The Indian Muslim Entrepreneurs Network’s first conference focused on Halal investments, among other things, paving the way for future events in Singapore, Asia and the Middle East
A new initiative aimed at driving Muslim involvement in India’s startup and technology economy just hosted its first event in the city of Pune on February 7. Tausif Malik, Anees Kutty, and A Gaffar Khan, the founder of Uniquee Foundation a Social Organization which working in education, poverty and healthcare, organized the Indian Muslim Entrepreneurs Network‘s conference, all of whom have a long history of involvement in business, technology, and community organizing.
The event’s theme was “Be an Entrepreneur…Be a Value Creator”, expressing the trio’s vision of the country’s Muslim community becoming more involved in stimulating the business sector and developing opportunities for the next generation. Speakers included social entrepreneur Mohamed Yunus, educator and app creator Imran Khan, journalist Sameena Razzaq and young entrepreneur Maryam Asif Siddiqui (featured below). An estimated 300 people were expected to attend.
While Malik tells Geektime that India’s Muslims have an entrepreneurial nature, he believes that they can can do much more than they are doing now. This is due in part to a lack of success stories, information, investment, and mentorship, all of which are elements that he hopes to take on with the IMEN project.
Malik is the founder of the Muslim Spelling Bee series in the US, combining several regional events into a national contest. Kutty is the founder of Anees Classes, providing special courses to Indian soldiers and corporate professionals. India’s Muslims have seen some success in the tech industry, with examples like software mogul Azim Premji. While calling Premji a legendary figure, as a devout Muslim, Malik points to the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) as a role model for the community.
The day-long event included panels and discussions on topics like improving networking, inclusion of women, and education. The organizers have expressed that they saw the conference as an opportunity for building B2B relationships over the short-term, with a longer range vision for encouraging investment into the community-run businesses.
What are Halal investments?
One of the interesting topics discussed was the idea of Halal investments, meaning business opportunities that follow Islamic guidelines. Beyond restrictions on doing business in food-related industries that use forbidden foods like pork or alcohol, there is a prohibition on gaining interest, so banks and speculation-based businesses are not viable options for religious Muslims to be involved in.
However, Malik says that he sees great possibilities in the IT sector as well as franchising.
In looking to the future, Malik explains to Geektime that they are playing a long game that will hopefully bring results over time. He says that what is needed to help promote increased participation from the younger generation is more events and leadership.
Joining the modernization movement
Muslims make up nearly 15% of India’s estimated 1.25 billion person population and play an important role in dictating its future as an economic and technology powerhouse. While it is difficult to gauge what percentage of the community is already working in startups, Malik believes that it should be more.
The organizers have placed a heavy emphasis on their identities as Indians and offer an inspiring message about making sure that their community is a part of the technology and business wave in the country.
“Muslims of India want to participate in the vibrant economy of the country and support the vision of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the economic and social development of the country,” says Malik, expressing the strong desire of his community to be a part of the modernization movement that is going on in his country.
He says that the community’s strength is the youth population and the urge to join mainstream professions and be part of the vibrant Indian economy. While he tells Geektime that there are no real barriers to entering the startup scene as a Muslim, he feels that not enough have taken that step, a trend that he and his partners are hoping to change.
With a strong technical sector and high level of English, India is well positioned to lead with a startup sector, drawing on local talent. Initiatives like this and Malik’s incubator and monthly startup event MStartups are essential in driving this vision forward.
While still very much in the development stage, there remains a lot of potential that even small increases in their ability to do business can create many more jobs and boost development for the community. Beyond the Pune event, they have already announced that they will be holding a similar event in Singapore.