UAE capital has a lot to gain from the vibrant Indian ecosystem: Omar Khan of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry

The Dubai Chamber had launched the Dubai Startup Hub back in 2016, to serve as an online platform that connects startups, developers, entrepreneurs, students and venture capitalists. It is a semi-government initiative that aims to provide clarity and direction in the journey of startup entrepreneurs” and make them aware of new opportunities in the UAE.

Recently, roadshows were conducted in Delhi and Bengaluru by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus (Dtec), an initiative of Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA), a government-owned incentivisation free trade zone in Dubai.

The roadshow included a pitch competition that selected 10 startups from different parts of India from over 200 applicants. Ultimately two winners were chosen, Delhi-based B2B ecommerce platform ShipsKart and Bengaluru-based banking operating system Loktra. They will receive company setup assistance along with hot desk space at Dtec. The support will last for one year so that they can expand their operations into Dubai. The Dubai Startup Hub roadshow to India was also supported by NASSCOM 10000 Startups, Startup India, Startup Bootcamp and STEP, along with Dtec.

Omar Khan, Director of International Offices at Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was approached by YourStory and he shared some valuable insights on Indian startup ecosystem.

Here is the interview.

YourStory: Tell us about what brings you to India, and what are you looking for from the startup ecosystem here?

Omar Khan: We want to attract strong interest and participation from startups in India, and pave the way for new partnerships that foster innovation, create mutual benefits, and drive economic growth in Dubai and India. Lots of medium and small companies in the UAE are trying to break into markets like India but they have no idea how. They find it difficult to explore India. So, this is a perfect time for us to be here. 

YS: What kind of startups interest you in India?

OK: About 85 percent of our food is imported. So agro is an important sector for us. Besides this, manufacturing, healthcare, education, research and development, IT and tech, full tech turnkey solutions, artificial intelligence, analytics, etc. Logistics comprises 30 percent of our GDP, and it is becoming challenging as people are going directly to the source and cutting out the middle man. The middle man is only needed if they are adding more value than cost. If the cost is more than the value, people will cut you out. So we see this trend. This is why logistics as a sector is key to us.

YS: Do you have any matrix in mind in terms of how many startups you want to invest or take to Dubai?

OK: I don't have any matrix as of now. However, since the inception of Dubai Startup Hub, we have 3,000 startups with 200 nationalities. Indians form 30 percent of our startup community. There is a piece of the pie in Dubai for everybody.

YS: What are the ways Indian startups can explore opportunities in Dubai?

OK: We have 3.3 million Indians in Dubai; we feel like we are connected to India. But we realised that these people from India are more used to Dubai, than India. So, we are not in touch with the actual India. We decided to fill this gap about two years ago and opened an office in Mumbai last year. Startups can reach out to our office.

YS: Tell us more about how your India office functions.

OK: We (India and Dubai) have been trade and cultural partners in many different ways for over 100 years. India has been evolving, decade by decade. I have been visiting India since the 1950s with my family. In the 80s, India was not known for productivity or manufacturing. In fact, for a very long time, we (Dubai) had a perception of bureaucracy in India. A few decades later, things are changing, but people still assume that they are the same as a decade ago.

The office is not a branch where you sit and wait. People who work for us are mobile. They are organising events throughout the year, attending exhibitions, having networking receptions, round table discussions etc. They do study missions, which is basically breaking down India region-wise to study what is the speciality of each region. In the last one year, we have had partnerships with CIIE, Gujarat, Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, etc. So, right now the office is helping us understand what's out there in India, where to focus, and what to target. We are trying to understand what we want.

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