14 Aug 2017 13:03 IST

Bahrain woos Indian fintech startups

Equity crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending regulations coming soon, says official

Bahrain plans to set up a Fintech Centre next year to provide accelerators and co-working spaces for fintech companies, Simon Galpin, Managing Director, Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) has said.

The Fintech Centre, which is likely to be opened in February or March 2018, would also provide networking opportunities for both startups and big banks interested in the fintech area, Galpin told BusinessLine.

Galpin was in India last week as part of efforts to attract Indian fintech startups and manufacturing companies in pharma and food processing industries to locate in Bahrain and take advantage of the liberal environment that is on offer for them to scale up.

“We are not looking at early stage companies. We are keen on companies that have already successfully established in India and are looking to spread their wings”, he said.

Galpin clarified that Bahrain offered better terms than say Dubai for Indian companies to look at setting up base in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) market.

“We are 20-30 per cent less expensive than Dubai and you(as a company) are not restricted to be located only in a special zone. A company setting up base can cater to our domestic as well as international markets”, he said.

Galpin also mentioned that Bahrain would in the next few months come up with regulations for equity crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending and this would help fintech startups to scale up.

“We want to start dialogues with as many as companies as possible. We certainly want many companies to visit Bahrain and consider going into one of our accelerators or even set up base there”, Galpin said.

It may be recalled that Bahrain had recently come out with a regulatory sandbox to allow startups and fintech firms to test and experiment their banking ideas and solutions.

The sandbox regulations allow startups that are not ready to apply for the traditional banking or financial services licences to operate under sandbox environment.

The creation of the regulatory sandbox provides an opportunity for fintech businesses around the world to expand and thrive in the Gulf and strengthens Bahrain's position as a fintech and financial services hub in the GCC.

“We already have two companies that are applying to join the sandbox. One is a payments company and the other is for big data for financial institutions”, Galpin said.

Galpin maintained that fintech space in India are very dynamic, particularly in payment side.

“There are some high growth companies in payment side that are doing tremendous work here and have developed great products that would be attractive for GCC markets too”, he said.

He highlighted that a sizeable percentage of expats in Bahrain are workers and do not have bank accounts in Bahrain.

“Finding payment solutions or fintech solutions that can enable people to secure their savings and make transfers in a cost effective way will help everybody.We do see lot of opportunities for payments and insurance technology companies that have shown interest in Bahrain”, he said.

The main role of EDB is to attract and assist companies from around the world to set up base in Bahrain.