Dr Aman Puri (centre), Consul General of India in Dubai; Marwan Hadi (R), head of Retail Banking for UAE at Emirates NBD; and session moderator Sai Narain CDK, founder and CEO of HubaBuva Management Consultancy (L) Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: The young generation today are more open to taking risks, but they also need an enabling environment to navigate and thrive in the burgeoning start-up ecosystem, a senior official said during the Gulf News Edufair in Dubai on Saturday.

The remarks came from Dr Aman Puri, Consul General of India in Dubai, during a full-house seminar titled ‘The Growing Importance of Start-up Ecosystem’ on the second day of the three-day Gulf News Edufair 2022.

Also in the panel was Marwan Hadi, head of Retail Banking for UAE at Emirates NBD; while Sai Narain CDK, founder and CEO of HubaBuva Management Consultancy, was the moderator.

Addressing the crowd comprised of parents, students and educators, Dr Puri said unlike the mentality of the older generation, youth today are more open to becoming job creators, rather than being job seekers. Meaning, they are willing to create start-ups that offer new products and services, and risk the certainty of receiving paid salaries after graduation.

Dr Puri added that the world is becoming more competitive and that requires a more active entrepreneurship, but those who want to engage in a start-up should also be equipped with the right value system and guided by effective mentors.

‘Open for revision’

“My advice for them [budding entrepreneurs] is to reach out to mentors,” Puri said, adding: “They [mentors] have the valuable expertise to develop and validate a scalable business model.”

He said: “Start-ups should also be open to changing their own ideas. Don’t stick to your original concept; be open for revision. Sometimes, we started with a good vision – but it may not be viable in the market. So, it is important to take advice. They should also not be conservative in sharing equity. Stakeholders can help them grow but there should also be a shared sense of ownership.”

Dr Puri also warned that everyone will not be successful. “Failure is built-in because there will always be winners and losers. There will be disruption in all sectors but only a small space for few winners. Others will either fail or be acquired by larger start-ups.”

The Indian consul-general however is confident that the UAE has the right infrastructure in helping start-ups. “For one, the UAE has focused on ease of doing business that’s why the country is very attractive to global talents,” he said.

UAE’s ambitions

Marwan shared the same sentiments of Dr Puri. He noted the UAE has always been at the forefront of innovation. He said during the dot-com bubble burst, in late 1990s and early 2000s, the country defied the downtrend and launched Dubai Internet City. Now, the UAE is taking the lead in introducing a virtual assets regulation authority.

The UAE also has a strong history of supporting home-grown tech-companies such as Careem and that were acquired following multi-million dollar deals with giants Uber and Amazon, respectively.

“The country is heavily investing on technology infrastructure and the UE will continue to innovate and expand,” noted Marwan, adding he is confident the UAE will soon have its own ‘unicorn’, a start-up company with a value of over $1 billion (around Dh3.67 billion).

Students and parents were guided by counselors about university admissions during the event Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Supporting innovation and entrepreneurship

In a separate seminar, titled ‘Ideas to Action: How Universities Support Innovation and Entrepreneurship’, academicians shared their thoughts on how to nurture more entrepreneurs in the country.

(L to R) Dr Trupti Gokhale, Associate Professor and Faculty In-Charge- Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship, BITS Pilani Dubai; Ali Kahawaja, Senior Instructor, American University of Sharjah; Professor Tadhg S. O'Donovan, Deputy Vice Principal (Academic Leadership), Heriot-Watt University Dubai; Dr Ali Raza, Associate Professor of Computing, RIT Dubai; and Asma Begum, Academic Coordinator, The University of Bolton, Academic Centre – Ras Al Khaimah Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dr Trupti Gokhale, associate professor and faculty in charge-Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship at BITS Pilani Dubai, said: “Every child has an entrepreneurial mindset, we just need to help them develop it. We need to encourage our students to dare and start even with something small. Success should not be measured by monetary rewards but by dedication and how they take things forward.”

Ali Kahawaja, senior instructor at American University of Sharjah, said: “We should let them fail so they can learn, innovate and push the limit. They learn through failure and this is important in having an entrepreneurial mindset. This is what employers want to hire, not people who just push the paper along.”

Professor Tadhg S. O’Donovan, deputy vice principal (Academic Leadership) at Heriot-Watt University Dubai, underlined “it is important for students to start early and find their purpose. They need to figure out their unique talents and harness their passion”.

Dr Ali Raza, associate professor of Computing at RIT Dubai, said the past two years has seen drastic changes in the delivery of knowledge. Things are now being done in virtual space and learning has not stopped, he added.

Asma Begum, academic coordinator at University of Bolton, Academic Centre – Ras Al Khaimah, said students nowadays are more focused on developing innovative solutions that would make people’s lives better. She cited one of the projects at their university, where students designed a smart trolley that would not only help travellers at airports move their heavy luggage but also weigh them instantly before reaching the check-in counter.

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Last day

Sunday, May 29, is the last day of Gulf News EduFair. Students and their families can still register for this not-to-be-missed opportunity that will run until 7pm at Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai, along Sheikh Zayed Road. They can register in advance on the event’s dedicated website,