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Budget Planner - Entrepreneurial Resource

Here is a very nice Budget Planning tool that I found, it is not authored by me and all due credits are given to the author.

One thing that I learned all along my entrepreneurial efforts that money management, planning and proper documentation is very essential to smoother and faster growth.

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Arab Technology Business Plan Competition

Arab Sceince and Technology Foundationan is an independent, NGO with regional and international outreach. Scientists and researchers from inside and outside the Arab world have contributed to its establishment. Based in Sharjah, UAE, was concieved during the symposium on "Scientific Research Outlook in the Arab world and the New Millennium: Science and Technology" organized by the University of Sharjah during 24-26 April 2000.
This year ASTF started two flagship competition of our interest:
1st Arab Technology Business Plan Competition(ATBPC)
1st Arab Universities Technology Business Plan Competition

Another very good initiative and is under the Patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al-Qassimi, Member of the Supreme Council of the UAE, Ruler of Sharjah. ATBPC finalists were announced in March. The five finalists were selected to present their start-up business plans to investors at the Fourth Forum on Investing in Technology in Kuwait City held on April 10 and 11, 2006. The winning entry went on to bag an investment of at least US$50,000 to initiate the venture, while winners in the second and third places were also putforward for investment capital from the Arab Technology Ventures Seed Capital Fund.

ASTF's ATBPC has support of a diverse regional network of partners such as the National Technology Enterprises from Kuwait, Princess Sumaya National Entrepreneurship Competition and Young Entrepreneurs Association in Jordan, Technology Development Fund Business Plan Competition and IDEAVELOPERS in Egypt, Syrian Young Entrepreneurs Association in Syria, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) from Bahrain, Fonds Sindibad from Morocco, and de l'Institut Arabe des Chefs d'Entreprises from Tunisia.

So guys I can see money here for all you young guns out there with great ideas. But just a suggestion, from my personal experience gained by participation in and reaching upto final round in a similar business plan, more than the idea focus on the management team. If the judges will hand you the prize money they would want to know how will you make it work. So these are not academic competitions where you walk away with a laptop prize but a higher creed which help you walk the distance from books to practical life.

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Micro-Credit & Mobile Phones Grameen Telecom

When the educated and experienced try to bridge the gaps between the developed and under developing we witness the creation of revolutionary projects, products and services. A similar example is of Mr. Iqbal Quadir, a bangladeshi born who rose from his home town to work and prosper in New York.

He had witnessed loss of communication once in the 1971 war and then later again during his work in a sophisticated New York environment. This woke him up to the reality that its essential to stay connected. "I realized that connectivity is productivity, whether it's in a modern office or an underdeveloped village," he says. Thus he took to his heart the aim of connecting the Bangladeshi villages. Using a micro credit bank to back him he Quadir established a mobile-phone company called GrameenPhone. The for-profit enterprise provided the infrastructure necessary to sustain an affiliated non-profit project called Village Phone. The model was very simple involving rural women, micro credit and the existing void for lack of communication. The women were given a small, no-collateral loans for cellphones, and a 50% discount on airtime. They would then charge their neighbors the market rate for making calls. Development experts see the program as a model for using technology to empower the poor.

Bingo and so it did. The program became a huge success. Creating opportunities for the women was one of the many achievements of GrameenPhone. Things didn't stop here later on Iqbal convinced Telenor to buy 51% stake in Grameen Phone. GrameenPhone is now by far the largest cellphone company in Bangladesh, with 260,000 subscribers, 5,000 of whom are part of the Village Phone program. Considering the average village has 1,700 people, around 8.5 million villagers now have access to the world. The company got its license in 1996 nearly a decade ago.
So again we have here not a breaking news item but it is surely food for thought. The Model has been replicated and is being replicated in countries like Rawanda, Uganda and so on. Here is a link to the Village Phone Replication Manual, take a look friends and see how well laid a document it is. A lot of such ideas are around us, where the moto doesn't have to be economic exploitation but social service and empowering. I am sure replication of this can be looked into for Pakistan, India, Middle East and African countries.

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UAE Facing Unemployment

A problem which had been boiling up over the years now has become a sizable issue. To quote the authors words "widely perceived conflict of interest between the handful of Emirati business families who have made fortunes in the private sector in the past few decades and the majority, who have watched the UAE's explosive growth from the sidelines", which targetted the bulls eyes. (FT.com)

Thus although still booming with jobs for expats the UAE faces unemployement amongst the nationals. Although the government is trying to eradctae the problem but its soltuion has to come from within the people and not the authorities. The recent decree requiring a company of more than 100 employees to have a complete Emarati HR department wont solve much problems. Another similar one asking companies to have emaratis in secreterial posts is not quiet the solution. i am sure the young generation is not expected to grow up dreamig they would land a personal secretary job at XYZ L.L.C.

The emarati youth is full of talent, intellect and energy. They need to wake up to the fact that its open competition and then simply just compete. I have come across many whom I witnessed to be great professionals, putting in a lot of hard work. Avenues like Arab Angles Network, Sheikh Muhammad Bin Rashid Young Entrepreneur Iniative, Zayed University E-biz challenge, Intilaq and many more such are open to the local youth. If they rise up to the challenge then they sure can be leaders who dont need government decrees to make poeple realise that they are professional enough.

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Higher College of Technology's Young Entrepreneur Handbook

Students from the HCT put together this young entrepreneur handbook. It is a nice effort and lays out all the steps in a systematic order. So atleast the reader would know where to start and how to proceed. However some statements like this one, 'Funding opportunities are there waiting for you' are kind of far fetched. Even if you are a local you still have to struggle.

Some sustainable business ideas so take a look and see if it kindles your entrepreneurial flame.

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Investing in The Pakistan Capital Market

Yes friends Investing, Pakistan and Capital Markets have all come up as synonyms. Yesterday I witnessed a series of presentation at the Road Show on Investments in Pakistani Capital Market held at the Burj Al Arab. The show was hosted by Central Depository Company (CDC) and sponsored by AKD Investment Management, Atlas Asset Management and Jahangir Siddiqui Capital Markets Ltd.

The speakers unanimously focused on highlighting the tremendous growth Pakistan's economy has shown specially over the last 4-5 years. Fredric Sicre from Abraaj Capital made a mention to Newsweek's article, which tagged pakistan as a surprising success story, "Last year the country's GDP growth rate hit 8.4 percent, the world's second highest behind China, following two years of solid 6 percent growth. This year the economy is predicted to expand by nearly 7 percent", and said that it is not a sudden success but an economy that has been gaining momentum over the years.

All presentation were very interesting and information and more on these can be found through their respective websites. I got a chance to talk to Mr. Muhammad Sajid of JS private equity. He very well agreed that Pakistan is an economy that needs to be tapped by young entrepreneurs and new ideas. He said "Parents mostly hold conservative approach and seldom back their children with risks and startups in comparison to jobs in MNCs." It was pretty impressive to see that economic muscle brokers realise the importance of young entrepreneurs venturing into Pakistan and surly they will pave the way for such a rally to start.

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International Business Leaders Forum - IBLF

"Promoting responsible business leadership and partnerships for sustainable international development"
The moto from the website of IBLF. With a realization that in todays economy social issues are business issues IBLF strives to work with governments, businesses, international agencies and other stakeholders to bridge the gap between communities and businesses. Such a bridging can only be done by creating a new creed of young entrepreneurs and that is one of their focus areas. Having a Middle East and North Africa(MENA) operation they have been active in this region.

Across all of IBLF's activities are three consistent themes - leadership, capacity building and partnerships. Here are the development programs under IBLF

Of these the two that specifically caught my attention were:

The Youth Career Iniative and the Youth Business International.

"There are few challenges today more pressing than the need to create meaningful employment and enterprise opportunities for young people. Developing countries are characterised by youthful and fast-growing populations, and idle or disengaged young people can all too easily fall victim to extremism.
In the Middle East and North Africa region for example, which faces many risks of conflict and extremism 60 percent of the population is under the age of 24 and faces bleak employment prospects.
Some 100 million jobs have to be created in the next 20 years just to absorb new entrants to the job market and another 20 million to reduce the present level of unemployment.
The employment gap can only be filled through partnerships between the private sector, public authorities, NGOs and communities which I believe are all too often overlooked, underestimated or seen as peripheral to the task of development."
HRH The Prince of Wales.

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Qatar Science and Technology Park -Updated-

It is after all not just a freezone but a true incubator, first of its kind:
A piece from Dr. Roberts CEO QSTP's press release. "A small and rich Gulf state, Qatar has attracted top-ranked universities such as Carnegie Mellon,Weill Cornell, Georgetown and Texas A&M to its shores under the umbrella of Qatar Foundation.........So important is this collaborative strategy that Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, wife of Qatar's Emir and chair of Qatar Foundation, has in principle secured therevenue from one of the country's oil wells to fund such research - appropriately called the "Wellof Knowledge"."

They did reply to my inquiry and gave the following statement "There is a strong spirit of entrepreneurship in the Gulf region, whichhas traditionally been focused in areas such as construction andtrading. What Qatar Science & Technology Park is trying to do is broadenthat out to include technology entrepreneurship - taking newtechnologies from the lab and building them into profitable businesses.We are building a business incubator now which will open mid 2007, andthis will be supported by programs such as seed funding,entrepreneurship training and mentoring. This is an exciting time forthe Gulf's entrepreneurs and we look forward to building relationshipsas we near our opening."

Seems to be rightly poised for the future but hope they keep up the spirit and maintain transparency, i.e. not being hit by Qatari-ism quotas and let ideas, entrepreneurs and companies come forward on merit. Ofcourse they business has to have ties with the land and the people of the land but it shouldnt be just an award distribution ceremony in a King's court.

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INTILAAQAH - Shell's Oman Iniative for Startup Business

Intilaaqah is a non-profit organisation that has been modelled on a shell-funded initiative called "LiveWIRE". The purpose of Intilaaqah is to stimulate and encourage unemployed young Omanis to consider the option of starting their own businesses, and to provide assistance to those who wish to take-up that option. It was started in 1995.

Again a nice step which was taken years ago and I am sure would have permiated through the students and youngsters of Oman. Oman is a more diverse country than UAE and has a pool of Omani Nationals that belong to all the different levels of society. Thus a very useful tool for those who have talent and want to start on their own. A look at the real case studies link shows entrepreneurs in businesses like coffe shops, franchises, nail treatment shops and so on. Humble but commendable start ups. Everything doesnt have to the be the BIGGEST or the MOST HIGHLY FUNDED and the TALLEST, those who rise up have to start at the bottom to work upwards.

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Anonymous said...
"Innovation" is the dirtiest word in the world to a Moslem.
16 September, 2006 12:52

Taking this comment from uaecommunityblog posted in responce to my post on Qatar Science and Tech Park I want to enlighten readers about some historical facts. A few very good sites that would provide more insight than my words are MuslimHertiage.com and 1001Inventions.com. A quick scroll through these websites would show how the Muslims scholars contributed to human civilization and its advancement.

"It is highly probable that but for the Arabs modern European civilization would never have arisen at all; it is absolutely certain that but for them, it would have not assumed that character which has enabled it to trascend all previous phases of evolution. For although theres not a single aspect of European growth in which the decisive influence of Islamic culture is not traceable, nowhere is it so clear and momentous as in the genesis of that power which constitutes the permanent distinctive force of the modern world and supreme source of its victory--natural science and the scientific spirit".[R. Briffault: The Making of Humanity ]

After all it is a time to re-embrace innovation, as commented by 'dg' because innovation an invention is not new to the Arab or the Muslim world. We need to just wake up and as Allam-a-Iqbal the Great Poet and Philosopher said:
"They were surely your ancestors, but what are you ?
Sitting in idleness, waiting for tomorrow are you "

Its time to rise and shine. May God Bless us All !!!!

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Qatar Science and Tech Park

A not so new news again but I would try to discuss some media views on it and its pros for young entrepreneurs with bright and innovative ideas. After all bright new ideas and innovative instincts are the strong tool we young entrepreneurs have.

The businessinovationinsider.com featured an article on the QSTP and had quiet a tone with this line, "Anyway, it's exciting to see the Arab world would embrace innovation." This is another discussion to which I would love to come back someday. But none other than ourselves is to blame. One time the residents of these parts the world layed foundations of all modern sciences and sew the seeds of innovation and research.

I have contacted QSTP for a statement but from initial research it looks just like any other freezone. Providing an operational hub to MNCs like GE, Microsoft etc. The official claims are however very incouraging "QSTP is a home for technology-based companies from around the world, and an incubator of start-up enterprises". If this is realised and finally we have a local incubator than bravo. But dont local incubators need more than a plot of land and picaso design buildings. QSTP has to compliment its services with research labs, venture capitalists, investment funds and a strong industry academia connection.

Lets see what they have to say about it. I'll update this discussion as soon as the innovation visionaries get back.

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GCC sinGle CurenCy - to be or not to be !

So the after EU's Euro we are now going to have GU's (Gulf Union) GINAR (GCC Dinar). Not a new revelation but surly an interesting development in the making. The GCC has agreed on it and the IMF has given their blessings, "The establishment of an economic and monetary union will create an important regional entity that in 2001 had an estimated combined GDP of about $335 billion, average weighted per capita income in nominal terms of $12,708, and 45 and 17 percent, respectively, of the world's oil and natural gas reserves."(IMF's F & D Mag)

So lets see a single currency eliminates intra-transaction costs but each of the currency being pegged to dollar there are no noticable costs. Single currency also facilitates internal trade but that is not substantial. So unless the countries start putting faith in their own people, their own industry and their own entrepreneurs there is no value to the Ginar. I wonder if the poilcy makers are worried who will have the tallest building to be featured on the 500 bank note?

Dollar is backed by only one thing; oil and gas trade. Despite the biggest federal debt of $8 trillion the country is still maintaining a strong currency. So unless the GCC will start billing oil in their Ginar there is no possibility of this becoming a strong currency: and that I dont think will happen, unless the single currency still stays under Uncle Sam's umbrella.

But yes if the single currency lays low and starts focusing on local industries and businesses it might be a good idea. Local businesses can expand regionally more easily. So for a businesses based in Dubai the markets of Muscat would be fair game, three hours drive and easy payment methods. Not only would a single bank notes help the structure but also the need of single visa and ease to register business branches across the region. Thus complete economic cooperation and homogenity. I think that would make GCC quiet an investment magnet and give the entrepreneurs free choice across the region.

14th September 2006 so I wonder if its happening by 2010.

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Minister says rapid economic growth fuelling investment boom in region Staff Report 09/11/06 gulfnews

Dubai: Rapid economic growth in the Middle East is fuelling an investment boom and spurring entrepreneurship in the region, the UAE Minister of Economy said.
Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi told a business meet that the GDP of the six GCC countries has grown 75 per cent over the past three years, making the zone the 16th largest economy in the world.
"Little wonder, then, that we are seeing new ventures of all types and increased entrepreneurial activity across the region," Shaikha Lubna told the launch of the Arab Business Angels Network (Aban).
Aban is an initiative of the Dubai government to consider local and regional investment in high potential entrepreneurial ventures and is carried out through Dubai International Capital.

A very good initiative intune with the spirit of Dubai. Let's hope this Network and its complementary competition sticks to merits and maintains transparency. Although the news, the network and the competition is not a new born as some readers would recall from a previous post.

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Entrepreneurs @re bOrn, rAised and nUrtured.

Lot of debates have sparked that whether entrepreneurs are born or they are raised. I guess its a lot of things and is never as simple. A famous quote goes "The harder I work the luckier I get". This sums up all the the debate conclusions and the best of advices.

Research has shown that very young children show entrepreneurial traits; often by the time they hit grade school. "Marilyn Kourilsky, former Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, has found that as many as one in four kindergarteners demonstrate entrepreneurial qualities such as a taste for risk-taking, creative problem-solving abilities, and high internal motivation to succeed (as cited in Gutner, 1994)."

Once the traits are spotted so young parents should encourage the spirit in the kids. These abilities cultivated lead to confident personalities, who dont fear risk. In the article linked above the section I found most interesting was about 'Stumbling Blocks to Success', which points out that all successful entrepreneurs undergo failures until they reach success. As they say "When you lose don't lose the lesson."

Another of my regional observation is the missing link between kid entrepreneurs and avenues for them to exercise their skills. Ever heard of kids distributing newspapers in Dubai, Kuwait etc, or any kind of garage industry. Nahh!!! don't think so, first go find a sponsor, rent a office space and then to Department of Economic Development get a liscence. Once you are set the Muncipality will be at your front door and Electricity and Water Dep. at your back. If I am missing something here then do enlighten me and our readers.

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Dubai Department of Economy: oNline disruption

I have been onto this for quiet sometime now. The Dubai Department of Economy website had a very neat feature where you could go online select your liscence activities, input office size, add in the rest of the information and get the exact liscence cost. Not only that it also gave the exact documents required and procedures.

This feature had been lost for a while then suddenly reappeared in the new website but didnt work. I hoped that it would come back but now since a month all that I see on clikcing most of the links is this :

So i wonder are they so busy in collecting dues or maybe look so that they are ignoring their electronic interface.

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GCC - China Free Trade: NOT so FREE

A news which can be good but I think is more to the disadvantage of cottage industry, small businesses and start ups. China is an unstopable machine backed with immense energy, strict discipline and a vast pool of able manpower.

An economy like USA went down with the influx of chinese products, which is evident from the US Trade Deficit in the US-China Trade. In 2004 US Trade Deficit was $161 Billion which jumped to $201 Billion in 2005. PBS has a video with the title "Is WalMart good for America", in which it has pointed out to the slow poisoning the WalMart-China duo is causing to the economy.

SO lets see we are just about trying to get out from the grip of western and Japenese products and are going down in the well of Chinese ones. When will the leaders realize we need a sustainable economy of our own. We do not need shopping centers but manufacturing plants. We have to let our own industries prospoer so that they can not only provide for countries in Middle East but also compete with the rest of the world. Being an international hub which Dubai is facilitation should be focused towards technology transfer and economical growth of our own industry.

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E-Biz Challenge - startup business plan competition

e-Biz challenge was started by the Institute for Technical Innovation in Zayed University in 2001. It is a very commendable effort and one of the very first business plan competitions of UAE.The sources claim that the competition, "has facilitated the birth of over 60 companies with an aggregate value of over $10.5 billion dollars". I wonder if this figure is for businesses started up through the e-biz challenge UAE or is representing e-business plan competitions strength on general.

The website for the challenge lays out all of the details very comprehensively: www.ebizchallenge.com . Although I am not quiet sure how this competition actually catapults the young entrepreneurs into the real world. I remembered participating in the Deloitte and Touche Business Plan competition. I had noticed two very fundamental ingredients which increased the success probability of the ideas taking birth in the competition. One the team structure for winning ideas required a combination of students and industry professionals. Second the final prize was around $100000 US dollars which was allocated by a panel of judges formulated by venture capitalists and industry gurus.

So lets see if one of the team members is a faculty memeber and the rest all students, I kind of fail to understand how do the visionaries see the business plans transitting from paper to professional world. Just a thought but still we have to start somewhere and it surly is a step in teh right direction. How many of these do we see in Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi, Kuwait or even Pakistan.

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Young Entrepreneurs in MENA reGion Facing the sTartup Challenge

The Arab Business Angels Network (ABAN) conceived by the Young Arab Leaders and Dubai Holding is going head on with its first initiative The Arab Business Challenge. Its not so much 'Arab' in case all the expat entrepreneurial young guns are reading. The team should atleast be of two people and atleast half of the team has to be Arab citizens of countries within the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region.

I think its a very good iniative inline with the MENA region and specially with Dubai's entrepreneurial zeal. The region is no doubt booming with opportunities and the big wigs need to ease access to money for younger minds. Often the young have innovative ideas, mostly non conventional and if given a chance can prove the metal in these ideas using conventional financial tools and lingo. Dubai as a melting pot it is does also provides customers for non conventional ideas. We see such business challenges and competitions as a common feature in developed countries, and Dubai is catching up fast.

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Ethic City tower at 1,852 metres will be the tallest in Gulf

Bahrain will house the eighth wonder of the modern world if the dream project, ‘Ethic City’ takes shape. It will be 1,852 metres high, more than twice the ambitious Dubai Tower which is 800 metres.Designed after a desert rose by Italian architect Amero Marchetti, the tower would be the tallest skyscrapers in the world. The project is awaiting sponsors, investors and government approval.Abdul Aziz Al Buainain, an investor, told the Tribune yesterday that the first approval has to come from the Prime Minister’s Office, after which a site would be selected for an international monument of this stature.
My Ethics are in slow motion over the news. Does anyone have any idea about the authenticity of this news. DO enlighten us!!!
A point to ponder on is that is it more essential to build taller buildings or to build economies with sustainable growth. HOw many young entrepreneurs or startup businesses would be able to afford the Tallest building anyway.

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Richest pAkistani Business Empires

I found this list of rich Pakistani Families. It is a little old but does give interesting facts about the few economic empires. I found the fact about Muhammad Ali Habib very inspiring. After independence M. Ali Habib gave a cheque of Rs 80 million to Quaid-e-Azam, at a time when Pakistan government was penniless owing to delay in transfer of Pakistan's share of Rs. 750 million by the Reserve Bank of India.

I think in a way economic dynaties are and always will be better than feudalism. More of such make a country economically stable and conducive to growth.

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Setting up in Qatar (1)

It can be seen that Middle East as a region is booming with opportunities. Qatar these days is making a lot of news, undergoing agressive expansion and thus truning into a ground where opportunities would sprout. Must be good for a lot of stratup businesses. I tumbled onto the website of the Qatar Investment Promotion Department which seemed very well laid out.

A point I found very interesting was about 100% foreign ownership in many areas of economy:
"Generally, a non-Qatari national, whether natural or juristic, may engage in commercial activities provided the foreign participation in the entity does not exceed 49%. In October 2000, the Government enacted a new Foreign Investment Law aimed at promoting foreign investment in specific business sectors including agriculture, manufacturing, health, education, tourism power and projects which develop and utilize the State's natural resources. The new law permits up to 100% foreign ownership in these business sectors. The law does not allow a non-Qatari to participate in banking, insurance, commercial agency or real estate trading activities."

In future discussions lets fish out for upcoming business opportunites in Qatar. Sometimes things we take for granted in on country can be non existent in another and might work out as entrepreneural sucess. Dubai although the trend setter is being cloesly followed by its neighbours.

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