Canada is rolling out the red carpet for Indian entrepreneurs

India is the largest source of immigrants in Canada, which offers a number of incentives to budding and established entrepreneurs from the Asian giant.

Money control spoke with Vikram Khurana, a Canadian entrepreneur and chairman of the Toronto Business Development Center (TBDC), a leading business incubator that has been internationally recognized for its efforts to foster the growth of new and emerging businesses in the Greater Toronto Area.

Khurana, who is in India for the G20 meetings, said TBDC has recently launched a new initiative that promotes entrepreneurship, innovation and economic growth in both India and Canada. This initiative helps potential immigrant entrepreneurs identify business opportunities in the province of Ontario and provides experienced entrepreneurs with a path to permanent residence in Canada by either starting a new business or acquiring an existing one.

TBDC plans to facilitate the arrival of 100 entrepreneurs from India who are willing to invest $200,000 or more in either buying or establishing a business in Ontario. Edited excerpts from the exclusive interaction:

Native Americans have a long history in Canada.
The oldest gurdwara in British Columbia is now 100 years old and serves as a testament to the longevity of the diaspora from India. The Gujarati and Punjabi communities constitute the largest groups within this diaspora and their attraction to move abroad is logical.

Tell us about TBDC.
TBDC is a non-profit organization established by the Department of Economic Development and other departments to help understand and improve entrepreneurship, reduce risk and create awareness and attraction for those who wish to pursue entrepreneurship. Our aim was to introduce the concept of entrepreneurship to students and the general public, including those who are differently abled or who were looking to start a business.

Our core mandate was born out of the Canadian government’s creation of the Start-Up Visa Program in 2013, the first program of its kind in the world. The program aimed to attract immigrant children, also known as “Dreamers,” who were brought to the United States from Mexico or Central America as refugees. The goal was to bring these individuals, many of whom were founding companies such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook, to Canada to help them succeed by providing capital and resources. The program was initially launched in 2013 with a limit of 500 entrepreneurs, but in 2019 it was made permanent and has since expanded to include entrepreneurs from around the world.

TBDC focuses specifically on India. We are running an awareness and attraction campaign in India with the goal of creating a mutually beneficial relationship between Indian entrepreneurs and the Canadian economy.

What is the benefit to the Canadian economy of such a program?
In Canada, several businesses have been forced to close due to the pandemic, resulting in a decrease in the number of potential buyers for these businesses. Attracting more investors increases the pool of potential buyers, allowing for the preservation of business assets. Secondly, the desire for growth in mainstream companies is significant, as new developments are continuously taking place, resulting in the need for more companies to service the growing population. Finally, the government’s decision to allow 500,000 immigrants per year for the next three years will undoubtedly increase demand for businesses, further underscoring the need for continued growth and development.

Do you only invite established startups or can you start from scratch?
Startups can be at the idea stage and are still welcome, or they can be mature businesses run by entrepreneurs. Companies that have 50 or more employees and are already established will not be considered startups for migration. However, if we consider that the entrepreneur owns at least 10 percent of an unlisted company, with the rest of the equity held in private equity or unlisted entities, then they would be eligible to be considered.

How many companies have been helped by the program so far?
The TBDC Startup Visa Program has supported the establishment and growth of over 9,000 national and international companies in Toronto and Ontario.

Our Global Entrepreneur Incubator program is specifically designed to support international startups through the Start-Up Visa program, offering resources, networking opportunities, mentorship, investment opportunities and workplace facilities.

Also read: Oh Canada! Warmer Times for Immigration in the Great White North

Upon successful completion of our flagship startup visa incubator program, applicants will be granted permanent residency status and provided with the necessary resources and tools to launch their startup ventures in Canada with confidence and efficiency.

What is the threshold for investments to be made in Canada?
There are various programs to support business migration. Two such are the federal Start-Up Visa program, which has a higher threshold for investment, and the provincial nominee programs, which typically focus on mainstream businesses such as trucking, auto body, physical therapy and gas stations.

Our organization is currently running a pilot program for the province of Ontario that focuses on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and requires an investment of $200,000 or more and a minimum value of $400,000. We are working to create awareness and education campaigns to promote this program.

For the start-up visa program, applicants are expected to have sufficient personal funds to support themselves and cover additional expenses. TBDC can help with the fundraising process and facilitate introductions to potential investors, including angel investors and other prominent individuals interested in supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs.

What do you look for when choosing one proposal over another?
Our primary focus is on innovation, with particular emphasis on patents, disruptive ideas and being a first mover in a given field. We also value serial entrepreneurship, significant financial resources, and the ability to tackle difficult problems through sheer determination, as exemplified by the likes of Bill Gates. These are some of the key qualities that we look for in potential candidates.

What kind of interest are you seeing now? We also had the intervening pandemic years during this time.
There is currently a significant backlog of 15,000 applications for the Start-Up Visa program, which was originally designed to accommodate only 1,000 applications during its first iteration. However, due to its immense popularity, the program has significantly exceeded its expected capacity.

Also read: Indian-origin Ranj Pillai will be premier for Canada’s Yukon

Applications for startups are received from Tier 2 cities like Bhopal and Gwalior, as well as smaller centers in Himachal and Jammu and Kashmir, besides metropolitan areas in both the north and south of India. However, startups from urban centers may have an advantage.

Startups are also a focus area for the current G20 meetings in India.
A kick-off panel for G20 leaders will discuss common definitions and align funding networks, diversity and inclusion and mobility. To achieve these goals, a series of sessions are scheduled to take place in various locations over the next few months. The focus will be on aligning global standards for startups and addressing issues such as intellectual property protection and technology migration, especially for new inventions such as drones used for irrigation or pesticide management. The G20 hopes that this effort will leave a lasting legacy for participating countries.

India also has a vibrant startup ecosystem. Some may care about brain drain.
Most people believe that if there is a vacuum in a center, air from the surrounding areas will flow in according to the laws of physics.

Western economies have experienced population decline, record unemployment, labor shortages, and a significant demand for immigrants to sustain consumption and GDP growth. In contrast, you have India, the most populous country, which has the advantage of being an English-speaking country with the rule of law and a generally self-aware, educated democratic population that can adapt to various skills and contribute to the economy.

Indians earn money because of their hard work to create significant economic value. Therefore, it is not a brain drain because inward remittances hit $100 billion by December 2022.

Are there any tax incentives?
To attract investment, some provinces offer various incentives, such as tax deductions for salary expenses, among others. In addition, the country offers significant tax credits for research and development, making it an attractive jurisdiction for research and development investment. For every dollar invested in research, nearly 60 cents can be recovered through tax credits.

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