Sudhir Syal’s Journey: From Eyewear to Corn Chips in the Middle East

Sudhir Syal has sold designer eyewear in the Arabian Peninsula and promoted the performance of the Irish band Westlife in Dubai. Soon, he will advertise throughout the area for corn chips, clothing, and cosmetics. However, this time is different.


As the chief executive officer of their Middle Eastern operations, Syal created BookMyShow and Lenskart in the region. His “go-to-market accelerator” business Startify will now help a number of other Indian brands enter the Gulf.


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According to the startup’s founder and CEO, Startify’s goal is to aid in the launch and expansion of direct-to-consumer (D2C) Indian companies that are eager to enter the $250 billion UAE and Saudi Arabian retail markets. Startify has been operating for six months, as per entrepreneur news.


My perception of Indian brands’ potential in this market was changed by Lenskart… As they expand in the MENA region, I came to understand that other businesses may profit from the Lenskart playbook, he said. Startify originated there, I said.


For D2C firms that have discovered that their goods are suitable for the marketplace in India, the Middle East is quickly becoming a popular choice, he claims. The INSEAD alumnus, who is preparing for his third stint in the area, attributed this to the region’s higher pricing power and advanced internet and retail ecosystem would help new business start up.


Early in 2019, Syal relocated to Dubai to oversee BookMyShow’s operations in the Middle East. TPG Growth, a private equity firm, is a shareholder in this online ticketing service for films and other entertainment. Prior to that, he served as the market’s CEO for the company for over four years in Indonesia.


He grew the staff at BookMyShow Middle East to 25, formed a partnership with Coca-Cola Arena to turn into their favourite ticketing provider, and promoted concerts throughout the area, including those by Westlife and The 1975. Prior to COVID-19 upending the global entertainment industry, this was the case. Early in 2021, Peyush Bansal, the founder of Lenskart, hired Syal to introduce the well-known Indian eyeglasses company in the Middle East. With reference to the American hard rock band, Syal said, “I moved from negotiating with Guns N’ Roses to bargaining with ophthalmologists within a week.”