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How to spot the silver lining amid a bearish economic outlook

2016 belongs to entrepreneurs who want to invest in ideas and make their dreams a reality

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Guest column. Janardan Dalmia, former investment banker who has now set up Starfish Holdings International Ltd to pursue his entrepreneurial interests
XPRESS

Dubai From an investment point of view, 2016 couldn’t have started with more uncertainty. General discussions revolve around predictable topics: oil prices, the Chinese slowdown, stock market volatility, rising US interest rates, currency fluctuations, a difficult sales environment, increasing inventory, corporate earnings, real estate prices, the geopolitical situation in the Gulf, North Korea, ISIS and the refugee crisis.

All these factors lead to a bearish economic outlook for 2016. Yet, a silver lining exists. While major businesses and governments contemplate potential sales of assets, privatisation and various forms of fundraising to resolve short- to medium-term liquidity concerns, others are not bothered by macroeconomics and are keen to identify gaps in the market to turn them into opportunities. These people are entrepreneurs, and it’s worth investing in them.

There are no assurances as to whether they’ll be successful, but one thing is certain: 2016 belongs to them. Some comfort lies in the fact that instead of sitting back and adding fuel to the fire of this pessimism, entrepreneurs are more interested in building newer and greater things.

A number of experienced professionals are leaving their comfort zones to finally do what they’ve wanted to do for a while—invest in their ideas and make their dreams a reality.

I believe the Middle East and the GCC in particular is a great place for new businesses to develop. For example, several positive factors are working for the UAE, such as its exemplary leadership, forward-looking vision, infrastructure, cosmopolitan crowd, popular spending power, demographics and use of technology resulting from internet penetration. Good ideas progress more or less independently of the stock market, but one can’t be irrationally enthusiastic. Rather, one has to carefully assess the quality of a given business plan, the execution capabilities of the team behind it, and how soon the business can sustain itself. Discipline in this market is important for the viability of entrepreneurial initiatives.

Ultimately, we can’t let our fear override our ability to spot the jewel in the crown. We can’t ruin a good tomorrow by thinking about a bad today. This, too, shall pass.

The author is a former investment banker who has now set up Starfish Holdings International Ltd to pursue his entrepreneurial interests

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