If ‘payment gateways’ is the answer, what is the question?
More often than not the question is something along the lines of ‘what gives start-ups and SMEs the biggest logistical headache?’
For the truth of the matter is that payment gateways have long been underdeveloped in the region, driving many new companies to despair, and costing them time and money in the process.
In a part of the world where cash-on-delivery is still king, something has to give in the world of digital payments, and now it seems there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Using his 16 years of experience in cards and payments – including 12 years with Visa, and four years as Managing Director of PayPal Middle East – Elias Ghanem has co-founded a new digital payment proposition which could revolutionise the market in more ways than one.
Telr – based in Dubai and Singapore – is a three-pronged concept aimed at helping e-commerce start-ups build and grow their business efficiently.
Its trio of components includes a secure, multi-lingual, multi-currency payment gateway; unified logistics and payment API (Application Programming Interface); and a funding option designed to give merchants a cash advance on their transactions.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Mobile Show Middle East, Ghanem told StartUp: “E-commerce businesses in the region are growing, the economy is booming again, and card payments are coming up. But there’s a lot that we can do better.
“Payment gateways in this region have to improve, and that’s what we wanted to do. That’s why we started with Telr. We aim to solve the issue of payment gateways for emerging markets. For the whole of the Middle East, Africa, and South East Asia.
“We’re bringing together the key elements – payment gateways, integration solutions, and financing. We’re making it easy for merchants and streamlining things for them, taking logistics out of their hands, and offering them the possibility of cash-flow.
“And we’re making it easy for customers who want a quick and easy system, as well as security and confidence.”
Having announced its launch in March this year, Telr has formed a strategic partnership with logistics giant Aramex, and installed co-founder Sirish Kuar as CFO. The company aims to be fully operational in Q3 of 2014, and Ghanem is excited about the potential of the business.
“What we’re really doing is removing for merchants many of the problems they face with payments,” he adds.
“It really is going to change things here – so many businesses are going to be able to focus much more on what they want to focus on rather than the payment and logistics side of things.
“We can make sure the payment side of things is running smoothly, that fraud is controlled, that the logistics is happening. And if the situation is right, we can also lend money.
“If a merchant is with Telr, we can see their transactions going up bit by bit, and we can see that they are legitimate and doing business the right way. We can tell if the conditions are right for lending money, which is in everybody’s best interest. We can provide working capital to help you reach the next stage.”
Ghanem believes Telr could be the first company to bring these three aspects together in the region, but is quick to point out it’s not doing anything new.
He says: “I’ve not seen anybody do these three things together here, but if you look at what we’re doing, we’re pulling together things that are happening in other parts of the world.
“Merchant financing is happening in the US and in Europe, and it’s working well, so I’m bringing those best practices to this region.
“We’re just giving it a local twist so that start-ups here can grow their businesses.”
Discussing a figure generated during his time at PayPal, Ghanem explains that e-commerce globally will be worth $15bn in 2015, but that only 10 percent of that will be from the region. He continues that with the right payment framework, that share could go up to 15 or even 20 percent.
“To do that we need people to be selling in the region,” he says. “Improving payment gateways is a big part of that. People won’t need to look outside the region anymore – it will make a huge difference.”
Looking to the future of not just the payment sector, but Telr itself, Ghanem brims with enthusiasm.
“You don’t do 16 years in payments and leave the room without any new ideas,” he says, suggesting there will be much more to come from Telr in the coming months and years.
“We don’t want to do too much too soon, but watch this space. We want to deliver our first package first and take it from there.
“We’re well funded, we’re passionate about what we do, and we believe we can make a real difference to SMEs and start-ups in the region.”
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