“Indians are the biggest community here, everyone knows them well, so it’s easy for them to scale up.“ The Gulf region is made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. If properly nurtured, the region holds potential to play a similar role to Singapore in fostering cross-border startup operations, said experts.
“Dubai is the centre of gravity for entrepreneurs from Russia, Turkey, Oman and Africa -regions where there is no thriving startup ecosystem,“ said Anil Chikkara, cofounder of Dubaibased Marco Polo Ventures.
And role models have already started popping up in the Gulf, as well as in the larger Middle East.The cofounder and managing director of Namshi -Rocket Internet’s bet in the region -is Faraz Khalid, a Wharton graduate origi nally from Delhi. Meanwhile, Mumbai-native Kaushal Shah spent the last decade steadily building Aspire, an offshore IT services company based in Jordan. The confidence that startups can succeed is providing the risk appetite for people like Lokendra Chauhan, originally from Rajasthan. “Lots of people have grown up here and studied at good universities, similar to what has been happening in Singapore and India, but there isn’t a high-tech industry to absorb the engineers, so they have to go out and look for their own thing to do,“ said Chauhan, a special projects programme officer at the Qatar National Research Fund who is interested in setting up a venture in the Internet-of-Things space.
For now, the ecosystem is focusing on delivering tech-enabled services in fields like healthcare, education, hospitality and real estate, not so much on developing software for businesses.