Margao – From “Business capital of Goa” to “A start-up Beach in Goa”

When we think about Goa, we think about relaxing on the beach, cheap booze, partying hard and a vacation. For long, Goa has being known for its beaches with large influx of both domestic and foreign tourist visiting Goa, which has supported the local economy for generations. But in recent times, Goa, especially Margao has emerged as a booming location for start-ups, with the latest trend of young entrepreneurs setting up shop right at the beach front in Colva Beach, working on their laptops while tourist are having a great time. What is making beaches like Colava, Benaulim, Varca etc.. of Margao the next destination of start-ups in India.

Luke Sequira moved back to his hometown in Marago goa after his work permit extension for his cushy job in Canada was declined. Luke Sequira had moved to Canada for higher education and had landed a cushy job in Vancouver, Canada and the declination of his work permit was the influencing factor of his decision to return back home.

Upon his return to Margao, Goa, Luke Sequira was amazed with the transformation his home town had undergone since his departure to Canada as a student. Upon further research, Luke Sequira found his hometown to be the best destination over other metro cities in India to start his start-up and started his first start-up, DCCPER, which works with other entrepreneurs around the globe to help them build scalable web and mobile applications. Today, DCCPER has 21 clients in 7 countries and ironically, a few Canadian Government agencies serve as clients of DCCPER, the same government who refused to extend Luke Sequira’s work permit.

In 2015, Luke co-founded FleetRover, an enterprise fleet tracking and management platform for logistics and supply chain management companies, with partners Chris Atkinson, Hannah Bain, Joshua Silveira and Aprup Sheth and now has employees in Canada and plans to launch his product soon in India and US.

During his initial start-up days, Luke Sequira has rented a table in a local shack on the beach and was operating from there while tourist were busy vacationing and having a nice time on the beach.

According to Luke Sequira, he doesn’t feel like he is working in Goa, he is just living in Goa while he enjoys his life in Goa while managing his two start-up spread across two continents. Luke Sequira also added that the biggest challenges start-ups in Goa face is the perception outsides have regarding the work culture of Goa as Goa is synonymous with vacations, partying, drugs, gambling and cheap booze. But upon overcoming the stigma of perception, Luke Sequira found a lot of support within Goa, especially during his initial days his business while he was operating from a rented table on beach shack in Colva Beach, Margao.

Like Luke Sequira, there are many success stories of start-ups in Margao and other areas of Goa, and many of them started on the beach side renting a table in a local shack. Let’s explore how come a tourist hotspot has converted into an incubator for start-ups.

Low Overheads Cost.

In business, money saved is money earned, and this philosophy must be followed by all forms of start-ups, especially during their initial days while they are still building up their client based, cash flow is uncertain, and break-even point is still far away.

Working on the beach front, drastically reduces overhead expenses for any start-up and is suitable for start-ups which are completely owner operated and do not have much permanent staff. In such early stages of a start-up, working by the beach front helps new start-ups save a lot of money in investment related to setting up an office and also save a large proportion of their overhead expenses such as office rental, electricity, office staff salaries and expenses, telephone and internet expenses etc. Young entrepreneurs can strike deal with shack owners on the beach by paying them a nominal rent for using a table and wi-fi internet, which can result in over 90% savings in overhead expenses for a new start-up.

Good connectivity with Rest of India.

Goa is well connected with rest of India by air, rail and road with daily flights to all major metro cities in India, with the airport being barely a 30 min drive from Margao. With inexpensive airfares, good roads and national highways connecting major cities like Mumbai, Bangalore and rail connectivity with rest of the major cities in the country, combined with benefits of low operating cost and overheads by operating from a beach front, is converting beaches of Goa, especially beaches in Margao into a start-up beach of India.

Availability of Local Talent.

For any start-up, hiring talent and retaining staff is a major challenge. Goa might not have the same density of IT engineers and UI designers, one may find in major metro cities, but to balance it out the problem of supply, Goa does not have a very competitive hiring environment either. Therefore, if one runs a good company with a plausible growth story, you already stand a fair chance of finding, attracting and retaining smart people in Goa.Also, with presence of educational institutions like BITS (Pilani), NIT (Ponda), GEC (Farmagudi) and PCCE (Verna); Goa is producing high quality IT engineers that can power promising start-ups. As Goa does not have many IT MNCs, the competition and IT salaries in Goa are not as sharp as they are in the metro cities, which once again can help a start-up in keeping its pay-roll and staff salary cost low as compared what it might have being working in a metro. This also helps start-ups in being competitive and bagging new orders and projects and low pay-roll and overhead cost operating on beach fronts enables the start-ups to quote lower for projects as compared to their peers in metro cities.

Tourist being potential customers.

Margao beach is flooded with tourist, most of the year and especially during the peak tourist season of Oct-Dec every year. Operating from the beach front also works as a good marketing tool due to exposure to potential clients, i.e. the tourist. For example, a tech start-up is developing a fitness app can target tourist who come to the beach in the morning or evening for a jog or a start-up into hospitality business can introduce tourist to avail of their services and provide them discounts which might induce the tourist to use their services.

A satisfied customer will always do word of mouth marketing for the start-up when they go back home to their respective cities, hereby working on the beach front is helping start-ups to lower customer acquisition cost and while garnering national level word of mouth publicity for very little cost.

Fast and Reliable Internet Connectivity

Internet connectivity is one of the main concerns for most entrepreneurs while setting starting up in a non-metro location. In this regard, Goa has made remarkable progress with fast and reliable broadband internet services.

Secluded beaches across the state still have no Internet connectivity, but the major cities like Panjim, Margao and Vasco, as well as the industrial estates in Verna and Ponda have fairly good high speed internet connectivity with presence of several internet service providers such as BSNL, Reliance, Hathway, Tata etc offering reliable broadband connects with good speeds.

Availability of reliable wi-fi internet services with good speeds on the beach is a good motivating factor to start operations of their start-ups on the beach front.

High Quality of Living

It is very common for start-up entrepreneurs and employees to work for long hours, something clocking 12-16 hours at work. When one adds commuting to and from work in heavy traffic in metro cities, it makes becomes highly unsustainable and results in burnout and drop in efficiency. Margao has decent traffic, shorter commutes and more greenery as compared to any metro city. Also working on the beaches, entrepreneurs and their employees can work in an relaxed and stress-free external environment

Also with presence of a thriving nightlife scene, and availability of lots of great restaurants which are priced well below similar establishments in the metros and of course, the beach, for a quick break from a long day’s work is making the beaches of Margao an ideal destination for new entrepreneurs to operate from.

Supportive and Friendly locals

Residents of Margao are known for their warmth, hospitability and welcoming nature. In any other metro city, if an entrepreneur starts operations of a start-up on the beach front or any public place, they would be victims of ridicule of the locals and might face certain level of harassment. But in Margao, locals are very supportive towards budding young entrepreneurs, often providing help and assistance in form of local marketing support etc.

Good Infrastructure

Margao has all the infrastructure essential for setting up and operating a start-up. Margao, like whole of Goa is blessed with a constant supply of electricity, excellent sewage and water systems, good quality roads and affordable public transportation. Goa is also the only state in India that has motorcycle taxis; a fast, cheap and nearly omnipresent form of transportation, and Margao has plenty of these.

Government Support

The Government of Goa is driven to making the state one of the most preferred start-up destinations in India and Asia . By powering entrepreneurship through its Start-up Policy, Goa aims to encourage a minimum of 100 early-stage ventures to succeed in the next five years.

Start-ups are being assigned with a senior Nodal Officer, to serve as the single point of contact in respect of all permissions/grievances/queries pertaining to the department concerned.

Start-ups that operate from their own premises or rented premises, and do not use the Government developed facilities, cost towards internet connectivity, software license fees, and cloud services fee, will be reimbursed subject to a maximum limit of Rs. 1,00,000 per quarter.

The Government of Goa will reimburse 50% of R&D expenses, including the salary of PhD holders for a period of two years, subject to a cap of Rs 5 lakhs per annum. For registered start-ups hiring local talent, 50% of salary for freshers will be reimbursed, subject to a cap of Rs 10,000 per recruit, per month. Furthermore, 25% of the salary of the local workforce will be reimbursed, for registered start-ups with 60% of local workforce.

A great mix of business and leisure

Life in most metro cities in India has become very expensive and stressful. With long working hours and long commute to and fro work, most entrepreneurs and professionals living in metros suffer from an imbalance of work-life harmony.

Margao, Nestled in close proximity to both rural and urban attractions, start-ups here enjoy a unique setting that affords a great mix of business and leisure. Scoring high on work-life harmony, Goa is unmatched when it comes to culture, weather, infrastructure and quality of life.

The Author of this article is a Chartered Blogger (Farhan Rasheed) of India since 2003 and is also the founder chairman of a start-up “Fivelancer” in Margao, Goa . His start-up offers five services such as Real Estate Consultancy, Tours & Travel Agency, Financial Advisory, Digital Marketing Agency & Manpower Consultancy .

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