Said Ahmed Safrar, CEO, Oman Investment and Finance Co. SAOG (OIFC) “Khedmah,” delves into the recent developments at Khedmah, the company’s strategic vision, and the promising future that lies ahead under his leadership.

It is indeed a pleasure to have you join us as we begin a new year. So how has the past year been?

Well, for us at Khedmah, the past year has been both challenging and rewarding. It has been a year of growth, resilience, and adaptability. Our team’s unwavering commitment and innovative initiatives have been instrumental in achieving significant milestones. We take pride in fulfilling our commitments to stakeholders and the board of directors, displaying the strength of our organisational strategies and the exceptional capabilities of our human capital.

Amid global uncertainties, Oman has been on a fast trajectory of growth. This has been defined not just by an economic revival but also by progressive policies that keep technology at the heart of it. Khedmah has actively responded to market dynamics, adjusting strategies to capitalise on emerging opportunities. We have diversified our service offerings to meet the evolving needs of our customers, ensuring that we not only meet but also exceed their expectations, through reliability, speed, and security.

In terms of service expansion, Khedmah has introduced several initiatives to enhance customer convenience. Through Khedmah’s branches and electronic platforms, customers can easily pay their electricity, water, internet and telephone bills, recharge their phone, and their electricity prepaid meter. In addition, they can make payments to the Public Authority for Social Insurance (PASI) and recharge entertainment subscriptions. Notable additions include facilitating insurance services through seamless integration with organisations that are domain experts, subscribe to broadband, and internet packages, and avail a number of other services at the same time. These additions underscore our commitment to providing comprehensive and accessible services to our valued customers.

Ever since its inception, digital transformation has been a focal point for Khedmah, and the results have been encouraging. The significant increase in our mobile app’s download numbers, which now stands at over 900k, reflects a growing trust in our digital solutions. As we align with Oman Vision 2040, our commitment to building a robust digital network and leveraging the latest advancements underscores our dedication to innovation and knowledge-driven operations.

Moving on to the broader landscape, do you think government policies are favouring the adoption of technology by both companies and individuals? What steps is Khedmah taking to align with the government’s digital transformation agenda?

Absolutely, government policies play a crucial role in shaping the technological landscape, and in Oman, we have seen a clear commitment to fostering digital transformation. The government’s push towards a digital economy has been reflected in various initiatives, and Khedmah is actively aligning with these strategies to enhance our services and contribute to the nation’s technological evolution.

The payment sector, globally and in Oman, is experiencing rapid advancements, driven by emerging technologies that redefine how transactions and payments are made. In Oman’s case, we have observed a notable shift towards electronic means of transfer over traditional cash and cheque transactions, indicating a clear trend in the direction of digital finance. In this regard, Khedmah has been a pioneer of technology in the field of digital payments. It is a very wellrecognised and reputed name, and in due time we plan on expanding into various verticals of digital solutions, both locally and internationally.

Moreover, the exponential growth in the use of Oman Net, covering transactions made through ATM, POS, and e-commerce, is striking. Between 2018 and 2022, Oman Net’s volume has increased over three times (300 per cent) from 82.4 million transactions to 252.9 million transactions. Notably, e-commerce transactions have seen a thirteen-fold increase, and POS transactions have witnessed a four-fold increase during the same period. The government’s trust in private companies has boosted morale; entrusting responsibilities for billing and utilities to private companies enables the government and ministries to focus on more significant developments for the country. Khedmah is dedicated to supporting the welfare of the country in any way possible.

In our journey through the dynamic landscape of the Sultanate, Khedmah has consistently embraced digitalisation as the cornerstone of our business. We have adeptly adjusted to emerging trends, aligning our services with the government’s digital transformation agenda. Since our inception, our dedication to providing reliable, swift, and secure digital payment solutions has remained steadfast.

We continually invest in cuttingedge technologies to stay abreast of evolving trends, ensuring that our services not only meet but also exceed the expectations of both individual consumers and businesses. Today, Khedmah is not just a familiar name among individuals; we have also consciously worked to become a valued partner for small businesses. This effort enables them to access a reliable and secure bill payments gateway, solidifying our position as a trusted service provider.

Additionally, we are working towards embracing innovative payment solutions, exploring collaborations with key stakeholders, and enhancing our digital infrastructure. By staying at the forefront of technological advancements, Khedmah is actively navigating the evolving digital landscape in line with government policies, contributing to the growth of electronic payment systems, and ensuring that we remain a key player in Oman’s journey towards a digital future.

Addressing the latest developments in Khedmah’s digital journey, Oman Investment and Finance Company (OIFC) has recently acquired a license from the Central Bank of Oman to operate as a payment service provider (PSP) in the Sultanate. Can you shed more light on this significant step and its implications for Khedmah’s future in the digital payment landscape?

Obtaining the payment service provider (PSP) license from the Central Bank of Oman is a monumental achievement for Khedmah and a testament to our commitment to driving innovation in the digital payment space. This reflects the high confidence placed in Khedmah as one of the most reliable digital payment channels in the country.

With this license, Khedmah is poised to introduce groundbreaking digital payment products, offering a new dimension to the business environment in the Sultanate. Among these innovations is the upcoming launch of the Khedmah E-Wallet, a transformative addition to our services that will serve as an alternative payment option for customers seeking to elevate their digital payment experience.

The Khedmah E-Wallet is designed to replace traditional payment methods such as cash payments, credit card transactions, or bank transfers, providing our customers with a more streamlined, efficient, and secure means of conducting financial transactions. We are enthusiastic about the positive impact this will have on our customers’ experience and the broader digital payment landscape in Oman.

Looking ahead, how do you envision the future for Khedmah, and what role do you see the company playing in Oman’s broader economic landscape?

Looking forward, Khedmah is poised to build on the momentum of the past year. We remain vigilant in adapting to the evolving market landscape, investing in modern technologies, and fostering collaborations to create a secure, reliable, and convenient digital ecosystem. Our services will transcend the domains of bill payments, and collections, catering to the fundamentals of societal development, especially in an era of rapid technological advancement. Khedmah is poised to bring about transformative changes by amalgamating our traditional financial services with cutting-edge technological solutions, for service sectors such as, end-to-end delivery, and education – all accessible from the comfort of your physical space – home or office.

The future for Khedmah is filled with promise and innovation. We envision our company as a keen participant in Oman’s economic development, not just through financial services but also as a catalyst for technological advancement. By staying agile, fostering innovation, and contributing to sustainable practices, Khedmah aims to position itself as a key player in Oman’s journey towards becoming a regional economic hub.

The surge in the establishment of SMEs in our country signifies the immense potential within our market. Channeling our focus on strengthening the capacities and capabilities of these companies through a secure and dependable digital transactions interface is key to achieving transformation. The positive ripple effects will benefit SMEs and other local businesses.

We are also actively dedicated to promoting local talent and promoting Omanisation to the best of our capabilities, with 95 per cent of the employees being Omanis. To continually enhance the competencies of our workforce, we implement various skill development programs, workshops, and scholarships. This holistic approach not only aligns with our values but also contributes to the overall development of the local workforce and the Omani economy. We are excited about the opportunities and possibilities that the New Year brings and look forward to contributing positively to the journey ahead.

“The future for Khedmah is filled with promise and innovation. We envision our company as a keen participant in Oman’s economic development, not just through financial services but also as a catalyst for technological advancement. By staying agile, fostering innovation, and contributing to sustainable practices, Khedmah aims to position itself as a key player in Oman’s journey towards becoming a regional economic hub”

Recent reports suggest an impending proposed merger with Dhofar International Development and Investment Holding Company (DIDIC). Could you shed light on the factors influencing this decision and how it aligns with OIFC’s strategic goals?

The proposed merger with Dhofar International Development and Investment Holding Company (DIDIC), if it happens, will mark a crucial milestone in OIFC’s strategic evolution. Our enduring commitment to excellence and adaptability has consistently guided our actions, and this strategic move is a meticulously planned endeavour aimed at cultivating a synergy of expertise, resources, and innovation. Anticipated outcomes include increased market share, optimized operational costs, and expanded business horizons in untapped geographical areas within Oman. Essentially, the proposed merger of OIFC and DIDIC underscores our strategic foresight and determination of the new entity becoming a leading force in the market. As a result of this merger, the new entity will become the 2nd largest investment group in Oman, generating sustainable value for our shareholders and stakeholders alike.

The aspiration to become the second largest publicly listed investment company in the country aligns with our vision for improvement and expansion across various verticals. These include 1. Investment in various diversified portfolios in local, regional and international markets, 2. Technology expanding into differentiated digital solutions to reach all customer demographics, and 3. Operations – providing us with the advantage to negotiate effectively and cultivate stronger relationships with financial institutions to go for large-scale projects in the future. Additionally, this diversification is expected to attract a broader pool of talent, both locally and internationally. Ultimately, the realisation of this plan depends on the decisions of shareholders and regulatory bodies.