Malayali businessman in US on a mission to make startup ecosystem in his hometown

Sabeer Nelli, a native of Manjeri in Malappuram, is the founder & CEO of US-based ZilBank. Photo: Special arrangement

Kochi: A Malayali entrepreneur who has built his business world in the US is on a mission to pay back to his homeland by creating a startup ecosystem in Kerala’s Malappuram district.

Manjeri native Sabeer Nelli, who is the founder & CEO of US-based ZilBank, has announced a startup accelerator programme with $1 million in funding. His idea is to make Manjeri, a small town which has little to do with IT, a startup hub and thus set a model for the rest of the state.

A firm believer in the concept of paying back to society, Sabeer has already opened his bank's global development centre in Manjeri. The centre has around 100 employees and aims to hire 1,000 more in a few years.

The startup accelerator programme intends to support young entrepreneurs by helping them with proper guidance and infrastructure support.

As a first step towards achieving his dream, Sabeer is hosting a two-day hackathon in Malappuram on November 1 and 2 to select a few startups which will be incubated in his centre. The selected startups will be given Rs 1 crore each in funding in exchange for a small percentage of their shares. The nascent companies will be then provided with all required infrastructure facilities and necessary directions.

“We have already been getting enquiries from schools and colleges seeking opportunities for an orientation programme in our Manjeri campus. We have a 30,000 sq ft facility with a 500-seat capacity. We have already employed 150 people in our centre which is one way of creating the ecosystem. In the next phase, we are planning to launch a 100-acre campus in Kerala to consolidate all of our projects under one roof. I also plan to offer academic training along with industry exposure to students to equip them with new skills and ideas. One of my major aims is to inspire people to start IT ecosystems in remote areas by setting up a model,” Sabeer told Onmanorama.

Sabeer said he was discouraged by many when he decided to shift his global development centre to a place like Manjeri. “My US team wanted the facility to remain there citing talent availability. I was also advised to shift to Bengaluru or at least Kochi instead of Manjeri. However, I was determined to pay back to the community where I grew up,” he said.

Sabeer is known for Texas-based Tyler Petroleum, counted among Inc.5000's fastest-growing private companies of America, and the leading B2B payments platform with over 650,000 registered users and more than $50 billion in processed payments.

The startup accelerator programme and the venture capital fund are expected to multiply the job creation potential of Sabeer's anticipated initiatives to transform the IT landscape of Malabar.

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