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Indian start-ups head for the Middle East

Middle East said to be 'promising land' for e-commerce Indian start-ups

Tax breaks and a liberal investment policy in the Middle East is a big draw to invest in the region.
Tax breaks and a liberal investment policy in the Middle East is a big draw to invest in the region.

The Middle East has been described as an ‘untapped region' for companies wanting to sell technology-enabled services and products in global markets, the Economic Times, India reported.

Indian start-ups in sectors ranging from healthcare to hospitality are finding that customers with high disposable incomes are quick to snap up their offerings.

Padmaja Ruparel, president of the Indian Angel Network, said the Middle East is strategically the best located region for Indian start-ups to take their business further to Europe and Africa. For investors, the tax breaks and a liberal investment policy in the Middle East are big draws to invest in the region.

"The downside however is the need for a local partner to enter these markets, which may dilute the start-up product or service value," she said.

According to the Economic Times, citing the International Data Corporation, the Middle East will be spending up to $32bn in consumption of IT services and products, and this is increasing 7.5%, year on year. Other factors that make this region lucrative for start-ups are the World Expo 2020 and the FIFA World Cup in 2022.

"We are focusing exclusively on the Middle East as the market offers the potential for rapid scaling provided we overcome entry barriers and cultural sensitivities" said Nishant Nambiar, a director at healthcare services provider Inforich Technology Solutions. The two-year-old start-up, which manages hospital data and medical records digitally, launched operations in Saudi Arabia a year ago and now has a partner in Dubai as well.

Vikas Jha, founder of Plash Digital Labs, a company which builds mobile applications for users looking for a personalised news feed, said: "We are looking to launch products across the whole Arabic-speaking region. In terms of marketing spend however, we will be focusing more on the UAE and close-by markets first."  

Plash Digital Labs, which was set up in 2012, will launch an ioS application in Dubai this July.

Also looking at the Middle East region is hospitality company, Scrappy Ventures which runs the online portal Room-LIon.com to help customers find and book serviced apartments.

"It is an attractive market due to presence of large expatriate and transient populations - who tend to be the ideal customers for serviced apartments," said founder Ashish Agarwal.

According to the ET, the Arabic-speaking world is an attractive market because nearly half of the people there are under the age of 25 and have a high disposable income.