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Elevate, the fintech that recently secured financing of $5 million with the aim to expand further into South Asia, said it believes being in Dubai will help it attract the best talent as well as offer a platform for expansion into other strategic cities.

“Given the markets we’re currently serving and looking to expand into in Asia and MENA, being in Dubai is a great geographic location,” CEO Elevate Khalid Keenan told Business Recorder through his team.

“Additionally, Dubai is now a hub for startups, ensuring we can attract the best talent in the region,” he added.

Elevate, which is based in Dubai and London, has so far raised a total of $10 million in equity and debt from investors including Y Combinator, Goodwater, Global Founders Capital and VSQ.

Since launching earlier this year, over 50,000 freelancers and remote workers from Pakistan and more than 150,000 have signed up in total.

Having received unprecedented response from Pakistani freelancers in a very short span of time, Elevate is looking at registering over 500,000 Pakistani freelancers and remote workers facilitating them to increase their business share in the USA as well as other developed markets.

Responding to a query, Keenan said that Pakistan is leading the world in the rise of freelancers working for international employers and platforms like Upwork.

“Given the fact most employers and platforms pay in USD and over US rails (e.g. ACH), simplifying these payments is critical. Ensuring these freelancers can keep as much of their take home as possible is also key and a painpoint in Pakistan and other markets.”

What does Elevate do?

Elevate looks to simplify receiving USD payments by supporting free and fast deposits from the US and international employers as well as platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, Paypal, Deel and Toptal. Online spending is enabled through a virtual debit card and for sending money home, Elevate offers market leading foreign exchange rates.

When customers receive payments into their Elevate accounts the funds sit with Bangor Savings Bank, a 172-year-old bank located in Maine, United States.

Bangor Savings Bank acts as the deposit taking institution and card issuer, and because they are an FDIC-member, customer deposits are FDIC-insured up to $250,000. This makes it the only service available for people in countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Philippines to open an FDIC-insured U.S. bank account.

Existing platforms like Payoneer have not serviced the region well with excessively high fees.

“Our mission at Elevate is for freelancers and remote workers to quickly and easily get paid at minimal cost so they keep as much of their hard-earned earnings as possible,” Keenan added.

Keenan’s point on Dubai being an important strategic location because of several reasons including a streamlined payments process echoes the views of other IT companies.

Last month Danish Ayub, founder of software house Carpe Diem, told Business Recorder that payments are a real painpoint for IT companies as well as freelancers in Pakistan. Ayub said that ease of payments was the main reason for his firm to incorporate in Dubai.

The remarks come as Pakistan struggles to attract foreign exchange inflow with the absence of a streamlined payments process acting as a major roadblock for the economy.

Individual freelancers and remote workers have voiced their struggle and the IT industry has on several occasions urged the government to create a payment gateway to improve IT exports.

However, despite the hurdles, Pakistan’s IT exports increased to a record monthly figure of $310 million in April 2024, according to State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) data. The cumulative amount for the 10 months of fiscal year 2023-24 (July-April) grew to $2.6 billion, higher than the $2.14 billion in the same period of the previous year.

Despite the increase, many experts believe the potential is much higher and needs focus on resolving payment gateway issues. In the past, there have been efforts to bring a payment gateway Paypal, but the issue has not yet been resolved.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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