Lighthouse Canton aims to give 360-degree boost to startup ecosystem in the UAE

The firm, which was incubated at DIFC in 2017, is committed to helping startups enhance performance by bringing capital, strategic insights, global relationships, and operational support


Joydeep Sengupta

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Prashant Tandon is leading the Dubai arm as CEO and MD of Lighthouse Canton, which was incubated in DIFC in 2017. Supplied photo
Prashant Tandon is leading the Dubai arm as CEO and MD of Lighthouse Canton, which was incubated in DIFC in 2017. Supplied photo

Published: Wed 23 Mar 2022, 7:14 PM

Lighthouse Canton, a global investment institution, set up their Middle East operations in Dubai in 2017 under the name Lighthouse Canton Capital at DIFC.

Prashant Tandon is leading the Dubai arm as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director (MD).

The firm provides wealth and asset management services to regional and international investors. Its asset management business invests on behalf of accredited investors, including private clients and some of the world's largest institutional investors, such as pension funds, sovereign funds, and insurance companies, to drive economic and sustainable impact. The wealth management part of the business provides corporates, single family offices and ultra-high-net worth individual (UHNWI) clients tailored execution, investing and advisory capabilities for their treasury, business & family office requirements.

Through its investments, the firm is building a founders’ ecosystem and is committed to helping startups enhance performance by bringing capital, strategic insights, global relationships, and operational support.

India and the UAE signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) on February 18 and as a corollary to that path-breaking trade pact, Khaleej Times organised the UAE-India Investment Forum on March 15 in Dubai.

Khaleej Times spoke with Tandon to find out more on how Lighthouse Canton’s innovative investments are empowering the growth of the UAE-India relations.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

During the Forum we’ve heard much on how CEPA will boost bilateral trade from the current $60 (Dh220.38) billion to $100 (Dh367) billion in the next five years. Where do you see this growth coming from?

We see the recent CEPA signing as a very strategic move by the two governments. Over the last two years, the UAE has undergone many changes to enhance the utility of the bilateral corridor. With the signing of the CEPA, we expect increased two-way traffic. This includes Indian businesses setting up in the UAE to take advantage of the reforms and the UAE looking at India as the fastest growing large economy in the region and a hotbed of activity in the private equity and venture capital (VC) space. We are bullish about the prospects for increased flows between the UAE and India and have made many strategic changes to capitalise on these.

What investing trends are you witnessing from family offices and investors from the region within this space?

The Indian startup ecosystem is amongst the top three globally. It has emerged as one of the most attractive investment opportunities, resulting in substantial foreign and domestic venture capital flows into India. Both the UAE and India governments have placed strong emphasis on nurturing aspiring unicorns and startups, and as part of the CEPA, the UAE and India are looking to strengthen their cooperation in startups.

As such we see this as a great opportunity for private investors and founders alike. According to a report by IVCA-EY, India startups received $2.5bn (9.18) billion worth of private equity (PE)/VC funding last month which was more than double that from February 2021. With the CEPA, investments from the Middle East into this segment will be bolstered. Over the past year, we have been actively strengthening our position in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and have made some strategic appointments, such as bringing in established private banking and single-family office veteran Neil Cabral as our MD and Head of Key Clients. Cabral in his role is responsible for developing the firm’s footprint within the single-family office and key client segment. He also lends his shoulder to the group’s business development and strategy supplementing the group’s vision working closely with me in Dubai and with our co-founder, Shilpi in Singapore. Through our offices in Dubai and across India, we have already started to see much synergy. Investors in both markets are looking at increasing allocations to venture investments and private equity investments in their portfolios. Likewise, we have seen a boom in the number of startups in the pre-series A and series A stages looking for funding.

What are the priorities for your investors and for Lighthouse Canton in this space?

Like what we’re seeing with the CEPA, Lighthouse Canton, together with our network of investors is committed to mobilising capital. We are actively building an entrepreneurial ecosystem to invest in startups, ensuring that their visions align with our investors. For founders, this means providing them the right skills, guidance, management discipline, and structure and empowering them through their entire business lifecycle.

We have partnered with Delhi based Nueva Capital run by Ashish and Sohil Chand, to form LC Nueva Investment Partners. This partnership has launched the LC Nueva Alternative Investment Fund. The fund is a unique platform for investing in India’s startup economy and seeks to invest in 25-30 companies at the pre-series A and Series A stages over its eight-year fund life. It will have a sector-agnostic approach, with a proclivity towards health-tech, consumer-tech, fintech & education-tech businesses, steering clear of capital-intensive businesses.

About one-third of the capital that has been raised has come from regional investors and we see this only getting larger. Our first close will be taking place by the end of March. Seeing that venture investments have proven popular with our investors in the region, we are looking to include more such venture investment products towards mid-2022.

How else do you see the UAE and India strengthening ties?

The reforms and initiatives announced last year by the UAE will provide more opportunities for entrepreneurs. Coupled with the Indian government’s schemes and benefits to support startups across geographies, we envisage strong synergies between the two countries in the coming years. With our network and expertise, we are committed to helping founders and their startups enhance performance by bringing capital, strategic insights, global relationships, and operational support.

There are also many other sectors that we see further collaboration and partnership between both parties in terms of sharing of talent and knowledge pools.

A good example is the biotech, pharmaceutical and life sciences researchand development (R&D) sector, which Cabral has first-hand experience of from his last role at Himalaya Drug Company and is helping us capitalise on. You may be aware that Genome Valley in Hyderabad is emerging as a leading life sciences hub in Asia. With over 200 companies based in Genome Valley, and the government setting out key developmental goals for the cluster, there are many learnings that Dubai and the UAE can take away from the Indian government’s success. Together with Ivanhoé Cambridge, a global real estate subsidiary of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (, and one of Canada’s leading institutional fund managers, we are co-invested in MN Park in Genome Valley — India’s largest privately owned portfolio of leased life sciences R&D office labs. Over the past few months, Cabral, who spearheads strategic tie-ups and relationships, has been having successful discussions with the Dubai Science Park authorities to look at talent and knowledge sharing opportunities. Cabral has a proven track record of successfully creating, founding, managing and operating high-growth businesses and he is actively involved in this space.

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