“Transaction patterns have seen a paradigm shift towards e-payments during pandemic”
Ali Janjua is the Chief Executive Officer at PayPro, a local Fintech company that provides bill aggregation services and industry-segmented financial products with integrated digital payment solutions. Mr. Janjua is a multifaceted professional, with extensive expertise in payment systems, investment banking and private equity. Previously, he was a Principal at Karandaaz Pakistan. He has also served as the Director of Risk Management and as the Director of Corporate Finance at Easypaisa (Telenor Microfinance Bank).
Below are selected excerpts from BR Research’s discussion with the PayPro CEO, focusing on the local Fintech space and how PayPro is carving a market for itself:
BR Research: Starting off, how do you describe the policy and regulatory landscape affecting your business?
Ali Janjua: In recent years, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has been actively formulating policies to support aggregators in acquiring digital commerce merchants. We are grateful to these authorities as they have been actively engaged in drafting regulatory policies and support products. Worth mentioning here is the RAAST payment system, which will enable ease of doing business for SMEs in Pakistan and also create the foundation of a digital ecosystem at large.
BRR: What are the critical success factors for a Fintech like PayPro to become commercially viable in Pakistan?
AJ: Policymakers are already trying their best to enable MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) to setup viable businesses, hence any fintech that can act as a catalyst of change for businesses will help increase the money velocity and the efficiency of the economy. The golden rule is to collaborate with everyone and help the payment industry.
However, external challenges remain a major barrier to entry. These include limitations of market accessibility, the general willingness of businesses to transform from rigid conventional processes and lastly, making the consumer aware of the potential benefit of our service.
BRR: Can you elaborate a bit on the challenges facing Fintech companies in Pakistan?
AJ: Firstly, most MSMEs don’t have business bank accounts, which is essential for businesses to operate digitally and transform the way payments are accepted. This behavior has also been observed with regards to fear of taxation and declaration of business assets amongst the common micro-business owners. Secondly, while rising smartphone adoption means more people are able to use feature-rich applications and consume digital content on their mobile phones, the handset prices still remain expensive. This situation poses a challenge and should be addressed following the government’s policy to reduce taxes and customs duty on imported mobile phones. And lastly, changing behaviors of the mass population against paperless and towards digital transactions are also significant challenges.
BRR: Tell us a little bit about your professional background and your motivation behind joining this Fintech company.
AJ: Mr. Aly Khan (Executive Chairman, PayPro) and I had a long-standing interest in digitizing the payments space for SMEs in Pakistan. While I was working as a principal at Karandaaz, we identified ConnectPay as a tech firm with the basic infrastructure that we could build on together, and form our Fintech company as founders. We revamped ConnectPay, which at that time had a basic services model in alliance with 1LINK without any market viable products. We perfected our bill presentment platform and re-launched it as PayPro in January 2020, with the intention of providing a premier payments solution that would offer bespoke solutions for all businesses in Pakistan. We felt that for maximum effect, PayPro would start with the education sector and then move to other impact-focused sectors such as healthcare, logistics, insurance and digital commerce among others.
Today, I can say with confidence that we have very strong relationships with almost all financial institutions of the country. I have previously worked as the Digital Financial Services at Telenor Microfinance Bank (Easypaisa) and that momentum of disrupting financial services is en force at PayPro. The company is passionate about creating Fintech products which enable transformation and provide convenience as well as simplicity to businesses and consumers, and push the economy towards a digital ecosystem.
BRR: How will you describe the core service offered by PayPro?
AJ: PayPro is a payments facilitator with partnerships with SBP-regulated PSOs/PSPs (payment service operators/payment service providers) such as 1LINK and International Payment Schemes. We integrate businesses to the banking system in Pakistan and in most cases provides bespoke solutions to complicated problems faced by businesses in various industries. As Pakistan's leading financial technology company, we are enabling enterprises to manage business operations effortlessly through smart invoicing, subscription management services and collection of payments via an extensive network of payment partners (banks, digital wallets and other financial service institutions).
We have successfully achieved the highest number of merchants in the payments facilitation space with approximately 500,000+ invoices raised. With an aim to digitize the MSMEs and the informal sector in Pakistan, PayPro has built its core payments and technology infrastructure which is extremely easy to use for businesses and consumers alike and has gained a significant market acceptance in a very short span of time. We are processing ten thousand transactions every month, with an exponential month on month growth rate.
I find PayPro to be in the business of building platforms in order to expand the customer outreach for the new league of entrepreneurs and MSMEs emerging in Pakistan. Using customer data for value generation, we provide proficient management of business with better recovery of payments through digital channels, automated bill presentment and faster reconciliation, all while using the easy to operate and secured cloud-based dashboard. Helping the economy move towards paperless, secure and ecofriendly banking, PayPro provides financial services to customers with the convenience to make payments anytime and anywhere from their smart devices.
BRR: What is the technological foundation of the products and services offered by PayPro?
AJ: PayPro operates in a collaborative environment and intends to form strategic alliances with banking partners and other financial institutions regulated by SBP and businesses regulated by the SECP to serve the vast informal MSME payments sector. We are serving MSMEs with industry-segmented business solutions in order to cater specific merchants’ requirements. For instance, with over 150 schools nationwide, PayPro has successfully deployed “ProEd” – an all in one School Management System which allows education institutions to digitize their invoicing process with digital bill presentment and automates payment collection and reconciliation.
We have launched our internet payment gateway-enabled marketplace platform “ProCommerce” to cater the needs of the growing Ecommerce industry of the country, enabling online businesses to accept local and international Visa and Master Debit/Credit card payments. We easily cater to brick and mortar businesses through its unique PayPro ID and URL-based payments. This has turned out to be a crucial payment solution for service providers. We have also piloted our Healthcare Management System “ProCare” with renowned Healthcare facilitators and Club Membership Management System “ProClub” with all major recreational clubs across the country.
Moreover, we are also working towards solving the supply-chain finance management shortcomings through our distributor management solution. A comprehensive platform that tracks sales, orders, inventory and fulfillment as well as enables people, processes and partnerships necessary for products to find their way to the customers. PayPro is also developing an indigenous product to cater to the under-served segment of registered freelancers roughly estimated to be around 0.37 million, with an export contribution which amounts to Rs500 million.
As a payment facilitator, we are well aware that cash still remains king for day-to-day transactions in the country due to the ease of accessibility. Hence, we have partnered with TCS, Meezan Bank, and other financial institutions for collection of over-the-counter (OTC) payments with PayPro’s proprietary bill collection system. We have gone one step further in facilitating the customers during the pandemic by partnering with Bykea to collect cash payments right from their doorstep following the SOPs laid by the government’s Stay Home, Stay Safe campaign ensuring precautions against Covid-19.
BRR: What is your revenue model?
AJ: Our revenue model is based primarily on two sources. First is a convenience charge, which is fixed or a small percentage is charged on transactions – this charge is usually borne by the merchant. Another source of our revenue is our subscription income charged from the clientele for utilizing our industry specific platform coupled with the invoicing and payment solution.
BRR: What is your target market? And what kind of channels are you using to reach the potential customers?
AJ: PayPro provides industry-segmented financial products with integrated payment solutions in sectors including (but not limited to) education, healthcare, e-commerce, distribution, logistics, etc. Our solutions automate and fast-track the entire cash cycle of businesses from invoice presentment to payment collection and reconciliation.
We engage with customers in both direct and indirect ways. Potential leads have an option to reach out to our experience sales team present in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Our business support teams are always engaged with MSMEs and customers to increase their financial literacy. Merchants can visit our website (www.paypro.com.pk) and sign-up their business. Our technology stack allows merchants to consume our APIs and integrate with their existing ERPs backed by our implementation experts that help businesses with a seamless transition from conventional to digital.
BRR: Who do you regard as PayPro’s direct competition?
AJ: Fintech space is an emerging market for Pakistan. Innovation is rampant and we are witnessing new players entering the market by securing investments from major local and international business groups. The challenge, however, is to become effectively operational under the digital finance infrastructure and regulatory regimes of the country, where method seems to be just coping up to the madness.
With each Fintech having a focus on a different market segment, I don’t consider competition as competition. I believe Fintech players are all just touching the tip of the iceberg in Pakistan. The number of formal merchants is rapidly growing with spirit of entrepreneurship in the developing world and informal merchants remain proliferated only in terms of estimations. Any and every competitor has an untapped canvas to cover in this emerging new market or should I say, square one of a digital ecosystem.
BRR: Do you have an indirect competition as well?
AJ: Almost all Financial institutions, PSOs/PSPs and Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs) are one way or the other facilitating payment acceptance via the available licenses or affiliations. Be it C2B, B2C, B2B or international remittance, they are all supporting each other in an extremely collaborative environment.
We have managed to stay at the forefront when it comes to transforming businesses from the ground up in Pakistan. Catering primarily to all sizes of businesses, we are trying to bring them payment solutions which also help automate and manage their cash cycle. PayPro has been progressing with its mission to transform the economy from its roots by educating business segments with the advantages of digital transactions and have been successfully pursuing the informal sector in the country.
BRR: How is the business doing? Is there a noticeable change in performance pre-pandemic and mid-pandemic?
AJ: With the current pandemic situation, transaction patterns have seen a paradigm shift towards e-payments, considering the precautionary SOPs followed by general public and SBP’s proactive initiatives to promote the use of online banking channels in order to curtail OTC traffic at banks. PayPro processed Rs1 billion in transactions from January 2020 to January 2021. In a span of just one year, PayPro has achieved the highest number of partners with about 80,000+ average monthly invoices raised.
We are developing a more digitally-inclined mindset among our partners and we expect to triple the number of partners this year. Our focus remains to digitize & e-bank the informal sectors, which would lead to greater financial inclusion.