Modi visit: 56 Indian firms keen to foray into Bahrain

Manama (Bahrain): As many as 56 Indian businesses are in talks with Bahraini authorities to explore prospects of foraying into the kingdom, as India Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives here on Saturday in the first ever prime ministerial visit from India.

Bilateral economic relations and co-investment across financial services, ICT and startups are expected to get a boost as a result of PM Modi’s visit.

Bahrain’s Economic Development Board (EDB) co-chief investment officer for financial services, ICT, startups and international offices, David Parker, told the GDN that India has been identified as one of the priority markets as part of Bahrain’s drive to develop an innovation-focused, knowledge-based economy leveraging fintech, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain.

The EDB has 16 investment promotion offices around the world, of which three are in India — in capital New Delhi, commercial hub Mumbai and the newest one in Bengaluru.

“We are hiring to expand our presence in Bengaluru so that we can better target the ICT triangle that includes the cities of Hyderabad and Chennai,” he said.

He added that at least 12 new Indian businesses were expected to set up shop in Bahrain by the end of the year as a result of EDB’s outreach.

Underlining India’s importance, Khalid Humaidan, who will take over as EDB’s new chief executive from September 1, is expected to lead a road show to India within a year of taking charge.

The EDB is also working on building fintech bridges with Indian states such as Maharashtra, where it signed two agreements last December, and Kerala, which is home to the majority of Indians living in Bahrain.

“Indians are convinced that Bahrain fully supports fintech’s lean, agile model with economic freedom and long-term stability that enables entrepreneurs to benefit from the region’s lowest operating costs,” said Parker.

“We have made great strides in recent years to develop the startup ecosystem with initiatives like the Al Waha Fund of Funds, the Bahrain Fintech Bay, launch of incubators and accelerators, and legal reforms like the new bankruptcy law,” Parker added.

It is around 30 per cent cheaper overall to do business in Bahrain than in neighbouring hubs, while office real estate and employee costs are among the lowest in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

A delegation of 24 startups from Kerala had attended the Startup Bahrain Week earlier this year.

The businesses ranged from healthcare to cyber-security, fintech, travel and data management.

Indian Ambassador Alok Kumar Sinha has also highlighted the emerging opportunities between India and Bahrain in the arena of startups.

“India has actively pursued the development of the startup ecosystem in the country and now has the third largest startup ecosystem in the world,” he told the GDN.

“Startups have emerged as an important area with immense opportunities for greater collaboration between India and Bahrain,” he added.

Investments in Gulf-based fintech startups are expected to reach $2 billion in the next decade, according to a recent study by Mena Research Partners (MRP).

The fintech market in India is likely to expand to $31 billion in 2020, Amitabh Kant, chief executive of Niti Aayog, had said in May.