Dr. Tausif Malik has a long history of involvement in business, technology, and community organizing. He is the creator of America’s Largest Community based Spelling Bee competition www.MuslimSpellingBee.com and founder of www.GCCStartup., News www.AIMBSN.com (All India Business Startup Network), IndiaStartupFest.com, GCCStartupFest.com and www.Schoolpreneur.Biz. Dr. Malik is one of the many Indians settled abroad that have been able to succeed in the entrepreneurial ventures. A truly inspiring figure and hope for many Indians for opportunities he may present to his native country. In an exclusive interview with The Policy Times, Dr. Malik shares details of his venture, entrepreneurship ecosystem in India and America.
What is your expectation from the Gulf Angel Network (GAN)?
I lived in Gulf and have found that the ecosystem for entrepreneurship there is excellent. This is both a challenge and a solution. There are a lot of qualified locals, but the system makes it challenging for them. For instance, the team members won’t let an Arab work and make him like a king. This ultimately leads them quitting the system. So we are looking at them to be considering entrepreneurship rather than jobs. Moreover, the governments of the GCC countries are giving a lot of support to the locals for entering into entrepreneurship. Therefore, we are looking to create a whole ecosystem for the GCC countries.
Why did you choose GCC countries, where your home country India needs boost in entrepreneurship?
We are doing projects in India, such India Startup Festivals and All India Muslim Startup Network. Moreover, in the GCC countries, 60 percent of the populations are expatriates, out of which, many of them are Indians.
To what extent do you think your ventures will benefit the startups and budding entrepreneurs?
First, we launched a news portal called www.GCCstartup.news, which was Gulf countries’ first startup and entrepreneurship’s news portal. We launched this in January and within 3-4 months of its launch, we rose from 0 to 6 million ranking. We are also getting website hits of 500-100 people a day on average. In Angel Network, we are trying to attract people who would invest. In piecemeal, we are already doing investment, but collectively we can change lot of startups by investing in them, mentoring them, connecting them with strategic partnerships. Next, are the GCC startup festivals, which will be like a showroom. We will do events in all GCC countries. We will do events in one GCC country every month.
Being an Indian American, what in your opinion is the fundamental difference in the ecosystem between America and India?
The ideas in America are mostly original, whereas in India, it is mostly the copycat versions. In America people go for innovation. Moreover, people in US take decision faster. For example, if I have to talk to somebody in India, it will take little time. In US, people take decisions within one or two minutes. Even before the meeting they have made their decision whether they are going ahead or not. Further, people in America are very honest about their commitments. They don’t make you run around the bushes. In India, lot of startups has ideas, they want to talk, but when it comes to giving fees or getting equity, they shy away from their responsibilities. But, things are changing in India. There is lot of people like me coming back to India. That is why the Democratic Party has an office in India. Based on my personal understanding, there will be more than 100,000 Americans in India.
Do you think Indian government’s initiatives of Make in India, Digital India, SkiII India, Standup India can bring in a paradigm shift in the entrepreneurial landscape of India?
For entrepreneurs, the challenges when overcome become the success stories. However, government initiatives are always great. It gives a great image and it is a motivation. It is as if the coach telling what to do. However, the results can be a long term affair such as the telecom policy of early 1980s by Rajiv Gandhi is giving benefits now.
While access to finance remains a major challenge, private sector role has been limited. How can private sector’s participation in providing finance to the startups be improved?
People are shying away from investment because too many people have invested and burned their hands in last few years. Everyone wants to start a business at someone else’s money. This isn’t good. One has to work hard, even if it might not grow fast, but it has to be made profitable. Everyone that contacted us wants money. Nobody is saying that help us with consult and advice. So, if one is chasing money, rather than the customers, it is wrong to invest in that company. Private sector’s help is needed, but not always in the form of money. Free money and easy money always spoil the hard work of an entrepreneur.
What is your business plans for India and Indian entrepreneurs?
We are establishing the Muslim Spelling Competition in India. We have already done two networking events for Muslim entrepreneurs. We are also holding incubators for the minority institutions connecting with our business startup network. This way the Muslim entrepreneurs can connect with the vision of the Prime Minster, Make in India and Startup India. Next thing we have started is something called India Startup Festival. There is no barrier here in terms of technology, language, or any specific class. It is just if you are an entrepreneur, who want to scale up and you can be part of this ecosystem.
What is your message for budding entrepreneurs?
In America, people start entrepreneurship at a very young age. They sell cookies outside the supermarket chain, lot of children sell lemonade, or the sports card of their schools. So, they are already trained in that. But in India, what is happening is people want to copy what is happening in the West. For them, first thing is to go and learn how people work. Go and see how your boss manages people. Also, learn the skills from the industry in question, at least for a year or so. Then you go and start your business. If you start from day one, you will end up struggling.
How GAN is going to help the entrepreneurs in that region?
Angel Network is network of angel investors, individually and collectively. It is like a club. This ensures that you will get lot of resources in hand. So, the startups and the investors are together in a platform. It is also about getting strategic people on board and mentoring with support of these budding entrepreneurs. This is also pan GCC, which is kind of unique in the region. This way it helps the whole GCC ecosystem. We also have to vision to eventually spread in the nearby region like other parts of Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe.