Recent Posts by Jayanti Jha

The Only Constant In Life Is Change


Many millennials are at the edge of a quarter life crisis, questioning where they are currently and confused about the next step to take. We at Making Waves ourselves have often been confused about many of our life choices which has led us to constantly question ourselves. Which city should I live in? Should I join the corporate sector or not? Which industry should I go into? I'm earning a steady income, should I leave that stability to start my own business? The list is endless.

After over nine years at Procter & Gamble, Samia Hasan recently founded Direction Dose to help individuals solve these questions.

Having made the career change herself, Samia knows what it takes for millennials to tap into who they really are, find the right career path for them, and help them achieve what they are truly capable of.

She is currently helping individuals by conducting workshops, speaking at various startup events, consulting people one-on-one and even hosting live FB video sessions (yes, she does it all!).

 


Wellbey – The Answer To All Your Wellness Needs


Have you wanted to treat yourself to a spa treatment and are lost for where to go? Have you ever realised at the end of the long day that you forgot to make a nail appointment for tomorrow but your salon is now closed? Have you ever wanted to book your yoga class for the day but been at work and couldn't find the time to make that call? Have you ever dreaded to make a phone call to book an appointment and would rather have used an app or website? In steps Wellbey, a one stop shop for all your wellness needs.

In Dubai (and the wider GCC region) many people are particular with their wellness needs and wants. While some individuals have found their go-to spots, others (primarily millennials) are always on the look out to try new places and services. For many, it is hard to discover places and find spots which fit the experience they are looking for. Wellbey helps you find new places, read and write reviews, and book appointments even out of office hours.

A few weeks ago, we caught up with the founders behind this rapidly growing startup. The dynamic duo, Christopher Latti and Stefan Berger were full of energy, made us laugh, gave us a great insight into working with friends and explained the reasons why they looked to start Wellbey.

 


Getting into that dream school…


It's that time of year. Most students have submitted their college applications and are waiting for their big decisions, while the lucky few have already been accepted to their dream schools through early applications.

The increasingly competitive college application process is daunting not only for the students themselves, but also for the parents. Not to speak of the increased investment that goes into financing an undergraduate education, with tuition at a top college in the US now reaching well over $200,000 (yes, you read that right).

Students need to balance school grades, standardized tests, college essays, and extracurricular activities, and a professional helping hand through this tough period can be a great resource. Enter Hale Education Group. Founded by Peter Davos, Hale is the leading independent educational consultancy in the GCC, focusing exclusively on US university admissions.Their counselors help students identify their passions from an early age, and assist them with their application and essay strategies, putting together a competitive but realistic college list, scholarship search, and outreach to schools.

 


Vegetarianism and Veganism – a growing movement around the world.

Food is a large part of our lives. Many of us turn to Zomato, Yelp or Facebook for generic restaurant menus and reviews. However, we have been waiting for a dedicated website that focuses on a growing niche of foodies - vegetarians. That is, until now.

Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Sumati Menda, Founder of VeggieBuzz, has developed an innovative website to help tackle this problem. VeggieBuzz is a comprehensive online resource for vegetarian food and dining in the U.A.E. that consists of two main aspects. First, is the extensive database of veggie-friendly restaurant listings, while the website is also home to an extremely informative and thought-provoking blog. VeggieBuzz has listings of over 4000 UAE restaurants that a herbivore could potentially dine at, while also including the vegetarian specific menu.

The website has an in depth analysis of a multitude of restaurants and is a massively useful resource for all food lovers, vegetarian or not! Visit VeggieBuzz here.

 

 




Disrupting the world of video on demand

For the couch potatoes out there.
It is no surprise that STARZ Play, an on-demand video streaming service developed exclusively for the MENA region, closed a multi-million-dollar funding investment led by SEQ Capital Partners and Delta Partners Capital last week.

Boasting thousands of Movies and T.V Shows, including Power, Vikings and Quantico, as well as Arabic shows, STARZ Play offers a wide range of content that has attracted different audiences. It is easy to see why the company has experienced such great traction (over 17 million visitors in October 2016 alone) since its inception in 2015.

Making Waves was able to identify another pillar of success – CEO and Co-founder Maaz Sheikh. His vision for the company, industry knowledge and humble nature have no doubt played a huge role in STARZ play's rise to prominence.

We have often seen large international company’s enter the GCC market and effect local players – such as Groupon to Cobone or Uber to Careem. We spoke to Maaz to learn more about his journey and how his company was effected when the world's most popular streaming service, Netflix, entered the region. 

 


Magnitt – Attracting top local startup talent

Magnitt – Attracting top local startup talent

Magnitt aims to connect startups in the MENA region to different stakeholders. From investors, to corporates to service providers, founder Philip Bahoshy has created an invaluable online platform for the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region.

Boasting an impressive background, Bahoshy has given startups in the GCC and beyond the perfect place to thrive, as he looks to almost single-handedly boost the community to greater heights. As he says, “startups struggle in isolation,” and Magnitt looks to become the one stop shop to solve that very problem.

We caught up with Philip to learn more about the company he founded, which was recently named in Forbes Middle East’s 50 startups to watch out for. Magnitt has already made huge inroads amongst new business owners in the region and, from speaking to Philip, it is clear that they have no intention of slowing down anytime soon.

 

 




HITTING THE PERFECT SHOT

WELCOMING SPORTS FACILITIES.

Over the years, the neighborhood video parlors have disappeared, and given way to swankier bowling alleys, which later gave way to set sporting areas that ensure that we have no excuses when it comes to playing sport, and exercising. Enter Cover Drive, one of the most promising sports facilities in the UAE. And while the founder Abhishek Bhattacharyagrew up playing cricket, “I think I learnt walking and playing cricket at the same time”, it was only when he returned to Dubai from the US after completing his degree in industrial engineering that he decided to turn his passion into something more meaningful. The entrepreneurial bug hit him in college itself, but it was only when he turned 24 that he finally summoned the courage to start out on his own. His eureka moment though came at the most unexpected time, “Even before I laid the ground for Cover Drive, I had been thinking about a sports facility for a while, and this one day I remember, I had come down for breakfast, and my dad had the newspaper open to the classifieds section with a rent ad on it, and that was it. The initial idea was to build a facility from scratch rather than modify an existing facility, but this was a good streamlined thinking process which made things quicker.”

COVER DRIVE

Bhattacharya goes on to describe Cover Drive and says, “Cover Drive is a multi-sport indoor facility, located in the heart of the city. You can come in here on each day of the week and do a different activity every day because of how diverse we are. “He also believes that its diversity is what differentiates Cover Drive from the competition and makes it unique, “Competitors are more focused on each of their sports, while we are a little bit more diverse, we do everything from zumba to yoga to indoor cricket to pool table to cricket coaching, we are all across the board, and then we have our premium product that is bubble soccer. I think we are the only facility in all of the Gulf countries that have had more than 400 bookings for bubble soccer.” But he also does not deny the existence of strong competitors, but has a basic strategy to deal with them, “There is a lot of competition, but that’s the good thing about sport that it doesn’t have a very targeted audience, still there are so many people who are not playing sport so there is indefinite capacity for the market to expand. With fitness also being on the rise, success is mostly certain in this market.” As for Cover Drive’s expansion plans, he says, “In the last 9 months, we have seen a very good growth trajectory, where we are doubling our revenue month on end, I would just be happy if we can maintain that.”

BEING A SINGLE FOUNDER/SINGLE BUT NOT WILLING TO MINGLE

But unlike most startups and founders, Bhattacharya was and is the sole founder at Cover Drive. It has its own perks, he says, “You have full autonomy of your business, so anything that you feel is correct, you can go ahead and execute it without anyone opposing you. One of the main reasons that most people quit their jobs is because they want autonomy and control over their lives so keeping that in mind; it is quite gratifying being the sole founder.” But everything has a flip side, and Bhattacharya talks about the downside of being a sole founder saying, “It can be lonely as a single founder. And a lot of times you want to brainstorm, discuss, consult, but that option isn’t available to you.” As far as funding is concerned, he says, “For a single founder, it’s harder. VCs and investors tend to come in at a later stage, after you have achieved something, and reached a few milestones.” But he would definitely like to learn from his mistakes when he started out saying, “Many expenses were completely overlooked before we started, and we could have budgeted better. That bit I would like to change if I could go back.” But as a successful single founder, what would his advice be to those who want to start out on their own, and mostly without any partners? He keeps it very practical and says, “If you are someone who is happy with a monthly paycheck or don’t like uncertainties, then it’s probably easier to stay with your day job, but if doing something that you are passionate about motivates you, then you have to go for it, but you must keep in mind that just because you are passionate about it does not mean everyone else is, so you need to let the passion transform into an actual business ethics and models. Also, in terms of a business, we have learnt that one should always use high quality products, you don’t want to reinvest later when you can just get better quality to begin with.”

BEING NOT OUT

But being a single founder wasn’t the greatest challenge for Bhattacharya, there were others like, “Government approval”, a problem faced by many startups in Dubai. He goes on to expand and says, “Getting all the plans through the government was a challenge because this is not a regular standardized business plan. Getting a trade license took a lot of time because while there are a lot of laws on the different kinds of property, sadly our project did not fall under the regular laws. It is operated by the real estate agency of UAE so there is a huge tax that goes with it which is tied up with the economic department. It was quite a grueling process for us as it took 17 weeks to get our final plans approved.” But would he still recommend people to start out on their own? “Having the place fully ready for 17 weeks but not being able to start business was really hurting us, so if you have the stomach for this, you should most definitely go ahead with this.”

 

 




THE HARDSHIPS OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Entrepreneurs so often set out to ‘solve a problem’ that they have found and, as shown by Samantha Hamilton-Rushforth, they often find a perfect fit between their idea and the market they are in. Samantha quit her job as a journalist in December 2014 to pursue Beem, Dubai’s first beauty emergency application that connects salons with customers around the city. Growing up in the region, first in Saudi Arabia and then in Dubai itself, Samantha found the gap in the market through her work as a journalist and finally decided to take the plunge and start Beem. She hasn't looked back since and her application finally gives customers and beauty salons a digital platform on which to connect.

However, Samantha gave us a brilliant indication of just how difficult it is to be an entrepreneur in this part of the world. She admitted that she endured, “sleepless nights and 3 o’clock in the morning emails not just to thrive but to survive at the base level.”

Entrepreneurship certainly is not for the faint-hearted and that was something we really got to learn from Samantha as she gave us an insight into how difficult it was for her to start off with. Founding Beem on her own meant she had to have, in her own words, “a stomach of steel” as she came to grips with all the challenges that come along with starting your own business.

It was refreshing to hear the founder of a company give a proper account of the harsh reality behind starting a business and Samantha hopes it can help others who are thinking of getting into the world of entrepreneurship. The rewards are great but the graft required to get there is what must be considered and Samantha is a perfect example of how when the hard work is put in, being able to fill a hole in the market can be hugely rewarding.

 

 




FINDING YOUR PASSION AND PURSUING IT TOO

It is easy to see why Carla Julian of Move On Yoga quit her day job and ventured out on her own. A free person by her own admission, Julian is very clear that she wanted to do something different as a routine for her  was, “too boring’. Originally from Madrid, Julian moved to London for her post-graduation, and then taught across schools in London for over ten years, before moving to Dubai because, “Europe was sinking, and I was looking for the right place to move to for a while.” Dubai wasn’t her first option, infact it was one of many. Between Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Dubai, Dubai stood out for her because, “it kind of fitted in between, its proximity to Europe was one factor, but also the fact that it’s a cool city with plenty of opportunities.”

Julian worked successfully as a teacher in London, and also moved to Dubai to join an international school as a teacher, but she was clear she didn’t want to do this her whole life, “I was really bored and I didn’t see myself growing old as a teacher.” But entrepreneurship, she says, is something that was always at the back of her mind, “I free-lanced in London for 5 years, and while freelancing in my first year here was difficult, but when the time was right, I just took off.” But ask her what the Eureka moment was and she says, “I was very sad in England for some time so I went for a course, and a workshop, where I had a bit of catharsis, and I came back with the idea that I can do my own thing now, I felt ready.”

MOVE ON YOGA, THE COMPETITION, AND WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT.

Describing Move on Yoga, she says, “Move on Yoga is very fresh, it is mainly a travel brand featuring many travel accessories. It is a Yoga brand, and it fits in therapeutics, it fits in children, it fits in family yoga, and also a lot of power yoga.” But despite Yoga picking up in a huge way in the region, she isn’t worried about competition because she strongly believes that her brand is different. She goes on to add, “What makes it different is my essence really, you just have to fit in with our style and our concept, the idea of moving on and around, that’s the whole point that you can travel with it, the fact that you can take your mats anywhere and practice yoga anywhere and it doesn’t have to be a specific studio space or a city or a gym, you can take Yoga around with you. Our accessories i.e. the travel bags, computer cases, accessories also make it different from the competition.”

QUITTING YOUR DAY JOB TO PURSUE YOUR PASSION.

Nothing worth having ever comes easy, and the switch from a stable job to pursue her passion came with it’s own set of challenges.  “It can be very quiet, very daunting, very good, or suddenly very bad. It’s really volatile and you can’t really control or predict next week. Your schedule changes all the time and you don’t have fixed working hours, so it’s difficult to strike a balance. “But Julian is okay with the non-fixed work hours, adding, “, I don’t like being put in a box and for that reason I hated having a routine, I know it’s secure, you know what’s coming, but god, it was so boring. These days, I get a random call from someone who will say that they got your number from somewhere and are looking for a Yoga instructor and that becomes the reason you leave the bed, it can be so random, and that’s the magic of it.” Being a female entrepreneur in Dubai on it’s own would have come with its own set of challenges, but Julian disagrees, “I haven’t faced any trouble. I have had no complaints or issues about being a female and starting out on my own in Dubai. I think it’s more of a myth, and issues that female entrepreneurs can face in Dubai, they might face in other parts of the world as well.”

As of now, Julian is focused on the future for Move On Yoga. While talking about her plans for the end of 2016 she says, “I would like to focus more on retreats and teacher training, and start distributing accessories abroad since we have had a lot of inquiries. We are looking to expand internationally in the region as well, and maybe also Sri Lanka. “

“QUIT YOUR JOB. DO IT.”

Julian is very happy that she made the switch from the stability of a job to the unpredictability that following one’s heart tends to bring. And her advice to those looking to pursue their passion is the same, “Quit your job, do it. If it doesn’t work out, you can say you tried, and you learnt from the experience.”

 






WHY I WALKED AWAY FROM MY SIX-FIGURE CAREER

THE SUCCESS STORY.

It wouldn’t be an understatement to call Careem one of the most successful startups to emerge out of the Middle East in the last few years. Co-founder Mudassir Sheikha himself says that the success of Careem has exceeded their expectations, “I still remember our first business plan that we sent to investors where we were supposed to be at a certain place in 2017 and 2017 is right around the corner, but we are 4 times bigger than what we proposed. This has exceeded our expectations in terms of growth and has pleasantly surprised us all as to how quickly this has happened. “  Ask him the reason behind the success and he gives us three, “Many factors have gone into it, we got the right team in place which was working super hard, and was super committed, the timing has also been right for a service like this, and there was a need that needed solving, and we found the solution to it.”

CORPORATE VS THE START UP LIFE.

Originally from Pakistan, Sheikha moved to the US for his under graduation. After graduating in Computer Science and Economics from the University of Southern California, he moved to Stanford for his Masters in Computer Science. Following which he spent 8 years in Silicon Valley. Describing his time in Silicon Valley, he says, “I started working in a startup, founded a startup, and then founded another start up, after which I decided that it was time to move closer to home.” This was followed by a four year stint with McKinsey Consulting, after which Careem happened.

But for someone who started working in startups right after college, Sheikha didn’t always believe he would end up here, “For the longest time, I wanted to be a pilot and then when I was in college in California, I realized that this thing that I was doing was quite fun, so that is when I decided that this will be a great thing to do, and I started working in a startup which was the learning ground for me.” Ask him why he chose to start working in a startup over a more orthodox option, he responds, “I am from the dot com generation, and the only thing that you would do back then was work at a startup. Finding a hot start up to join in Silicon Valley was a badge of honor so that’s what I did; to consider anything otherwise was a failure.” Would he recommend the same to graduates today? “It really does depend on your aspirations. I have some very smart friends, for whom the corporate life was really the right answer, they wanted to spend time with their families, have a balanced life, so that’s the path that they chose, and then there are the others who are more ambitious and adventurous, and are never happy with the state of affairs, for them, yes, if they are okay with a little risk and uncertainty, then they can give startups a shot, because you learn a lot by doing things yourself and building organizations, versus in consulting or banking, where you are not as operational as you are in startups.”

HOW CAREEM HAPPENED?

It was the same spirit of ambition and adventure that led to the founding of Careem. Sheikha met his business partner, Magnus Olsson during his stint at McKinsey. Labelled as the ‘tech geeks’ at Mckinsey, both of them found themselves at a similar place in life in 2011, “Both of us were thinking of doing something different, both of us wanted to explore something entrepreneurial, and well, the stars were aligned.” They started problem solving together because as Sheikha puts it, “When you are looking for a business opportunity or a start up, you have to find a problem to solve, every problem is an opportunity, the bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity so we started making a list of all the problems that we had faced in our time in the Middle East and this was ofcourse one of them. As consultants, we were always on the go, using a lot of cars to go from our homes to airports, airports to the office, office to hotels, so this was a daily part of our lives which is why we felt that it was broken and we could fix this with our technological backgrounds.”

WHY IT IS OKAY TO FAIL?

But was the switch from corporate life to start up life as easy? “I understand where this is coming from because while switching you have a lot of insecurities about whether you’ll succeed or not. You have an amazing job that pays a lot that you will be giving up, but we realized after thinking through things that for people like us the perceived risk is a lot higher than the actual risk. What’s the worst that can happen if you don’t succeed in a year or two in a start up? You can always go back and get an amazing job because you are qualified, and you have the credentials, so there isn’t much to lose. “ Even if you don’t succeed, Sheikha says that entrepreneurship has it’s benefits, “You are probably losing a year or two of income but you are learning a lot in those years, and you become more valuable for whoever hires you after that.

PARTNERS @ CAREEM.

While Sheikha has worked enough across startups, what is it that he looks for while hiring people for his own startup? “Three things: drive, problem solving skills, and comfortable with uncertainty”, skills that he believes anyone working in a startup needs to have. But if you pass the Careem metric test, employees have a lot to look forward to at Careem. Careem has given 15% of ownership to the employees, it’s a model that Sheikha believes that all startups should follow, “From the beginning we decided that we will make everyone at Careem, a partner in success, they are not employees that’s not a word we use at Careem, we use partner or colleague, that’s the way we want people to feel so it was important for us to give them equity in business, they have shares as well, which if Careem does well, they do well, which has done wonders for the organization as well. People who work here, join as owners, and work as owners.” He believes that as a model this has helped Careem hire the best people and convince them to make the shift to startups,“It has helped us attract people who were a little hesitant to make the shift from an MNC to a startup, as we are not offering them a job, we are offering them a partnership opportunity, and that really changes the dialogue and gets you the right people, and gets the right mindset from those people.”, he concludes.




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