More than 125,000 people live in New Delhi’s Zakir Nagar neighborhood.
But it feels more like a small town where everyone knows each other.
Known for its annual “food walk” that comes alive during Ramadan celebrations, this close-knit, predominantly Muslim neighborhood plays a unique role in the diverse social fabric of India’s capital city.
Frequenting the narrow streets of Zakir Nagar is Zubair Ahmed, a 27-year-old businessman who owns a web development and digital marketing company, now with 13 employees and office space in a bustling business district in New Delhi.
Normally reserved in conversation, Zubair comes alive when asked about his two passions: AddtoGoogle, the startup he founded in 2018, and his community service.
For years in India, entrepreneurs like Zubair were locked out of pursuing their passions. Zubair’s entrepreneurial spirit was first ignited in 2014, but he was prevented from starting a company at the time due to India’s minimum capital requirement.
The Companies Act, passed in 2013, placed minimum capital requirements on would-be entrepreneurs, requiring them to deposit the equivalent of more than $1,300 in order to register a business. Per capita annual income in India is just over $2,100, according to the World Bank.
For entrepreneurs like Zubair, this requirement was an unnecessary and harmful barrier. He and countless others were prevented from pursuing their dreams as a result.
Organizations like the Centre for Civil Society, or CCS, a New Delhi-based nonprofit, took notice. They began advocating for scrapping the paid-in minimum capital requirement, petitioning the agencies that oversee and promote business growth in India to remove this barrier.
In 2017, Zubair and his business partner Saurav Mahtha were finally free to start the business they had dreamed of starting for years. That’s when reform advocates succeeded in changing the law, and the paid-in minimum capital requirement dropped to zero.
Saurav is Hindu and their partnership reflects India’s cultural goal of “unity in diversity,” Zubair noted.
“I felt similar to what a mom feels when she sees her kid walking for the first time,” Zubair said. “All the problems that we faced or the issues we had, they are over and I have taken the first step towards my idea.”
Since then Zubair has been reinvesting his success back into his community. He splits his time running his business, pursuing an MBA at Jamia Millia Islamia University and volunteering at the WellBeing Foundation, where he teaches computer literacy skills. Through his service, Zubair helps support the WellBeing Foundation’s mission to “provide opportunities for those who have been left out of the system” and empower women.
“I started the business because I wanted to do something for the community,” Zubair added. “In a country like India, not everyone has the resources to achieve their dreams.”
Thanks to advocates like Zubair, poor and disadvantaged families across the country now have the opportunity to bring their dreams to life.
To support causes like Zubair’s and other similar Dignity Unbound projects around the world, please visit https://dignityunbound.org/donate.