people in 12.5 million organizations. He emphasized on the future focus and growth of SME sector through collaborations between international funding organizations like World Bank, IFC etc., with financial institutions like Doha Bank, who are committed to the development of SME sector. This can be done through stronger and effective Public-Private Partnerships realizing sustainable benefits for the overall welfare of the society and its people.
In recognition of Doha Bank’s ever-growing loyal customer base “Annual Tatweer Award” has been instituted by Doha Bank and the first annual award ceremony was held at the conclusion of the highly informative knowledge sessions. Mr. Mohamad Darwish - Seven Spectrum Company, Mr. Abdul Aziz – Ideal Home, Mr. Kifa El Musa – Jets Projects Company, Mr. Phani Yerrapragada – Srimalesh NVQ and Mr. Shahid Malik – Tolico Trading were the first recipients of the award.