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'OneLoad will be a cash alternative in Pakistan and beyond,' CEO-OneLoad

OneLoad is owned and operated by EP Systems - a company set up as a partnership between System's Limited and the banking and mobility professionals. Mr. Muhammad Yar Hiraj, who is the CEO of OneLoad, is a technology entrepreneur with considerable experience in planning and designing large-scale software systems for the financial services sector, targeting unbanked low-income populations in emerging economies. Previously he spent over a decade with Morgan Stanley's Technology investment and advisory businesses based out of New York, San Francisco and Tokyo.

BR Research sat down with Mr. Hiraj to understand the pioneering product by Systems Limited. Following are the edited excerpts:

BR Research: What is OneLoad?

Muhammad Yar Hiraj: OneLoad is a prepaid aggregation solution; it is Systems Limited's unique product offering for the local market that provides aggregated prepaid airtime recharge and a host of other value-added services. It uses a multi-channel approach and facilitates the purchase and disbursement of mobile prepaid vouchers. OneLoad offers an extremely simple, convenient and easy-to-use service with an integrated and seamless service ecosystem.

BRR: Can you explain how it works? What are its benefits?

MYH: What OneLoad is today and what it aspires to be is going to be a journey. I'll explain the issue it is addressing today. The problem we encounter in digital payments is that people often associate it with different things. We have essentially looked at solving a very serious business problem that leads to other solutions as well. There are 30,000 to 40,000 retailers in the country that offer money transfer services like Easypaisa. Then there is another bigger set of retailers, about 180,000 or so that provide prepaid mobile top-up. The specific issue that these retailers have to face is that for every telecom service provider (Zong, Ufone, Mobilink, Warid, Telenor) they have to get a special sim for transferring prepaid balance to the customer.

This process has certain nuances and problems with it. First of all, somebody has to give you that credit you can serve the customers with. Secondly, the retailers face another problem: currently the retailer has to deal with five sales people from the franchises of five different mobile companies, and then there is a physical trip involved with physical cash collection. On top of that, there are margins that are negotiated as well. And most of the times, the retailers have to buy in advance for the next few days because the sales people want to limit their physical trips. So on any given day, the retailer's cash eg worth Rs50,000 (say Rs5000 per 5 telecom companies for two-day consumption) is stuck in inventory of these prepaid mobile top-ups. Or maybe one day, his inventory falls short of the demand. In short, a retailer can only judge the amount of traffic he will receive for one network on a given day and ends up with cash tied up in inventory; also there is no interoperability - imagine this system of prepaid top-up as five different silos used for respective networks. At the same time, the retailer has also tied up money in money transfer services like Easypaisa, UBL Omni, Jazz cash etc, not to forget the clutter of mobile phones that he uses for each network or service.

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This is where we come in and tell the retailers to get rid of the excess inventory model with no Interoperability, and use a single balance based on their overall consumption estimate. This balance is Interoperable, which enables a retailer to carry out any transaction out of it. On top of that, our service cuts the cost of keeping a collection of mobile sets. All of this can be done on one smartphone: get internet connectivity, download our app, inject money into the system and carry out any transaction. OneLoad is a single telecom credit for retailers to top-up credit on any mobile service in Pakistan.

We promise 30 percent lower inventory with the convenience of using one phone. You can earn commission; there is no relationship management with franchises of several telecom companies; there is no dedicated inventory; you can get top-up in any denomination for any customer; and it is easy to sign-up and use!

BRR: How do you plan to bring actual cash into the system?

MYH: We have integrated with the financial system. We are connected to eight banks right now.

BRR: Are there any other services that OneLoad can be used for?

MYH: Since it is a smart phone platform actually being used at 2200 locations in the country right now, we have added many other services and are adding more. We have added payment of bills to major utility companies; we have added gift cards for international vouchers of eg. Google app store, skype, etc where debit/credit cards don't work. It doesn't stop here; the bouquet is expanding very rapidly. Right now, we have 32 utilities, 18 international companies, and we are adding many more features like bus tickets, cinema tickets and many more to the portfolio. And while we are the agents of the telecom companies, we are also NADRA's agent as they give us bill-clearing facility, and we are able to use its legal framework.

Because the technology we've created is so fungible, we can extend in many directions. Our focus is basically the customisation of a retailer-customer relationship, more commonly known as loyalty. We want to give from the 'pan-wala' to an MNC, the ability to connect their retailer or point-of-sale to their customer through a loyalty program. The retailer should be able to set up his own rules for loyalty through our app; and since these rules will be part of the retailer's system, the discounts or points will automatically be given to the customer if they fulfil system-fed criteria without the retailer having to worry about it. We are basically setting up this relationship aspect between the retailer and the customer.

We took a real world problem, invested money into the idea, made a product out of it, and we think that it actually has the potential to become one of the defining products in Pakistan and beyond. With respect to financial inclusion, Gates Foundation has actually told us that they want to support us in taking this concept to other parts of the world.

BRR: So where do you stand in terms of rollout of OneLoad? Do you have any marketing strategy in place for OneLoad?

MYH: Now that all telecom service providers have integrated with us, we are coming out of our beta version, and we will be launching the service. We have already been able to create a network of prepayments in far flung areas.

Our product is evolving very rapidly. We are designing a marketing campaign for it right now. We need to reach out to the mass market, and we want to do that along with our partners, especially the telecom companies. In short, we are trying to create a cash alternative in Pakistan, and number one category of electronic payments is mobile top-ups by any means or method, which is where we have started from. This is not the end but the beginning of our journey.


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