In the last years Germany has become the number one immigration destination for many qualified experts from India. One person who realised early in his career the vast potential this offers is Dr. Mohammad Faizan. After finishing his master in 2009 from ISA Lille in France, he moved to Kiel in Germany to pursue his PhD in the Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel in economics and nutrition. During this time, he also became the President of the Indian Student Association.
Being a nutritionist by background, becoming an entrepreneur was not Dr. Faizan’s first career choice, however, had always been his dream. “While I was doing my PhD, I attended a workshop on ‘How to become an entrepreneur’ organized by openscampus.sh Kiel. The workshop was an eye opener for me,” says Dr. Faizan. Following the workshop, the thought of becoming an entrepreneur kept on lingering in his head as networking is one of Dr. Faizan’s biggest passions. He says: “I asked myself, am I really a person to sit in front of a computer for the rest of my life and assist four to five people team.” After elaborating his options, Dr. Faizan decided to change his career path after completing his PhD and to found ComfNet Solutions.
Initially starting his venture together with two other friends, Dr. Faizan was soon on his own. “We decided to cater to the IT sector when we started founding our business. However, my two co-founders were risk adverse and left the startup in the initial stages,” Dr. Faizan further outlines. In 2014 after graduating, Dr. Faizan registered as an individual freelancer to do projects in the IT sector and to offer consultancy work to support international students to find employment in Germany. In the same year, Dr. Faizan received a grant of Euro 126,000 to kick start his entrepreneurship journey under the umbrella of opencampus and the International Center of the Kiel University. “In order to cater to various clients, I started integrating international students in my projects. Thus, supporting to close the gap between international experts and the German labour market,” Dr. Faizan says.
The initial days were not easy for Dr. Faizan. “When I started, there was hardly any startup culture in Schleswig Holstein and people were not so open to people with an international background,” he further outlines. The change came for Dr. Faizan when an article was published about his work in the Kieler Nachrichten. “I was approached by the University for Applied Science to become a guest lecturer of entrepreneurship. I started working part-time for the university while continuing to work on my venture. Working at the university also gave me access to young talent,” Dr. Faizan says.
Despite his best efforts, Dr. Faizan could not achieve a breakthrough in the coming year. “I decided to take a step back and focus on understanding what I have been doing wrong,” he outlines. In 2016, Dr. Faizan focussed on his teaching in the university and became an assistant professor in 2017. “However, I never gave up on my entrepreneurship dream and at the side worked on adjusting my business model,” Dr. Faizan says.
One of the recent in-house products is a QR-based solution for restaurants. “When a customer enters a restaurant, he or she can scan the QR code and immediately has access to the entire menu of the restaurant. The application also allows to order food, pay and at the same time to provide feedback about the restaurant, thus limits physical contacts between the restaurant staff and the customers,” Dr. Faizan highlights.
As the gastronomy has been severely hit by the corona pandemic, Dr. Faizan is geared to sell the solution once the corona restrictions are lifted. Asked how the corona pandemic has affected his business, Dr. Faizan says: “Unfortunately our business has been shaken by the corona pandemic and we are behind our turnover expectations.” Especially the lack of offline networking opportunities concerns Dr. Faizan. “Germany is a country whose relationships are built on trust which sometimes take years to develop. The lack of physical networking is preventing us from building this trust,” Dr. Faizan says. The corona pandemic, however, is also an opportunity for Dr. Faizan’s company. He says: “Digitalisation has significantly increased in the last months and we see a lot of digital networking opportunities with less time investment. This has helped us to win two new projects recently.” The language barrier is another major challenge Dr. Faizan has been experiencing in Germany while building his business.
The GINSEP platform has been built to bridge the challenges Dr. Faizan is facing and offers targeted connects to experts across Germany through an easy to navigate map (https://ginsep.co/map/). The map is currently being extended to allow for more specific requests. Additionally, a back-end solution is being integrated to communicate with the experts live and with support of GINSEP. Providing these connects to entrepreneurs like Dr. Faizan, GINSEP envisions to support more startups from India to be successful in Germany.