We recently had the privilege of interviewing Yasser Bilgrami, Founder and CEO of Al SiLia-AI Private Limited. His journey from being associated with the Banking and Finance Industry to fund his passion for Art and Martial Arts to building his venture is genuinely inspiring. In this candid interview, Yasser Bilgrami shares his early journey, visions for expanding his business, fostering innovation, and approaches to having an effective team.
Al SiLia-AI Private Limited is a pioneering technology firm committed to transforming the way Tawaruq’s transactions are conducted, complying with Islamic principles. Yasser Bilgrami’s insights on quality human capital, research, and matching emerging innovations offer invaluable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs.
We started the interview by asking, “Tell us something about you, your early life, and your education.”
Yasser replied, “I am originally from Hyderabad, India, but have spent the majority of my life in the UAE since my family moved to Sharjah in 1980. I initially joined the corporate world through the Banking and Finance industry in 1997 as a means to fund my Art, as I paint, sculpt, and have my cartoon strip alongside funding my martial art journey in Internal Chinese Kung Fu, which I have been avidly pursuing since the last 42 years.
In terms of education, I hold a Bachelor of Commerce Degree, am a Certified Compliance Officer, as well as a holder of varied advanced certifications in diverse Banking, Legal, and Compliance related subjects.”
Presence Of The Business
We were curious to learn about the presence of Yasser’s business in the GCC. So, we asked, “Tell us about the business and its presence in the GCC.”
He replied, “I am a firm believer in addressing the major issues of the market and providing solutions that work on reprieving them if one were to be wildly successful in a business endeavor. I conceived of my business during the lockdown of 2020 after reading some papers on Islamic Finance and its phenomenal growth rate of 10% per annum and how there were only 273 Islamic Tech companies to cater to such a large market at that time.”
He added, “My Company, Al SiLia-AI Private Limited (ADGM), caters exclusively to the digitization of key areas of Islamic Banking and Finance. We have deployed state-of-the-art technology through the usage of Artificial Intelligence, Chat Bots (Bilingual AI), Smart Contracts, APIs, Biometrics, Bar Codes, blockchain, etc., on a plug-and-play “Invisible software” that acts as a ‘blanket’ to cover the diverse internal IT systems of an Islamic Finance entity for a unified digital journey.
Our solution is a channel by itself and, therefore, can augment or align with other such business channels. We specialize in ‘Smart’ Tawarruq, i.e., the seamless digitization of the commodities-based lending instrument journey that Islamic BFSI use to create debt.”
Expanding The Business
To get an idea about Yasser Bilgrami’s expansion plans for his business, we asked, “What are some of the growth and expansion plans you have in your pipeline?”
“We are based at the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), having a unique and singular concept, our priority is in the filing of the ‘Intellectual Property Rights’ globally. We are currently catering to UAE-based Financial Institutions only, with the next envisaged growth stage to lead to Saudi Arabia, where we wish to capitalize on Vision 2030 of the government’s digitization goals.
Later in phase 3, we will branch out to Malaysia as all banks use the ‘Tawaruq’ based lending option. I have factored an IPO as a future option, specifically, post a growth period of 7 business years.” Yasser replied.
Trials And Errors
Post-covid, businesses had to go through a tough time managing all the aspects. So, we asked, “How has the year been for your company?”
Yasser replied, “It has been a very exciting year for us between my Co-Founder and me, as the effort to create and weave a journey from scratch has been a very challenging one. With my experience in Banking and his experience in IT and through a lot of trial and error with many failures and setbacks, we managed to flesh out our vision and present it to the world. The response we have and are receiving is thunderous, to put it mildly.”
Fulfilling The Market Gap
We were intrigued to learn what unique services Yasser’s company offers at present. So we asked, “What does your business offer in the current competitive market?”
He shared, “We have a bespoke business exclusively for Islamic Banking and financial organizations and can be considered to be pioneers in this field as there are not many companies engaged in providing services such as ours, at least currently.”
Quality Over Quantity
Having a strong team is paramount for the success of any business. We asked, “What measures do you think employees and organizations can take to build effective teamwork and unity?”
He replied, “Quality human capital is what sustains a successful business in the long run. People don’t leave organizations; they leave bad bosses. So, one needs to provide staff with a prudent work and life balance, job security, a clear career path, methods to address stress, etc., and with such simple factors, a lot of concerns are automatically addressed before there is even a chance for them to surface as grievances.”
We further asked, “Tell us about the company’s focus and investment in research and innovation.”
Yasser Bilgrami continued, “We have just placed a ‘foot in the door’ of the vast field of Islamic Banking. I aim to eventually seek methods of digitizing various business areas innovatively and, most importantly in a Sharia-compliant manner. My Co-Founder owns his own Tech Company, and they are at the forefront of cutting-edge technology. We are constantly matching innovations with banking areas where we feel we can provide a unique fit.”
Tips For Beginners
Aspiring professionals starting in a similar field will find it inspiring to hear from an expert like Yasser Bilgrami. So, we asked, “Any tips for startups looking to get onto a similar pathway?”
He shared, “I have spent a major chunk of my career with startups of varied sizes, and despite the various economies of scale, it was almost always certain underlying factors that led to both failure and success. I would suggest keeping a small, highly experienced core team, paying them slightly more than the market, and assigning them with a basket of different tasks and, more importantly, letting them get on with their jobs.”
A large-scale organization chart with a ‘who’s who’ of the market reporting into the Founder and a fancy office space are a surefire recipe for disaster. Also, it is better to avoid an after-work’ boys club’ as business eventually gets discussed, and decisions made in such scenarios are almost always disastrous in the long run.
Besides, staff who are associated with the company since the first day should always be appropriately rewarded through promotions, bonuses, and ESOP based on performance, as they know the intricate details of your burgeoning business more than the employees hired later. Loyalty of competent human capital is always to be cherished and positively nurtured.” Yasser Bilgrami concluded.
Connect with Yasser Bilgrami on LinkedIn.