Exclusive Interview with Tariq Hilal Al Barwani, Founder, Knowledge Oman

Tariq Hilal Al Barwani, talked to Dr. Tausif Malik, Founder-Editor of GCC Region’s First Startup & Entrepreneurship Newspaper ‘gccstartup.news’. Here are the excerpts of the Interview.

Before proceeding on with the Interview, at the outset I would like you to describe yourself so that our readers get acquainted and know you better.

About Tariq Al Barwani:
Chairman of the Board of Directors. Founder of Knowledge Oman. From creating computer programs that impacted thousands of users in Oman, partnering with public and government institutions that launched unique TV, Radio and Events programs for the mass public, creating and selling a rich internet portal website to an international group of companies, working within new functions of organizations, accepting invitations and sharing knowledge as a prolific speaker in various schools, colleges and universities, creating a leading volunteer knowledge sharing platform of local and expat residents that work together solely to fill knowledge gap within the country, to winning various local and international awards – Tariq Hilal Al-Barwani, best known for being Oman’s popular IT expert is an innovator who focuses on using information technology to make a difference to the society.
His unique projects and various experience that led to local and international awards is a proof in the pudding of the value Tariq has created over the years.

Dr. Tausif Malik: Your professional journey in life has been amazing, you were the computer whiz kid of the GuIf (khaIeej) from there on… to an inspirational and motivational leader…what insider you to take up computers as a chiId and how did you developed your career?

Tariq Al Barwani: Computing was introduced to me by my father (Hilal) at the age of 5 as an activity that can be used for both – playing games & creating real world applications. My father had the foresight that computing would transform the business profoundly & his encouragement and support in feeding me with the necessary knowledge, training and exposure into the medium was the key inspirational factor for me to take up the field and develop it further into not only a passion, career yet also utilize the medium to even impact the society in a positive way from writing articles about the benefits, to participating in GCC competitions, launching applications for the business & public and joining organizations to server their business needs using computers.
The love affair began at the early age and “Alhamdulilah” continues till date in every facet of activities I’m involved in from teaching, applying to impacting.

Dr. Tausif Malik: What makes you to do all this and how do you manage such a
hectic lifestyle?

Tariq Al Barwani: I do all what I do because I love doing them 🙂 in fact, there is no hectic in things you love to do because you will always find time to do things you love to do. The secret is simply not doing or getting engaged in things you don’t love. We have 24 hours a day and that’s too much to play with if you only focus on the right things, and that too must be the things you love to ensure not only you enjoy doing them but also is on track as well.

Dr. Tausif Malik: You have been inspiration to many, but what challenges you faced and how did you overcome…I mean you success mantra?

Tariq Al Barwani: Too many challenges (and I keep getting them) yet they are only a reason for me to keep prospering “Alhamdulilah”. I trust challenges are reasons for human beings to remain active & learn, else they would have nothing to keep them moving and as a result become bored and/or complacent which is one step before losing grip of maintaining success. To become successful is easy, to remain successful is the hardest part. So challenges is what keeps one of top of their toes.

Dr. Tausif Malik: Can we expect Knowledge Khaleej for the pan gulf region?

Tariq Al Barwani: Insha’Allah – sky is not the limit but rather the beginning on the
extent we wish to impact the world in a positive way 🙂

Dr. Tausif Malik: Oman has great infrastructure, Great talent, but why so less no of startups?

Tariq Al Barwani: The number of startups is expected to grow as the support, awareness and examples of people embarking into the bandwagon is apparent. Many people were influenced to getting a good job after school, the same is enhanced now to creating a job for themselves instead via entrepreneurship. Schools and academic institution will soon have classes specific about entrepreneurship and as a result we will see future generation boosting the number of startups “insha’Allah”.
Anything new is taking very cautiously, but in time, it becomes a normal affair. This I accept with entrepreneurship too, at a mass level “bithinAllah””.

Dr. Tausif Malik: What can be done to increase the fertile startup ecosystem to
support budding entrepreneurs?

Tariq Al Barwani: Awareness, Education, Platform, Encouragement and Support. Awareness for people to know about it, Education for people to know how to avail and operate, Platform for people to practice and prosper,
Encouragement to keep them moving and finally support to get them
starting and running.

Dr. Tausif Malik: We all know, you are a voracious reader and a health enthusiast…can you share some insights about this?

Tariq Al Barwani: The first word uttered to our Prophet Muhammad PBUH is “IQRA” meaning “Read” and that itself was emphasized 3 times. Reading is the holy grail of every goodness in this life for it guides people to prosper in any area from religion, career, personal development and the like.
Thus, reading is something I enjoy and love to do, apart from sharing
whatever I learn to further develop and engrave the learning. In
Arabic we have a saying that says a healthy mind is in a healthy body,
and thus one needs to keep his/her body healthy (by eating healthy and working out) for a healthy mind 🙂

Dr. Tausif Malik: Can you tell us briefly about Knowledge Oman?

Tariq Al Barwani: Knowledge Oman is an award-winning community platform of knowledge sharing and social impact. Established in April 2008, Knowledge Oman first started as a mission to solidify the vision of the country’s ruler, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, to transform Oman into a knowledge-based society. Driven by the community and for the community – Knowledge Oman brings together diverse talent to enable and create knowledge sharing platforms and innovate many ‘firsts’ with community initiatives. Knowledge Oman is a house of every local and expat individual living in Oman with a passion of sharing valuable knowledge in any industry & impacting the society in a positive way.

Dr. Tausif Malik: The starting journey of Knowledge Oman in ICT?

Tariq Al Barwani: Knowledge Oman was initially conceived as an online platform, specifically to connect people in the community to create, share and promote knowledge as a knowledge based society. I believe that while knowledge is power, this power no matter how great, is of no value unless it is shared or put into practice. With this in mind, I along with a group of local and expatriate community volunteers launched Knowledge Oman. The site started as an English-based web forum where people could login, become a member, create and exchange knowledge which included anything from basic arts and business to the likes of complex sciences. Few months after the launch, it was realized to have an Arabic interface to cater to the diverse readership and community needs and thus an Arabic forum was created. Soon after, a fully-fledged portal website was created along with dedicated teams that undertake both online and offline activities to meet the objective of making knowledge freely available to everyone in the country. Today, KO is not just a website anymore, but rather a project managed voluntarily across the Sultanate and driven by community members, both local and expatriates, bringing a myriad of talents under one roof.
 

Dr. Tausif Malik: What are the initiatives of Knowledge Oman?

Tariq Al Barwani: Knowledge Oman has actively introduced various initiatives for the country, driven with the passion to empower people and communities through knowledge and social innovation. The impact-focus areas of Knowledge Oman currently include the Social Enterprise Accelerator program, the Knowledge Ambassadors program, and Community Seminars that connect professionals to share their expertise and facilitate learning. This is in addition to partnerships with private and public entities in enabling and supporting knowledge-based initiatives.

Previous projects included introducing the first community KO school free e-learning courses, the KO online library to promote a reading culture, an online platform Oman Videos of educational video sharing, a local social networking platform Oman Wall, the iCommunity blog of community articles, the Show Your Potential program that guides participants to qualify for Microsoft certifications, and more.

Dr. Tausif Malik: How is Knowledge Oman empowering the youth through e-learning programmes?

Tariq Al Barwani: Knowledge Oman has been imparting knowledge, coaching and mentoring in the community through online and community platforms. In 2009 Knowledge Oman introduced the KO eSchool as the first free e-learning community platform in the Sultanate and a major leap towards free online education in Oman. KO eSchool first introduced ICT courses with enrollments in English and Arabic of over 280 participants, followed by soft skills development courses free for all. This was followed by expanding with a series of talks and seminars in the community to bring live learning experiences. In particular, the network of Knowledge Ambassadors actively delivered sessions across the colleges and universities of Oman to reach out to youth and facilitate their transition from academia to the market place. KO also offered both online and live coaching opportunities for social enterprise initiatives matching them with an expert to help them kick-off their ideas to real life projects.

Knowledge Oman further extends value to the youth and volunteer community by empowering them with personal fulfillment of making an impact in the community and people’s lives, utilizing their skills and talent for a good cause, gaining learning and opportunities for personal growth, attaining hands-on experience and exposure of community initiatives, networking with like-minded individuals keen to make a difference, and receiving public recognition for their contribution.

Dr. Tausif Malik: What is the mission and vision of Knowledge Oman?

Tariq Al Barwani: Empowering Oman as a Knowledge Society by making knowledge freely available to everyone in the country and enabling growth and learning opportunities through knowledge sharing. Today we all recognize the need to enable a diverse economy beyond dependency on the oil & gas sector, to nurture a leading solution-oriented society, and enable capacity-building for the people – providing access to knowledge and putting knowledge to applied use is cornerstone of this success and wealth of the nation.

Dr. Tausif Malik: How is Knowledge Oman collaborating with the community?

Tariq Al Barwani: Knowledge Oman has associated with a number of public and private entities in creating programs, launching initiatives, and promoting projects that contribute to the mission of a knowledge society.
Collaborations include entities such as C3 Consult & Coach for a Cause, Riyada the Public Authority for SME Development in Oman, Silatech, Qatar Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, and Microsoft the largest software company in world, The London Speaker Bureau a leading global speaking agency, eMax the largest electronic store in the country, the government association ITA, the Omani Women Association, Dar Al Ataa, Tawasul think tank, Protiviti, Oman International Trade & Exhibitions, IQPC, Fleming Gulf, TriFold Expo, the Ministry of Education of Oman, the US Embassy and various colleges and universities in Oman, among others. Knowledge Oman continues to welcome opportunities that bring greater value to the people.
 

Dr. Tausif Malik: Can you list the achievements and accolades won by Knowledge Oman for its initiatives?

Tariq Al Barwani: Knowledge Oman has received both local and international recognition for its role rendered in the community. This included being recognized after only one year of launch with the International Standard Web Technology Award from Oman Web Awards 2009, also attaining the Brand Leadership Award from World Brand Congress, recognized for the Outstanding contribution to the cause of education Award by the World Human Resource Development (HRD) Congress and attaining the Golden Strategic Award for Culture from the Pan Arab Web Awards.

Dr. Tausif Malik: Finally, a message to budding Omani entrepreneurs?

Tariq Al Barwani: Ensure you have an interest/passion in what you do, work hard and smart, keep developing yourselves and never lose focus on your goal.
Always pray to “Allah” for blessing and guidance in all you do.

Association with Knowledge Oman
 
Tariq Al Barwani:
Chairman of the Board of Directors. Founder of Knowledge Oman. From creating computer programs that impacted thousands of users in Oman, partnering with public and government institutions that launched unique TV, Radio and Events programs for the mass public, creating and selling a rich internet portal website to an international group of companies, working within new functions of organizations, accepting invitations and sharing knowledge as a prolific speaker in various schools, colleges and universities, creating a leading volunteer knowledge sharing platform of local and expat residents that work together solely to fill knowledge gap within the country, to winning various local and international awards – Tariq Hilal Al-Barwani, best known for being Oman’s popular IT expert is an innovator who focuses on using information technology to make a difference to the society. His unique projects and various experience that led to local and international awards is a proof in the pudding of the value Tariq has created over the years.

BabySam Samuel:
Member of the Board of Directors. Senior Vice President of Knowledge Oman from October 2014 to October 2016. Joined Knowledge Oman in 2013 extending support in strategic direction. Baby Sam Samuel is a Management Consultant with core expertise in Turnaround Management, Strategic Consultancy and Business Mentoring and an accumulated experience of over 16 years in various senior management roles.

He is currently involved in diverse entrepreneurial activities.

* He is a Consultant offering Turnaround Management, Strategic Consultancy & Business Mentoring & winner of the prestigious Global Achievement Award for ‘Business Consulting’ – received in 2015 from Global Media in association with Kerala chamber of Commerce.

* He is the General Manager and Business Designer for the IT Company InterTech LLC and Organization Mentor for Adventz – the leading Design House in Oman.

* He plays the role of a Brand Advisor and Business Mentor for a few other start-up initiatives in Oman.
* He has been recognized by Oman Observer as one of the top 46 leaders in the nation – and featured in “Top Business Leaders – a tribute to HM’s Leadership”, a special edition book published by Oman Observer on the occasion of the 46th National Day, 2016.

* He has bagged the coveted Gold award in the personal website category as well as personal Facebook page category at Oman’s first technology awards, the Oman Tech Awards – 2016.

* He is an elected member on the Board of Directors, Indian Schools. He is the Director-in- charge of the Centre for Special Education, Indian School Ibra, Indian School Ibri, Indian School Khasab and Indian School Al Maabela.

* He is also very passionate about social empowerment & social entrepreneurship. He is the Director & BOD member of Knowledge Oman, the award winning volunteer organization in Oman and winner of Most Valuable Member 2013 of Knowledge Oman. As Director, he is in charge of Branding & Enterprise & oversees the Social Entrepreneurship unit of KO which aims at creating & developing social entrepreneurs in the Sultanate
Baby Sam is a graduate in English, Masters in Business Administration and a PhD on Entrepreneurship in progress.

Rym Aoudia:

Member of the Board of Directors. President of Knowledge Oman from October 2014 to October 2016. Joined KO and supported in leading various roles in growth of the organization since its inception period from 2008.

Rym Aoudia is currently part of the Board of Directors of Knowledge Oman, offering guidance to overall organization, its leadership and specifics of KO partnerships and communication. Rym has been the President of Knowledge Oman from October 2014 to October 2016 and has been part of the organization since 2008 passionately contributing to its community expansion and strategic direction. She is also a news anchor at Oman TV, certified as a CTT Consultant using the Barret Values Cultural Transformation Tools and trained in the JackCanfield Success Principles of Human Transformation Development. Rym’s professional experience spans management consultancy, coaching and training, communication, and social development.

Committed to community development, Rym launched a children’s cultural initiative in 2004, named Atfaaluna, which served children from different countries through its online platform in three different languages to showcase children’s creativity and provided relevant information to families and specialist for learning and networking. In 2010, she also launched the Khayaali project in Oman through a series of events that promoted local artists and talent, benefiting the nationals and residents of the country looking for a creative space to engage and grow. Rym holds degrees in business with an MBA and in the humanities with an MA in Literature/Creative Writing along with specialized certifications.

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