x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

A space for start-ups at the big tech show

Gitex 2011: Prashant K Gulati discusses how he managed to carve out a space for entrepreneurs at the GITEX exhibition.

Prashant Gulati, right, the mentoring director and past president of the Middle East chapter of TiE, at Gitex. Ravindranath K / The National
Prashant Gulati, right, the mentoring director and past president of the Middle East chapter of TiE, at Gitex. Ravindranath K / The National

Many multinational companies as well as established small and medium businesses, take up the bulk of floors pace at the Gitex technology exhibition in Dubai. But Prashant K Gulati, the mentoring director and past president of the Middle East chapter at TiE (formerly The Indus Entrepreneurs), explains why he also helped carve out a little room for budding entrepreneurs.

TiE is a global not-for-profit that provides business mentoring as well as funding opportunities to entrepreneurs. Why did you also try to reserve some space for them at Gitex?

We understand start-ups have no chance exhibiting here.

Because of the costs?

Because [the show is] the most successful. Let's be fair. They have a right to ask for a certain price. Everybody wants to be here. At this point in time, we also understand that start-ups can't afford it, so we did a deal with Gitex.

How so?

We used our Rolodexes to get them a conference [on mobile apps and content] for free. Because this hall was new, nobody would come here, so we actually brought the footfall and they sold more square feet because of that. In return, they [Gitex] gave us some [space].

You've put together a lounge for entrepreneurs, which obviously helps them with networking but also gives them a space to present some of their services. How else does this 80-square-metre spot aim to assist them?

Every day we have start-ups that come in, pitch, get mentored and meet possible investors. We have Intel Capital, for example, helping us mentor. They tell [entrepreneurs] how to pitch, how to build the company, which direction to take and this kind of stuff. Usually we give them an hour, but sometimes they sit for two hours. If they want, they can continue it afterwards.

How has the state of entrepreneurship changed in the Emirates since you helped open TiE in Dubai nearly a decade ago?

It's changed. One: it's become fashionable to talk about entrepreneurship. Before that we'd have to explain to people what entrepreneurship was. It's not that people didn't have entrepreneurship before; Dubai was built on entrepreneurship … But over time, we believe we need to add more and more people, otherwise you cannot succeed.

And what state is the sector in today?

There's a lot to be done. I personally believe we have our work cut out, because first of all we don't have a very long history. There's also very few educational institutions. We don't have a great educational background. Third is there's a very large portion of people here who are expats, so they tend to come from other places and don't have roots in the ground. But if we look around, the majority of companies are small companies, so we need to support them.

* Neil Parmar