Archive for : July, 2015

Rafat Ali blazes travel media trail

By Sabiha Ansari and Faisal Masood

“Rafat Ali is a global soul.”

That’s how the Founder and CEO of Skift, the first and only media brand that covers the business of travel globally, describes himself. And it’s no wonder considering that he’s grown up across three countries (and continents), having lived in the U.S., UK, and India.

We had a chance to sit and talk to Rafat and hear about his amazing career and insights.

“I was never meant to be an entrepreneur, I just kind of stumbled onto it,” he states. Not surprising since he came to Indiana University to pursue his masters in journalism in 1999, with a previous degree in computer engineering from Aligarh Muslim University in India.

Not exactly the path of the classic entrepreneur.

But back in 2002, what started out as a simple blog covering the business of digital media, turned into his first successful venture. He later sold the blog which had transformed into an online media company, PaidContent, to UK’s Guardian Media Group in 2008 for a reported $30 million. Rafat stayed on with them until 2010 before he took off to travel across the world for the next two years looking to find “the next big thing”.

And that turned out to be Skift. So what does the word exactly mean? “It’s an Old English word meaning shift, change, or transformation and it’s now become the word that refers to the change and shift happening in the travel industry,” shares Rafat. “Skift provides news information and data services for the travel industry between all its subsectors- airlines, airports, tourism, hotels, online travel, cruises, some backend tech players and manufacturers. We have a very progressive message. We like to talk in big picture fashion about the changes happening in consumer behavior, the digital technology trends that affect consumer behavior and the future of travel. In essence, we’re the Bloomberg of travel,” he adds.

As Skift celebrates its third anniversary on July 30th of this year, Rafat is quite confident in the direction it’s headed. Based in New York City, with currently 18 people on his team, he sees his company steadily growing in the next few years. “We’re a boutique media information business and although we’re a venture backed company, we’ve only raised $2.5 million dollars and we like it that way and don’t want to raise more, he states. “Some of these other companies have raised tens of millions of dollars, but investor money can come with too many strings attached and you don’t want to sell your soul. For a media company, brand and reputation is extremely important,” he further adds.

When asked what habits make him successful, Rafat laughs and says “A delusional sense of belief in yourself that you will succeed! You will hear a hundred no’s before you hear one yes.” He also adds that it’s important to focus and have a sense of balance, learn to say “no” to a lot of things while keeping your head down and working and “brutally” managing your time the right way.

But the start-up world can come with its own unique challenges. What keeps Rafat awake at night, we asked? “Building the right culture inside of the company” he shares. “Hiring the right people is a great challenge, but it’s only half the battle won. Keeping the people happy inside is the next phase of the battle.”

In a recent memo to his team, Rafat shares, “We work hard during the hours of 8 am to 6 pm, and that’s it. We don’t want people in the office after 6 pm, we don’t want people working on weekends. We want to build a humane company that wants the best out of our people in the hours they give to the company and build a more balanced life outside of it” And he has followed through with his words with two exotic off sites for his entire team in the past two years, Iceland and Medellin, Columbia.

So what does Rafat do in his free time to relax and recharge? “I read, travel, and play with my six month old son. I met my wife while I was traveling during my two year trip, so travel is of course a big part of our lives. I’m also very connected to my Indian roots. It keeps me grounded in many ways while being in America,” he shares.

Rafat’s parting advice to budding entrepreneurs- “Be prepared as best as possible in whatever sector you’re focusing on and do your research. Have a high risk tolerance and be comfortable with this uncertainty at all time. And action over intent, always.”

This post was originally published on The Muslim Observer

Announcing Innovation 4 Impact competition at GIES 2015

In hosting the Entrepreneur Showcase over the last five years, we have found that creativity and ingenuity in producing unique models to fulfill the Muslim market needs result in wide buy-in and success. We also recognize that real entrepreneurs are a unique breed of humans, with an imbued talent of identifying and risking extraordinary lengths to fulfill market needs.

What you’ve been waiting for…

We’re excited to announce the inaugural Innovation 4 Impact Competition, hosted by Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA) and Thomson Reuters in collaboration with American Muslim Consumer Consortium (AMCC). The competition will take center stage at the Global Islamic Economy Summit from October 5-6, 2015 at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai.

The Innovation 4 Impact Competition has been developed to support digital businesses in the Islamic economy across the globe. The competition will serve as a platform for start-ups and businesses to gain support and entrepreneurial advice to further refine their propositions.

Nurturing these innovative entrepreneurs, the entrants will propose disruptive ideas in the following areas:


We believe that the digital economy will play a crucial role in changing the lives of millions.

We are looking for innovative entrepreneurs across the globe whose solutions will disrupt the status quo.

Learn More & Apply

Application Deadline: August 10, 2015

Female entrepreneur blazes trails in Alabama

By Faisal Masood and Sabiha Ansari

Silicon Valley, NYC, or L.A. usually come to mind when you think of a classic tech entrepreneur, but if you live in Birmingham, Alabama, chances are you’re well aware of dynamo and serial entrepreneur, Tanveer Patel. Many of her ventures have been in the tech sector including her current one as co-founder and CEO of ConcertCare, a company that provides integrated technology solutions in healthcare.

We had the pleasure of speaking to Tanveer about all that she has accomplished and her views on entrepreneurship.

So why healthcare?

“I already had such a good understanding of the industry. It was my area of expertise,” she shares. Tanveer’s previous company CircleSource, which she started and grew to 100 employees and sold in 2010 was in the healthcare services industry.

On starting her latest company Tanveer said, “My current partners and I are all IT people and most of our family members are in the medical field, so it just made sense to blend the two and develop a product,” says Tanveer. ConcertCare’s focus is on changing the landscape of healthcare by enabling physicians and patients to connect seamlessly through the use of technology.

But Tanveer is an avid entrepreneur so she’s always on the lookout for an opportunity. So along the way, when the chance to purchase an Indian grocery shop came along, she couldn’t pass it up. “I’m Indian, I love to cook and I love spices, so my husband and I decided to buy it,” she says.

Ever the techy, Tanveer wanted to really change the face of the traditional ethnic store. So of course, she brought in technology to harness the productivity by making sure all products were coded and digitized, she added an internet café, and gave it a trendy and hip feel to it. “Patel’s Spice World” became quite a staple in the small Birmingham community and the local mosque. When a couple in the community lost their jobs and were looking for business opportunities, they approached Tanveer. “It’s really such a beautiful story, “she says. “The wife came to me and said she wasn’t interested in buying a convenient store or anything similar. She wanted to have a halal business and ours was the only one she knew of and asked would we sell her our store? My husband and I talked about it…and we thought for us this store is a hobby, but for this family, this could be their source of income, so we decided to sell it.”

After putting in so much passion and effort, how did she feel about selling it?

“I love buying, building, and selling!” Tanveer states.

So what habits make Tanveer so successful? “I’ve always tried to model myself after how our Prophet Muhammad did business in a just and fair manner. He always talked about a win-win strategy for everyone. Have good contracts in place. Be persistent. Have a positive outlook and don’t let problems stop you. Find another way.”

Tanveer is co-founder and president of the Birmingham Venture Club and serves on the boards of many other businesses and non-profits, including Alabama Helping Hands, environmental group Solid Earth, Tech Birmingham and the Birmingham International Center.

She has also founded a non-profit, Red Crescent Clinic of Alabama which serves more than 700 patients without insurance. “Every Sunday, my husband and two sons, ages 23 and 17, volunteer there. It’s a great way for us to spend time together while serving the community,” explained Tanveer.

Tanveer also credits her success first to her father and then to her husband. “My father was an entrepreneur and he always taught me that if I wanted to make a difference, I had to be at the head of the table where I can influence decisions.” At the age of 19 while she was still in college, she had an arranged marriage and immigrated to the US from India. “My father also made the best decision of my life in choosing my husband for me. Twenty four years later, my husband has been my best friend, guide, mentor, and the best teacher. I’ve learned so much from him and he’s been at my side all along,” she fondly adds.

Thoughts that keep Tanveer up at night, “As a leader, it is always at the back of my mind, that you are responsible for so many people and their families. I’m always thinking how can I help my employees, my partners, and customers achieve their goals individually and within the company. Think about others before you think about yourself. Servant leadership is so rewarding,” she adds.

Tanveer’s advice to budding entrepreneurs, “You should always do something where you make a difference. Don’t run after money. Solve problems, do the right thing and money will follow you. Think of how you can be game-changing, disruptive and different. Change the way people operate- that’s very cool!”

This post was originally published on The Muslim Observer