By Muhannad Ebwini
Industry: Competition is coming in e-payments, and that's a good thing
2017 was a yet another good year for HyperPay, full of challenges due to the surrounding regional events, but we were capable of achieving growth of around 140 percent.
Next year we are ready for much more expansion. HyperPay is the fastest growing online payment service provider in the MENA region, helping businesses sell both online and offline. We are expanding our office in Dubai and have opened a new office in Cairo to add to the headquarters in Amman and offices in Riyadh and Jeddah. 80 percent of the Middle East market is mainly distributed among four cities, including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Cairo and Riyadh.
We believe that the e-commerce sector will grow dramatically next year. This will be the case throughout the region, as user habits change and new players enter the market, but it will be especially dramatic in Saudi Arabia. This is a country where there are only around four million credit cards, mainly for cultural reasons, so online spending has been comparatively low. Next year the authorities are expected to allow debit ATM cards to be allowed for e-commerce, which overnight will add something like 24 million cards to the system.
This will be a big driver for the business and I believe e-comms in Saudi Arabia will double or even triple during 2018 as a result. Growing sectors will include electronics, e-commerce, retail, travel and tourism, and, especially in Saudi where the entertainment market is opening up to new activities, this will be big for online payments.
Our technology will continue to evolve and we will invest $2.5m in new products for next year, which will enhance our ability to be a complete end-to-end payment gateway. This will give our merchants more options to provide successful services and increase their presence online.
Another technology that I predict a big future for is blockchain and crypto-currencies. However, I don’t think this will happen next year. The market is not yet mature enough, and though it is meant to be a currency, it is acting more like an asset class at the moment.
I do think we will see a new and improved crypto-currency emerge in 2018 that will replace the present ones, and blockchain is going to be a very big part of our lives, but for online payment it will take more time. First of all, the price fluctuations are too pronounced. And secondly it needs to be a real-time payment transaction method. At the moment it needs about 25 minutes to complete which is too long.
Looking ahead to next year, I don’t see economic problems, though political events are always a concern. If there is any regional uncertainty we feel it straight away. Although we get a quick bounce back from these situations we always have to consider any negative scenarios that might have an impact.
We are expecting more international competition, because the market is now big enough for the overseas players to enter. This will create healthy competition within the region, and I believe HyperPay has advanced technology which will give us a competitive edge in the market.
The interest from international players means we also have the potential for a joint venture or exit from the market. I am not actively seeking this option because we just closed a big round of investment that means we are set up financially for the next two or three years. But we would take the offer of a partnership, JV or acquisition seriously. This is the business after all.
Finally, I believe our industry would grow even faster if the GCC were to implement unified regulation for e-payment transactions. This would be a major benefit to growing the industry in our region. Abu Dhabi and Dubai are moving very fast on this issue. In Saudi we are in continuous contact with the key people there regarding this issue, but we need a unified framework. I would very much like this to happen but I don’t see it as a possibility for 2018.