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Bahrain’s New Fintech Fund to Invest in Indian Startups

The new fund will earmark a certain portion of its investment assets to Indian startups that have an interest in the Bahrain region and those that are planning to scale up their operations in the middle-east.

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Bahrain’s EDB sets up office in Mumbai to accelerate its fintech development program.

Bahrain’s new fintech fund will invest in Indian startups that have an economic interest in Bahrain. In a bid to speed up its financial offerings in the fintech space, Bahrain has tied up with the Singapore Fintech Consortium to invest in fintech start-ups in the middle-east and Asia region to boost the development of financial technology in Bahrain.

The new fund will earmark a certain portion of its investment assets to Indian startups that have an interest in the Bahrain region and those that are planning to scale up their operations in the middle-east.

Bahrain will also run accelerator programs to bring fintech innovation to the Middle-east. “We are going to run a couple of accelerator programs. Once we identify fintech ventures which have an interest in Bahrain, then the logical next step is to set up a visit, and so we can connect them with the regulators or telecom companies or financial institutions. We will manage that through Mumbai,” said David Parker, Business Development, Financial Services, Bahrain Economic Development Board.

Mentioning that fintech development has been slow to start in Bahrain, Parker was confident that the region would like to catch up on fintech, and some of the options that are likely to attract Indian startups to Bahrain are payments, robo-advisory, online banking, and wealth management.

Parker noted that Bahrain is setting up a Fintech Hub which will bring together companies from across the region to share ideas. Parker said that Bahrain’s new Sandbox will bring together regulators and financial technology innovators together which will enable communication on a common platform.

“The thinking behind a regulatory sandbox is that the financial services industry is highly regulated, which isn’t necessarily conducive to innovation. You can’t be launching bright ideas, and the regulator says that you can’t do this and can’t do that. On the other hand, if you let innovators on their own, then there could be all sorts of implications for customers, money laundering, financial security and so on. So a sandbox is perhaps not necessary the right name, but a sandbox is a bridge between the innovative ideas and the regulation,” said Parker.

Parker also said that the new entrepreneurs will be allowed to develop their ideas under the watchful eye of the regulator. “At the end of that process, we can put a new regulation in place if we think we need to accommodate the fintech’s idea. The opportunity for the regulator to test and monitor the new innovations is within the Sandbox,” noted Parker.

Parker pointed out that the idea of a Sandbox germinated from the fact that regulators are struggling to keep up with massive innovation in the fintech space across the world. Hence, Bahrain is putting an environment that does not compromise on regulations but also accelerates the fintech program at a faster pace. “We think that fintech will explode in the coming years. There’s a huge appetite for online banking, and digital banking,” said Parker.

Parker also said that Bahrain’s Economic Development Board is talking to quite a few companies and bringing them together in the Fintech Hub in Bahrain. “The EDB joins all the different components and we look at the innovators around the world and get them to Bahrain. We are the glue that puts all the different things together. With the focus being on driving the ecosystem faster,” said Parker.

Parker said that Bahrain has a strong financial industry and the country has been doing financial services for over 50 years, and so it will be able to catch up with some of the fintech developments that have happened in countries like India and Europe. “We are working with regulators and we are keen to catch up with the rest of the world on fintech development,” said Parker.

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