Harish Gopinath on KPMG’s Tech Innovator competition in Bahrain

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KPMG has kicked off the 2021 edition of its global Tech Innovator competition, with Bahrain alongside the UAE and Saudi Arabia the MENA countries among the sixteen KPMG member firms hosting the contest. A discussion with Manama-based KPMG partner Harish Gopinath on the expectations for the competition in Bahrain.

What are KPMG’s Bahrain’s main drivers for joining the global competition?

Following the success of KPMG’s Best British Tech Pioneer, which has crowned innovators such as Echo Health and What3Words, the competition has grown to include technology innovators in the GCC region, including Bahrain. 

SMEs are significant contributors to the economy in Bahrain through the volume of exports, capital investments and employment opportunities they generate. It is estimated that SMEs nearly account for 30% of Bahrain’s gross domestic product (GDP); a contribution which is expected to grow. This is a result of the ongoing emphasis on entrepreneurship and startups funding, in Bahrain and in the GCC countries, as part of their economy diversification plans.

KPMG launches competition for tech start ups in Bahrain

The positive impact from the support provided by the Government and the marketplace is also reflected in the number of success stories we have in terms of startups and SMEs growing across sectors. 

Nowadays, technology is considered the key driver and success factor for businesses of all sizes. It plays a vital role in driving growth and optimizing operations. This is essential for small businesses and start-ups, as it can reduce cost and wastage; optimize production, inventory management and financial record-keeping.

Our main driver for joining this global competition comes from our commitment to support SMEs help enterprises achieve their growth objectives, wherever they are on their business journey; and showcase some of the best in class startups and SMEs in Bahrain on a global platform. 

What are some of the key areas of technology innovation you expect to see during the local competition?

We expect all pure technology or a tech-enabled / tech-driven business to take part in the competition. Participants need to have been actively operating for five years or less, with revenues generated between $1 to 15 million; or have raised at least $500k in equity. With Bahrain being a regional hub for fintech and regtech, we believe that this might present us with some of the most innovative ideas and solutions aligned to these areas.

However, we’re also hoping that there are innovative solutions in the space of foodtech and agrotech, as these are definitely gaining traction in the global marketplace, and it would be great to showcase pioneering solutions from the Kingdom on the platform. 

Harish Gopinath, Partner at KPMG Enterprise in Bahrain, KPMG

From an international perspective, where does Bahrain’s tech entrepreneurship infrastructure currently stand?

Bahrain has been an early adopter in implementing reforms to support technology-driven businesses and empower them to drive the economy while the government takes a regulatory role with a perspective on good governance. Bahrain was the first country in the Arab Gulf region to liberalize its telecom sector

Today, Bahrain is leading the region with its well-established information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure. Bahrain ranks 1st in the Arab region in information and communications technology (ICT) Development Index (IDI) as per International Telecommunication Union (ITU) report and ranks 4th globally in Telecommunication Infrastructure Index (TII) as per United Nation eGovernment Development Index (iGA), Economic Development Board by UN’s eGovernment Report. 

Similarly, we have seen a lot of traction when it comes to tech entrepreneurship in the financial services sector led and supported by the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB). We are even experiencing the benefits of the various payment solutions, e-commerce options and even banking products and solutions in our daily life in the Kingdom. The country is ready for adopting new and emerging technologies as our behaviours and preferences have seen a huge shift over the last 18-24 months in relation to tech enablement.

Finally, what kind of support and mentoring can select tech companies expect from KPMG?

We aim to identify fast growing, innovative emerging giants and supports their growth. The winner of the national competition will move forward to compete with peers and competitors in the global competition. The participants will receive recognition at both a national and global level and their products/ services, business will be showcased as a proud representation of what Bahrain has to offer to the global marketplace. 

At a national level, we will provide guidance, support, mentoring and grooming for the winner, to help prepare them better for the global final. While this will help them in bettering their chances to win the final, it will also help them in enhancing their awareness and understanding of expectations from the global marketplace.

This competition has been running in the UK for eight years now and some of the winners are now worth billions such as Babylon Health. We truly believe that the networks, connections, promotion from the competition will be of significant value for all the participants.

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