Shell Oman, key participant in Oman’s economy and growth

Business Interviews Thursday 07/September/2023 10:46 AM
By: Times News Service
Shell Oman, key participant in Oman’s economy and growth
Dr. Mohammed Al Balushi, CEO of Shell Oman

Tell us briefly about your company’s journey here in Oman.

Shell Oman Marketing Company’s journey in the Sultanate of Oman has been truly remarkable since the establishment of Shell’s downstream business activities on 12 December 1958, when fuel was dispensed from the first depot in Saih Al Malih which is today, Mina Al Fahal. With more than 65 momentous years of experience in Oman and remarkable track record of serving millions of loyal customers in Oman, Shell Oman continues to serve Oman in a multi downstream-business structure providing Mobility, Commercial, Lubricants, Marine, Bitumen and Aviation fuel products and services. As a uniquely structured publicly listed company on Muscat Stock Exchange, we have a 49% ownership by Shell, while the majority is owned by investors in Oman. This unique arrangement allows us to leverage our connection with Shell’s world-class expertise, R&D and technologies, while capitalizing on the invaluable local knowledge and understanding of Oman’s business needs and practices.

The company continues to be a key participant in The Sultanate’s economy and growth by consistently delivering operational excellence with the highest practices in Health, Safety, Security and Environment as well as ethics and compliance while creating sustainable benefits for the society and In-Country Value for the Sultanate. For instance, the company owns and operates the only ISO-certified lubricants blending plant of its kind in Oman, located in Mina Al Fahal which produces Made-in-Oman Shell-branded lubricants for local and regional markets for almost 40 years now with a remarkable track record of production and achievements including winning His Majesty’s ‘’Best Five Factories Award’’ in 1993.

Over the years, Shell Oman has always been a pioneer in introducing new products, services, and solutions to the market. For example, in 1996 we launched Shell Select convenience store chain in Oman, becoming the first 24-hour convenience store in the country. In the same year, we also became the first fuel marketing company to launch fuel cards in Oman. This was followed by being the first to launch differentiated fuel formula in the market in 2005, and the first to launch Vehicle Recognition System and Customer Interface Screens in our mobility stations in 2016 and the first solar -powered service station in Oman in 2018. Today Shell Oman operates in the main airports and seaports in Oman and has a network of 211 Shell service stations that provide quality fuel and non-fuel convenient retailing experience for our customers, and with over 95% Omanisation, and hundreds of Omani small and medium enterprises working in our value chain, Shell Oman continues to be a role model for local talent development and commitment to serving this nation.

Our businesses are guided by Powering Progress strategy. It sets out our goals to accelerate the transition to net zero emissions, create value for shareholders, powering lives, and respecting nature. This is underpinned by our core values of honesty, integrity, respect for people, with the highest safety and ethical standards.  

How do Shell’s Service Stations provide consumers with a differentiated experience?

At Shell Oman, we prioritize the safety of our customers, our people and operations. We also deliver top-quality products and services that exceed expectations. Shell service stations are thoughtfully designed destinations, offering diverse products and amenities to meet all needs associated with having a seamless and convenient journey.

However, we believe that our frontline staff are our heroes who make the difference real at our stations. In fact, our ‘People Make the Difference Real’ program empowers our knowledgeable staff to deliver exceptional customer service, while also upholding the highest standards in Health, Safety, Security and Environmental practices ensuring every visit is a delightful experience for our valued customers.

In addition, we have been continuously aiming to upgrade our customers’ experience by offering differentiated fuels such as Shell V-Power.

This fuel is offered by Shell in over 65 countries around the world, but only in Oman when it comes to the Middle East. Our customers get to experience the benefit of this globally renowned fuel which is a result of decades of research and development (R&D) by Shell’s international team of fuel scientists, the same scientists that have developed the Shell V-Power race fuels for Scuderia Ferrari’s F1 cars. Moreover, we have also been investing significant resources in digitalization of our operations to improve network connectivity and optimise costs, which result in greater business continuity and efficiency. This is very important, especially for fleet solutions customers. As for consumers sector, we have recently launched a digital loyalty program, Shell Go+ app, for Shell customers. It promises personalized rewards, instant notifications, as well as discounts in a seamless and integrated experience at Shell service station in both fuel and non-fuel businesses.

Tell us about your Energy Transition plans?

Shell is committed to playing its part in the energy transition by helping to deliver the secure, affordable energy the world needs today while investing in a low-carbon energy systems and technologies as the world transitions to net zero. We recognize the importance of supporting the Sultanate’s transition to cleaner energy options, and we are working closely with stakeholders in the government and private sector to achieve our common goals that are aligned with Oman Vision 2040, and Oman’s carbon neutrality targets by 2050. We firmly believe in the importance of taking concrete steps to address climate change and promote sustainability.

As a company, we are driven by a strong aspiration to be the market leader in our field. We continuously strive for excellence and aim to drive positive outcomes for our customers, employees, and the Sultanate as a whole. To achieve our ambitious goal of net-zero emissions, we have set targets in three main areas: reducing emissions from our operations, helping customers decarbonize, and investing in carbon-neutral and cleaner energy products and services.

Internally, we are implementing energy-efficient practices, optimizing processes, and investing in renewable energy solutions to minimize emissions by installing solar panels onto a number of our service stations, our head office building & parking lots in Mina Al Fahal in Muscat. We are also actively working with our customers to transition to cleaner energy alternatives, such as from cleaner fuels including Electric and Hydrogen, as well as carbon neutral lubricants. This means that we are promoting a greener mobility future for the Sultanate while also working with local SMEs as we remain committed to creating an ICV agenda in our business. Toward this objective, we have embarked on establishing various partnerships and collaborations to make a significant and positive impact on the environment while contributing to Oman’s sustainable development goals.

By pursuing these plans, we aim to play a leading role in the energy transition and contribute to a sustainable future for Oman.

How important are the company’s partners to its operations?

We are big believers in the power of partnerships. We have always strived to be the partner of choice for the Sultanate. After all, working together helps us achieve far more. Our people are committed & passionate to developing long term relationships with customers, distributors, Original Equipment Manufacturers and prospects alike. Working with our stakeholders to solve every-day challenges, always bring new learnings and become the inspiration for our innovation. A strong relationship adds value to the performance of an individual or a business regardless of their area of expertise, whether it be increasing business productivity or an individual`s output. Partnerships represent a collaboration of two parties or people coming together to achieve success.

We recognize that a collaborative approach to doing business is essential for delivering sustainable and impactful solutions. Our partners, whether they are government entities, suppliers, or community organizations, bring their respective diverse expertise and resources that complement our own. When goals are aligned, and resources are pooled, there is a promise of greater efficiency, effectiveness, and long-term value.

Shell Oman is proud of its 65 years of strategic and long-term partnership with the Sultanate collaborating and fostering relationships based on trust, mutual respect, and shared objectives. These partnerships enable us to create a positive impact on society and help drive economic growth.

What are your plans to retain the company’s pioneer position?

We consistently maintain a competitive edge through innovative practices and customer-centric approaches. Our commitment to continuous improvement enables us to stay ahead in the Sultanate’s ever-changing market.

Having said that, the Sultanate is projected to show economic growth in line with Vision 2040 and economic diversification plans as well as the youthful population. As a result, we will continue to invest in strategic locations to serve the new highways and urban developments across the Sultanate. Our extensive network of service stations play a crucial role in our growth while supporting the economic development plans in the Sultanate. We provide convenience and accessibility while enhancing customer loyalty, through rewarding platforms

Also, we continue to invest in our people. We continue to upskill and develop our people to be future proof as we take big steps in line with our energy transition and digitalization plans. Historically, we have always had impressive local talent development, people engagement and employee relations scores, and would like to reinforce that position as we grow into the future. Our unwavering commitment to innovation, customer-centricity, and sustainability sets us apart. With a strong presence, dedication to customer satisfaction, strategic partnerships, and innovative initiatives, we maintain our competitive advantage in the market.

For us, the question is how we provide the technology that will continue to push performance but that will really optimise efficiency, and how do we continue to leverage the trust of our brand so that we can continue to provide credible and trustworthy solutions. As customers evolve, we are proactively taking steps to optimise the customer experience, and offer them higher value. As energy evolves faster than ever before, businesses need a dependable energy partner to help navigate the complexities of decarbonization and evolving customers’ needs and expectations. Technology has a critical role to play and innovation in digital and AI is key to help us make the massive changes needed. Digital technologies can make it possible to design and operate entirely new energy systems. I believe that in a net-zero emissions world, digital technologies and solutions will be the key foundation of energy systems. The future of energy is decarbonized, decentralized, and digital, and we are continuously working on investing in the right technologies and innovations to achieve that.

Tell us about your future expansion plans.

The company has a multi-years investment program that takes into account the Sultanate’s key economic indicators. We are planning to increase our network of quality Shell service stations, especially that will serve the newly developing highways and main roads as well as the urban developments and strategic projects in Oman, while relentlessly investing in making our customers experience better and safer by introducing new products and services and continue to prioritize sustainability and innovation in our operations, invest in cleaner and digital solutions and upgrades to cater to our customers’ evolving demands. In addition, we are continuously investing in maintaining and upgrading our Shell Lubricants Blending Plant in Mina Al Fahal to offer the latest relevant technologies to our local and international customers. Meanwhile, we are further exploring opportunities for growth in our marine and aviation businesses, especially with the exciting developments in key ports such as Duqm, Sohar, Salalah and Sultan Qaboos in fuel and lubricants as well. All of this while ensuring we continuously invest in attracting, retaining and developing our people.

Why is it important to work with the communities in terms of CSR?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is an integral part of Shell Oman’s identity and business approach. We believe that our success is intricately connected to the well-being and progress of the communities in which we operate.

One of our primary focuses is talent development, with an Omanization rate of 95 percent across our organization. We believe in investing in the skills and capabilities of our Omani workforce, ensuring their engagement and encouraging them to excel in their roles. This approach helps address the evolving needs of the businesses we support while promoting the professional growth and aspirations of our employees.

Furthermore, Shell Oman has implemented a comprehensive Corporate Social Responsibility program that revolves around strategic themes such as Community and Enterprise Development, Environment and Energy Transition, and People’s Well-being. We design an annual plan with programs and initiatives aligned with Oman Vision 2040, Shell’s Powering Progress strategy, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the specific needs of the local community.

By actively engaging with the communities, we demonstrate our commitment to being a responsible corporate citizen. We understand that sustainable business practices go beyond financial success and encompass environmental stewardship, social development, and ethical conduct. By working hand in hand with the communities, we contribute to their well-being and the overall advancement of society.