Navin Sharma has invested thousands of dollars of his own cash into the website eventraveler.com. Subhash Sharma for The National
Navin Sharma has invested thousands of dollars of his own cash into the website eventraveler.com. Subhash Sharma for The National

Start-ups at the heart of economic growth in India



Giving up his job as vice president at a Mumbai-based investment bank to pursue his entrepreneurial ambitions and set up a travel website, was a huge decision for Navin Sharma.

"Leaving the comfort and security of a job to plunge into something new is always a big risk," says Mr Sharma, 35, who made the career decision this year. "Being an entrepreneur is tough anywhere in the world and more so in India."

India’s economic growth slowed to a decade low of 4.5 per cent in the financial year which ended in March last year and experts say that encouraging entrepreneurship in India could boost the country’s economic growth and job creation.

However, experts and entrepreneurs agree more needs to be done to encourage new ventures.

“While the very visible success of some recent web-based companies has changed public perception of start-ups to a certain extent, attempting to do something completely new is not always met with encouragement,” adds Mr Sharma, who is from Lucknow in north India but has been based in Mumbai for the past four years.

“An ecosystem geared towards fostering start-ups vis-à-vis Silicon Valley has not quite developed in India. There are multiple incubator programmes and seed funds in the country now but the output is nowhere as prolific in numbers or quality as it could be.”

So far, Mr Sharma has invested thousands of dollars of his own cash into the website, eventraveler.com, which is under development and will offer users a platform to plan a trip to a major sports or music event anywhere in the world.

Sanjeev Malhotra, an entrepreneur and the founder of Alia Group, a marketing services company based in Mumbai, says there are several factors in India that work against aspiring entrepreneurs right from the outset.

“When anybody wants to start off on a path of entrepreneurship — whether you’re a young teenager wanting to start out or an old retirement guy who wants to do something on his own — cities like Bombay and Bangalore give you that opportunity, otherwise the typical entrepreneur is faced with so many challenges.” However, he adds that what those two cities have to offer is “still nowhere close to what is really needed” for aspiring entrepreneurs.

“Let’s talk of a young kid starting out — his family’s against him. We’re risk-averse, extremely god-fearing. Imagine how this gets into the psyche of the guy who’s starting. More often than not the father of the family wants them to go on the path which they believe us right,” he says, adding that these cultural challenges mean many Indians with great entrepreneurial potential are “non-starters”.

Funding is a “major challenge” and if entrepreneurs do manage to raise funding, often their investors would give the venture only about five years to succeed, whereas the process of setting something up in India can often take much longer, he says.

Mr Malhotra adds that India lacks innovation, so there also needs to be a shift in the nation’s mindset.

“Our innovation is to copy,” he says. “Our innovation is not to create something new. It requires every stakeholder to come into this — government first of all. If the government just sets up in their mind that they want to back entrepreneurship, it would send out such a strong signal. Can we set up zones where entrepreneurs thrive? Even if someone wants to form a company, they don’t know who to go to.”

Others agree that India needs to do much more to nurture entrepreneurship at a government level.

“Entrepreneurs have to substitute for the Indian state by generating their own power, providing their own transport, digging for their own water, arranging their own security and manufacturing their own employees,” says Rituparna Chakraborty, the senior vice president and co-founder of TeamLease Services, a staffing solutions company in India. “This not only raises the difficulty level for young people becoming entrepreneurs but ensures that most Indian companies end up being dwarfs rather than babies. The average size of an Indian company is three employees and the policy focus for the ministry of micro, small and medium enterprises, unfortunately, continues to be small companies rather than new ones.”

With the BJP’s landslide victory in India’s election, Ananth Rao, the chairman of SkillPro, a vocational training company, says he hopes the new government will “support entrepreneurship and facilitate incubation, financing and other policies to fuel growth through private players.

“In most countries, 60 per cent of new jobs comes from new companies,” he says. “India needs to embrace new companies by supporting entrepreneurs.”

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Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

ANATOMY OF A FALL

Director: Justine Triet

Starring: Sandra Huller, Swann Arlaud, Milo Machado-Graner

Rating: 5/5

‘White Elephant’

Director: Jesse V Johnson
Stars: Michael Rooker, Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Olga Kurylenko
Rating: 3/5

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

MATCH INFO

Uefa Champions League semi-final, first leg
Bayern Munich v Real Madrid

When: April 25, 10.45pm kick-off (UAE)
Where: Allianz Arena, Munich
Live: BeIN Sports HD
Second leg: May 1, Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid

The specs

Engine: 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8
Power: 620hp from 5,750-7,500rpm
Torque: 760Nm from 3,000-5,750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh1.05 million ($286,000)

THE BIO

Favourite car: Koenigsegg Agera RS or Renault Trezor concept car.

Favourite book: I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes or Red Notice by Bill Browder.

Biggest inspiration: My husband Nik. He really got me through a lot with his positivity.

Favourite holiday destination: Being at home in Australia, as I travel all over the world for work. It’s great to just hang out with my husband and family.

 

 

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

SPECS

Engine: 2-litre direct injection turbo
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Power: 261hp
Torque: 400Nm
Price: From Dh134,999

Generation Start-up: Awok company profile

Started: 2013

Founder: Ulugbek Yuldashev

Sector: e-commerce

Size: 600 plus

Stage: still in talks with VCs

Principal Investors: self-financed by founder

The Travel Diaries of Albert Einstein The Far East, Palestine, and Spain, 1922 – 1923
Editor Ze’ev Rosenkranz
​​​​​​​Princeton

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

Key changes

Commission caps

For life insurance products with a savings component, Peter Hodgins of Clyde & Co said different caps apply to the saving and protection elements:

• For the saving component, a cap of 4.5 per cent of the annualised premium per year (which may not exceed 90 per cent of the annualised premium over the policy term). 

• On the protection component, there is a cap  of 10 per cent of the annualised premium per year (which may not exceed 160 per cent of the annualised premium over the policy term).

• Indemnity commission, the amount of commission that can be advanced to a product salesperson, can be 50 per cent of the annualised premium for the first year or 50 per cent of the total commissions on the policy calculated. 

• The remaining commission after deduction of the indemnity commission is paid equally over the premium payment term.

• For pure protection products, which only offer a life insurance component, the maximum commission will be 10 per cent of the annualised premium multiplied by the length of the policy in years.

Disclosure

Customers must now be provided with a full illustration of the product they are buying to ensure they understand the potential returns on savings products as well as the effects of any charges. There is also a “free-look” period of 30 days, where insurers must provide a full refund if the buyer wishes to cancel the policy.

“The illustration should provide for at least two scenarios to illustrate the performance of the product,” said Mr Hodgins. “All illustrations are required to be signed by the customer.”

Another illustration must outline surrender charges to ensure they understand the costs of exiting a fixed-term product early.

Illustrations must also be kept updatedand insurers must provide information on the top five investment funds available annually, including at least five years' performance data.

“This may be segregated based on the risk appetite of the customer (in which case, the top five funds for each segment must be provided),” said Mr Hodgins.

Product providers must also disclose the ratio of protection benefit to savings benefits. If a protection benefit ratio is less than 10 per cent "the product must carry a warning stating that it has limited or no protection benefit" Mr Hodgins added.

The bio

Job: Coder, website designer and chief executive, Trinet solutions

School: Year 8 pupil at Elite English School in Abu Hail, Deira

Role Models: Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk

Dream City: San Francisco

Hometown: Dubai

City of birth: Thiruvilla, Kerala

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

Jiu-jitsu calendar of events for 2017-2018:

August 5:

Round-1 of the President’s Cup in Al Ain.

August 11-13:

Asian Championship in Vietnam.

September 8-9:

Ajman International.

September 16-17

Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, Ashgabat.

September 22-24:

IJJF Balkan Junior Open, Montenegro.

September 23-24:

Grand Slam Los Angeles.

September 29:

Round-1 Mother of The Nation Cup.

October 13-14:

Al Ain U18 International.

September 20-21:

Al Ain International.

November 3:

Round-2 Mother of The National Cup.

November 4:

Round-2 President’s Cup.

November 10-12:

Grand Slam Rio de Janeiro.

November 24-26:

World Championship, Columbia.

November 30:

World Beach Championship, Columbia.

December 8-9:

Dubai International.

December 23:

Round-3 President’s Cup, Sharjah.

January 12-13:

Grand Slam Abu Dhabi.

January 26-27:

Fujairah International.

February 3:

Round-4 President’s Cup, Al Dhafra.

February 16-17:

Ras Al Khaimah International.

February 23-24:

The Challenge Championship.

March 10-11:

Grand Slam London.

March 16:

Final Round – Mother of The Nation.

March 17:

Final Round – President’s Cup.

SUCCESSION SEASON 4 EPISODE 1

Created by: Jesse Armstrong

Stars: Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, Nicholas Braun

Rating: 4/5

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Quick pearls of wisdom

Focus on gratitude: And do so deeply, he says. “Think of one to three things a day that you’re grateful for. It needs to be specific, too, don’t just say ‘air.’ Really think about it. If you’re grateful for, say, what your parents have done for you, that will motivate you to do more for the world.”

Know how to fight: Shetty married his wife, Radhi, three years ago (he met her in a meditation class before he went off and became a monk). He says they’ve had to learn to respect each other’s “fighting styles” – he’s a talk it-out-immediately person, while she needs space to think. “When you’re having an argument, remember, it’s not you against each other. It’s both of you against the problem. When you win, they lose. If you’re on a team you have to win together.” 

Glossary of a stock market revolution

Reddit

A discussion website

Redditor

The users of Reddit

Robinhood

A smartphone app for buying and selling shares

Short seller

Selling a stock today in the belief its price will fall in the future

Short squeeze

Traders forced to buy a stock they are shorting 

Naked short

An illegal practice  

‘FSO Safer’ - a ticking bomb

The Safer has been moored off the Yemeni coast of Ras Issa since 1988.
The Houthis have been blockading UN efforts to inspect and maintain the vessel since 2015, when the war between the group and the Yemen government, backed by the Saudi-led coalition began.
Since then, a handful of people acting as a skeleton crew, have performed rudimentary maintenance work to keep the Safer intact.
The Safer is connected to a pipeline from the oil-rich city of Marib, and was once a hub for the storage and export of crude oil.

The Safer’s environmental and humanitarian impact may extend well beyond Yemen, experts believe, into the surrounding waters of Saudi Arabia, Djibouti and Eritrea, impacting marine-life and vital infrastructure like desalination plans and fishing ports. 

The Disaster Artist

Director: James Franco

Starring: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogan

Four stars

ETFs explained

Exhchange traded funds are bought and sold like shares, but operate as index-tracking funds, passively following their chosen indices, such as the S&P 500, FTSE 100 and the FTSE All World, plus a vast range of smaller exchanges and commodities, such as gold, silver, copper sugar, coffee and oil.

ETFs have zero upfront fees and annual charges as low as 0.07 per cent a year, which means you get to keep more of your returns, as actively managed funds can charge as much as 1.5 per cent a year.

There are thousands to choose from, with the five biggest providers BlackRock’s iShares range, Vanguard, State Street Global Advisors SPDR ETFs, Deutsche Bank AWM X-trackers and Invesco PowerShares.

T20 WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS

Qualifier A, Muscat

(All matches to be streamed live on icc.tv) 

Fixtures

Friday, February 18: 10am Oman v Nepal, Canada v Philippines; 2pm Ireland v UAE, Germany v Bahrain 

Saturday, February 19: 10am Oman v Canada, Nepal v Philippines; 2pm UAE v Germany, Ireland v Bahrain 

Monday, February 21: 10am Ireland v Germany, UAE v Bahrain; 2pm Nepal v Canada, Oman v Philippines 

Tuesday, February 22: 2pm Semi-finals 

Thursday, February 24: 2pm Final 

UAE squad:Ahmed Raza(captain), Muhammad Waseem, Chirag Suri, Vriitya Aravind, Rohan Mustafa, Kashif Daud, Zahoor Khan, Alishan Sharafu, Raja Akifullah, Karthik Meiyappan, Junaid Siddique, Basil Hameed, Zafar Farid, Mohammed Boota, Mohammed Usman, Rahul Bhatia

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

Disposing of non-recycleable masks
  • Use your ‘black bag’ bin at home
  • Do not put them in a recycling bin
  • Take them home with you if there is no litter bin
  • No need to bag the mask
How to wear a kandura

Dos

  • Wear the right fabric for the right season and occasion 
  • Always ask for the dress code if you don’t know
  • Wear a white kandura, white ghutra / shemagh (headwear) and black shoes for work 
  • Wear 100 per cent cotton under the kandura as most fabrics are polyester

Don’ts 

  • Wear hamdania for work, always wear a ghutra and agal 
  • Buy a kandura only based on how it feels; ask questions about the fabric and understand what you are buying
The specs

Engine: 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6
Transmission: 8-speed auto
Power: 536hp (including 138hp e-motor)
Torque: 750Nm (including 400Nm e-motor)
Price: From Dh1,380,000
On sale: now

Directed by Sam Mendes

Starring Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Daniel Mays

4.5/5

Ultra processed foods

- Carbonated drinks, sweet or savoury packaged snacks, confectionery, mass-produced packaged breads and buns 

- margarines and spreads; cookies, biscuits, pastries, cakes, and cake mixes, breakfast cereals, cereal and energy bars;

- energy drinks, milk drinks, fruit yoghurts and fruit drinks, cocoa drinks, meat and chicken extracts and instant sauces

- infant formulas and follow-on milks, health and slimming products such as powdered or fortified meal and dish substitutes,

- many ready-to-heat products including pre-prepared pies and pasta and pizza dishes, poultry and fish nuggets and sticks, sausages, burgers, hot dogs, and other reconstituted meat products, powdered and packaged instant soups, noodles and desserts.

FA Cup quarter-final draw

The matches will be played across the weekend of 21 and 22 March

Sheffield United v Arsenal

Newcastle v Manchester City

Norwich v Derby/Manchester United

Leicester City v Chelsea

Dengue fever symptoms
  • High fever
  • Intense pain behind your eyes
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle and joint pains
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen glands
  • Rash

If symptoms occur, they usually last for two-seven days

Scoreline

Chelsea 1
Azpilicueta (36')

West Ham United 1
Hernandez (73')

MATCH SCHEDULE

Uefa Champions League semi-final, first leg
Tuesday, April 24 (10.45pm)

Liverpool v Roma

Wednesday, April 25
Bayern Munich v Real Madrid (10.45pm)

Europa League semi-final, first leg
Thursday, April 26

Arsenal v Atletico Madrid (11.05pm)
Marseille v Salzburg (11.05pm)

Richard Jewell

Director: Clint Eastwood

Stars: Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Brandon Stanley

Two-and-a-half out of five stars 

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

Kill

Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5