Discovering the world through Dubai: Lessons from D Globalist

Divesh Sharma
July 4, 2024
6 minutes


‘EXtrepreneur’ — a term born out of a typo but now turned into an archetype. It describes a founder with a limitless vision, whose business transcends geographical boundaries. Divesh of D Globalist breaks down the essential phases through which an extrepreneurial idea can become a reality. In his view, multicultural Dubai presents a fertile ground where businesses with global ambitions can test their concept from the outset.

Intro image.

In 2023, India emerged as a powerhouse in global entrepreneurship, boasting 104 million entrepreneurs out of a worldwide total of 594 million. Fueled by a desire for scale, these Indian innovators are increasingly seeking to expand their reach and offer solutions to a global audience. But taking your work to other geographies is a task that requires patience, dexterity, and agility. It requires a flexible game plan. And it requires a helping hand, a trusted resource that can make the process a little easier for you. D Globalist founded by Divesh Sharma is that trusted ally.

Divesh explored various industries before founding D Globalist—an enterprise that helps companies with global potential to navigate international expansion. It does this through an ecosystem of investors, industry leaders, professionals, and government bodies. His background in commerce and law, particularly specialising in banking, corporate, finance, and securities law, equipped him perfectly for this venture. 

With a vast customer base, Divesh and his team aim to create a world of borderless business innovation. And they call these founders "eXtrepreneurs". A term Divesh coined, whose origin, he says, lies in a typo. “Our website developer wanted to write ‘entrepreneur’, but accidentally typed ‘extrepreneur’. I realised this term could have a greater meaning for our limitless founders,” he shares. 

So, what or rather who is an eXtrepreneur? “These are founders with a global vision of taking their businesses beyond boundaries. These are limitless founders,” says Divesh. 

Divesh and his company are in the business of helping potential eXtrepreneurs with a practical playbook. He takes us through the nuances of building a cross-border company.  

Four-Phase Journey of Global Expansion 

In the past decade, entrepreneurs navigated the complexities of global expansion without the present-day resources. But today’s eXtrepreneurs have a global mindset from the very beginning, for two simple reasons. The emergence of new technologies has made market access easier. And founders are building solutions (especially SaaS) with global potential.

While there are these advantages, as Divesh points out,

“It isn’t that one is necessarily prepared to become an eXtrepreneur. It's a journey with distinct phases, each with its challenges and opportunities,” - Divesh.

Here's a deeper dive into the four key stages that Divesh says an eXtrepreneur has to navigate:

  • Phase 1: Market Testing 

In this phase, founders must leverage virtual meeting platforms to connect with potential customers remotely. They have to conduct market research, gather feedback, and analyse data to determine if their product resonates with a broader audience. As Divesh remarks, “Cultural sensitivity becomes crucial at this stage. Founders need to ensure their product messaging and features are adaptable to different cultural contexts.”

  • Phase 2: Establishing Local Connections 

Once the core concept shows promise, eXtrepreneurs need to lay the groundwork for international operations. Building strategic partnerships with local B2B players is a critical step. These partners provide invaluable insights into the target market, help navigate local regulations, and offer access to their established networks. “From providing warm introductions to tailoring your pitch deck to the market’s needs, local partners play a crucial role,” says Divesh. 

This can significantly accelerate market penetration and customer acquisition. “Think of it as finding a trusted guide who knows the local terrain,” he adds. This allows you to identify even seemingly minor details that might need adjustment.

“For example, in India's SaaS market, price might be a major selling point. However, a local partner can help you identify unique selling points beyond just cost, something larger competitors may not provide,” - Divesh.
  • Phase 3: Building a Global Team

With a market-validated product and established partnerships, founders can start building their global team. Thanks to advancements in communication and collaboration tools, creating a remote team becomes a viable option. “This allows the founder to tap into a wider talent pool and potentially leverage cost-effective resources like developers in locations like India, while still serving clients anywhere in the world,” shares Divesh. The focus here is on providing services globally without the immediate need for a physical presence.

  • Phase 4: Establishing a Permanent Presence

After successfully navigating the first three phases, founders are ready to consider a more permanent presence in their target market. They might establish a legal entity, such as a subsidiary corporation, to benefit from several advantages:

  • Local presence makes eXtrepreneurs more attractive to potential clients and partners. 
  • Having a local bank account simplifies financial transactions and builds customer trust.
  • B2G interactions become easier with a local presence. The eXtrepreneurs may even be eligible for government incentives or grants.

With a local presence, the founder can explore government programs designed to support entrepreneurs. This could include visa programs like the UK's Innovator Visa, which offers a three-year visa with no minimum investment requirement. Additionally, some governments offer grants or tax breaks for businesses in specific sectors. “It's important for founders to explore all available options, regardless of location, to find the program that best suits their needs,” explains Divesh.

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Choosing the Right Location

While in the past there has been a desire to expand into the Western markets, Divesh finds Dubai a more lucrative choice. Unlike other parts of the Middle East, Dubai offers a diverse testing ground.

“Dubai has a population which comes from different parts of the world. If you launch in Dubai, you get customer reviews from people from the US, the UK, and Asia,” - Divesh. 

The success of a globally compatible product, however, hinges on understanding and adapting to regional nuances. Here, Indians can leverage their home experience. “When you’re dealing with large enterprises, you can leverage your Indian clientele, which is very large in Dubai,” says Divesh. 

However, there are a few caveats. Dubai's recent corporate tax implementation means it's not entirely tax-free anymore, says Divesh. Additionally, Dubai operates under a strict regulatory framework. While pilot testing is easier compared to some regions, closing deals takes longer. Why? Middle Eastern enterprises prioritise companies with proven track records and global reach. 

Expanding to the Middle East, therefore, requires strategic planning and cultural sensitivity. 

What to do (and not) 

So, you have a globally scalable product. You are well on your way to growth. But before you begin expanding, Divesh shares some crucial do's and don'ts:

  1. Engage with founders who've explored your target market. 
  2. Connect directly with potential customers. Their feedback is a valuable test ground for both product fit and cultural sensitivities.
  3. Thoroughly study regulations and identify existing solutions in your target market. Compliance is non-negotiable.
  4. Validate your product through pilot programs before establishing a legal entity.
  5. Once validated, create a local legal entity. This builds trust, simplifies communication, and aids in closing deals.
  6. Begin with a lean team, potentially including employees from your home base or local hires. This allows for cost-effective scaling.
  7. Finding a reliable local partner is crucial for navigating cultural nuances and fostering successful operations.
  8. Brand building takes time. When expanding internationally, founders must balance speed and patience.

Divesh believes that while metrics such as global market fit and strategic partnerships are important guideposts, the true eXtrepreneur aspires for something bigger. The ultimate goal is to build a company with a truly global footprint, leveraging innovative solutions to make a lasting impact on the world. 

“Don’t just reach the finish line, change the game,” he signs off.