It is well versed that there is limited access to traditional banking infrastructure across the MEA and Turkey regions with 50% of the adult population unbanked. While this is a common trait in emerging markets, it does mean that traditional transactions based on credit and debit cards are not a realistic prospect for many consumers.
However, with smartphone penetration growing apace, and with it the ability and desire to purchase goods and services through digital channels, there is an increasing need for alternative payment methods to support access and consumption without the reliance on a traditional bank account.
TPAY MOBILE makes it easy for consumers across MEA and Turkey to pay for digital services using their mobile number as the core. This functionality includes Direct Carrier Billing (DCB) through their mobile operator or Direct Wallet Billing (DWB).
Today, TPAY MOBILE’s simple but transformative technology enables over 18.6 million monthly active users across 24 countries across MEA to successfully make 1.6bn monthly transactions on our platform.
Sahar Salama has over 25 years of experience across the fintech and telco sectors, specialising in business transformation and working on platform and product development. Today, she serves as the CEO and Founder of TPAY MOBILE – a full-service mobile payments platform that gives local and global digital service providers access to consumers in the MEA and Turkey. Sahar’s experience of both education and business environments in Europe and the Middle East gives her a unique perspective on the global challenges faced by women in fintech.
What has been the traditional company response to financial technology innovations nationally?:
At TPAY MOBILE, our mission is to help increase access to digital services to consumers that do not have access to traditional banking infrastructure. We also aim to simplify the complex processes that underpin cross-border mobile payment acceptance across MEA and Turkey. To do this, we offer merchants, operators, developers, and ePayment processors, a payment option that caters to the majority of the population in these markets, including those without a bank account or a payment card, thus also fostering financial access and inclusion. To innovate and provide a better experience, we leverage our industry expertise, unrivalled infrastructure, and the most comprehensive payments technology in the region to form strategic partnerships with major consumer-facing brands like Huawei, Google and Bango to improve access to digital services.
How has this changed over the past few years?
In short, COVID-19 put the digital financial infrastructure of many economies under a rigorous, real-life test. Yet it stood remarkably resilient, proving an ability to serve the needs of the most financially vulnerable and provide vital services throughout a crisis. Over the past few years, the benefits of mobile money extended far beyond consumer convenience and in addition to reducing transmission of the coronavirus during 2020, it will continue to support access and inclusion for years to come.
While it’s too early to say whether the pandemic’s impact on the declining use of cash for mobile money will be lasting or not, but the early signs are promising. The global value of mobile money transactions is expected to surpass $3 billion a day by the end of 2022; a fact which is made all the more staggering when considering that the $2 billion mark was only surpassed in 2020.
Is there anything that has created a culture of change inside the company?
As with many other organisations, the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it structural improvements and our team was able to successfully transition to a remote working environment, with us being able to adapt quickly to working from home and still grow exponentially.
In addition, the mobile payment opportunity has become an even bigger focus for us during the pandemic. Our vision for the market is a future beyond cards where commerce is truly digital and payments are mobile-first. This renewed focus has created a culture of change in the company. We are more innovative and we have more reach than ever before. And that means our culture has become highly collaborative, both internally and externally – we believe a mix of viewpoints and experiences are vital for a company like ours.
What fintech ideas have been implemented?
As a mobile payments platform powerhouse, we have had to embrace the latest fintech thinking and innovation strategies.
Our single API and open architecture pave the way for easy integration of new technology, to best support our partners’ business. Our platform enables merchants to use multiple services by seamlessly applying different innovative solutions. This includes but is not limited to bundling, disbursements, and incentives.
Our bundling service is a prime example of our innovative offering. It allows operators and merchants to integrate mobile, broadband, and IPTV tariffs with specific content or applications. Our platform takes care of user authentication, entitlement validation and provisioning, ensuring that only eligible subscribers can benefit from the bundled offering. A live merchant example for bundling is Vodafone Egypt and Shahid VIP.
As a result of our innovative yet simple approach, we now power more than 1,700 merchants across our platform including some of the biggest and most popular consumer-facing brands like Amazon.
What benefits have these brought?
Implementing these innovative approaches has enabled us to be a partner of choice for merchants, operators, developers, and ePayment processors – especially in fast-growing markets where mobile wallets are dominant. The benefits TPAY MOBILE offers its merchants are simple but transformative, enabling rapid business growth in MEA and Turkey through a single API.
The resulting benefits include:
- Simplicity: Full-service platform makes accepting cross-border payments across MEA and Turkey easy.
- Innovation: Single API and open architecture pave the way for easy integration of new technology in the future, to best support your business.
- Financial inclusion: Gives MEA and Turkish consumers access to digital services, via multiple payments, without the need for a bank account.
- Efficiency: End-to-end system removes the need to work with multiple providers.
Do you see any other industry challenges on the horizon?
As the pandemic accelerated, brands discovered that they must hyper localise if they are to successfully attract consumers. Even traditionally cash-heavy regions such as the Middle East saw years of growth and innovation in digital payments condensed into a matter of months. Mobile and contactless payments proved so popular that in the UAE two-thirds of people now expect the country to become fully cashless by 2030.
Elsewhere, Sub Saharan Africa continued to be at the forefront of mobile money adoption, with 43% of all newly registered accounts worldwide coming from the region.
With the above in mind, merchants need to meet consumer demand, accept these digital methods or face being left behind.
Can these challenges be aided by fintech?
Yes. Fintech has and will continue to move in the direction of more accessible, lower friction and lower-cost payment options that empower a multitude of business models. Fintech’s role in payments has enabled billions of people globally to transact online, lowering the barrier to digital payments. Because of this, mobile wallets are not only displacing credit cards but are also displacing cash at an even greater rate.
Mass adoption of smartphones is enabling real-time bank payments to function primarily through mobile apps, replicating the convenience that has made mobile wallets so popular.
In markets and regions where mobile wallets have become popular, that trend is likely to continue if not accelerate. Other markets in which mobile wallets have yet to catch on, could leapfrog directly to real-time payments.
At TPAY MOBILE we will continue to stand apart from the competition by providing local and global digital service providers with the fastest access to and highest penetration in MEA and Turkey. We will also continue to ensure that all transactions are frictionless, fast and secure so that money can be moved to mobile accounts seamlessly – revolutionising the way that money can reach countries, regions and individuals, while also guaranteeing the best conversion rate.
There have been positive strides in the drive for greater gender equality in fintech, yet both for women and other overlooked groups, there are still huge inclusion gaps. The question remains, how do we actively change this? How do we encourage a broader, more diverse demographic to show an interest in and enter the fintech world?
We must focus not only on attracting talent but on retention strategies for diverse backgrounds. This includes promoting an inclusive work culture, ensuring resources are purposely allocated to the recruitment of diverse individuals to fill senior positions, and not only encouraging but empowering these individuals to stand up for themselves and what they believe in.