The UAE has emerged as a global hub for innovation and entrepreneurship, an Indian politician has said. Shashi Tharoor, who is also a renowned diplomat and bureaucrat, hailed the emirates for its unicorn success stories.
Addressing the Innovate, Inspire and Influence (i3) Conference organised by Khaleej Times on Wednesday, the politician highlighted the UAE’s “rapid progress” that helped it become first in the Global Entrepreneurship Index in 2022, ahead of larger economies.
He credited the widely available capital in the UAE for fostering a culture of entrepreneurship.
“There is a proliferation of startups with India boasting the third largest startup ecosystem with over 900,00 firms registering last year. There is a similar story that can be told here in UAE as well in their endeavour to diversify the economy and reduce the level of oil-based revenues,” the writer and member of the Indian Parliament said during the keynote address at the conference.
Quoting MAGNiTT Venture Investment Report 2022, he said the UAE-base startups accounted for 26 per cent of all transactions across the Mena region and 45 per cent of capital deployed in the Middle East and Africa region. The number of investors financing UAE startups grew by 54 per cent when compared to 2020. “There has been astonishing progress in this country.
“With the UAE digital economy estimated to grow to about $140 billion by 2031, it is little surprise that the fintech and e-commerce startups are particularly thriving in this country.”
The Indian parliamentarian also highlighted the success stories of UAE unicorns such as the ride-hailing app Careem and e-commerce startup Souq.com.
He said around 30 per cent of startups in the UAE, according to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, are owned or operated by Indians and are responsible for the creation of over 1 million jobs, reflecting the inherent entrepreneurial spirit of both India and the UAE.
Indian nano unicorns
Shashi Tharoor highlighted that innovation and disruption have a long history in the development of India.
“Contemporary innovation by Indians is recognised globally remarkably in places like Silicon Valley which saw a proliferation of a number of startups held by Indians. Around 13.4 per cent of all startups that originated in Silicon Valley in the 80s, 90s and first decade of 21st century were founded by Indians and many of them went on to become a household name across the world. Around 40 per cent of all Silicon Valley companies have Indians among their founders or in their leadership roles,” Tharoor told the conference audience.
He said it is important to set aside old stereotypes of who can do what and who can’t do what.
“In today’s globalised world, everything can be done by everyone. We just need entrepreneurs who lead and inspire, reach out beyond the limits, and break taboos and barriers. It is important to think constantly of the next new venture and you make an exceptional contribution to a vast pool of wealth knowledge and creativity in the world,” he added.
Ravi Tharoor, CEO, Khaleej Times, delivered the welcome address at the conference which was attended by many diplomats, think-tankers, senior officials from different industries and family-owned businesses.
“Innovation is not just about technology. It is about envisioning a future that is better, more sustainable and inclusive for all. It is about challenging the status quo and pushing the boundaries of what is possible,” the Khaleej Times chief executive said in the opening remarks.
Among the attendees were Udaya Indrarathna, ambassador of Sri Lanka to UAE; Faisal Niaz Tirmizi, Pakistan ambassador to UAE; Christiana Maxion, founder, Maxion; Jean Shahdadpuri, managing director, Nikai Group of Companies; Zayd Maniar, managing partner, Crowe; Riyad Matthew, director, Malayala Manorama; Ravi Rao, founding partner and CEO for Middle East & Africa, Turbostart; and Ravi Dhariwal, Advisor to Boards among others.
During the conference, Gems Education, Apparel Group, Citi bank and Burjeel Holdings were recognised for their excellence and contributions in their respective sectors.
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