MUHANNAD EBWINI

Saudi Arabia 2021 | FINANCE | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Muhannad Ebwini, Founder and CEO of Hyperpay, on the effects of the pandemic, overall revenue trends, and working with banks across Saudi Arabia.

What impact have you seen from the pandemic in terms of volumes and types of transactions?

The impact has been enormous. The Kingdom is far above the government's target of 28% cashless transactions by 2020. We saw interesting trends during the lockdown; some merchants completely closed down, while others, especially food and home deliveries, tripled their sales. There were also trends in home furniture tied to people wanting to relax in their homes. After a while, we started seeing a growing demand for small office furniture such as desks, chairs, and laptops. A month or so after the lockdown, we started to see female categories, such as makeup, perfumes, and beauty products growing. Hyperpay saw a truly huge spike during the lockdown; more than tripling our numbers. We are one of the few companies growing faster during COVID-19. The impact was positive for Hyperpay. Our official target was 200% growth in 2020 compared to 2019, but now we will reach more than 200% in 2020.

Could you have achieved 200% growth without the pandemic?

Yes, we could have because we were doing over 200% growth in the volume of transactions in the past four years. In July, when things opened up, the number of transactions slightly slowed down, but was still relatively higher than before the pandemic. Of our new customers, I would say a minimum of 30-40% will continue to use online transactions even when other options return. The impact was positive, and it is definitely in line with the strategy of the Kingdom to digitalize everything.

As a result of the pandemic, what have you seen in terms of the differences between the number of transactions and overall revenues?

The average expenditure per user fell, because certain sectors came to a complete halt, such as entertainment, airlines, travel, and so on. Usually, those sectors make big volumes, with an average of between SAR1,000 and SAR1,500 per transaction. The growth came mainly from delivery apps with an average transaction of SAR100-120. There is definitely a gap between the average transactions before and after COVID. Although we saw an increase in the number of transactions and in volume, in terms of revenue we saw a small drop. We predict to end up with 150-170% growth in revenue between 2019 and 2020. Our plan was to hit 220-230%.

Will the current behavioral changes persist in the future?

The future is bright for fintech, especially the payment sector. During the pandemic, we had two challenges: providing our current clients with support to keep their businesses growing; and the huge demand from clients for a payment gateway immediately. Fortunately, Hyperpay was prepared with a few options, and one of them is an invoicing system. It is an independent product that does not require an e-commerce website or integration, so it was easy for us to take around 600 merchants live in a month and a half. It was still a challenge; our team was working 17 hours a day, seven days a week just to cover this demand. We had to adjust many things internally just to respond to all the demand, but it depends on current clients, and we added more clients during the pandemic. Some of them saw good traffic, mainly for well-known brands that are already in the market because they closed their physical stores and depended completely on online transactions. In short, there will be a lasting change in the sector, and people will not go back to using cash as they did in the past.

Can you tell us about your partnership strategy?

From the beginning, we had a mission to partner with everyone. Today, Hyperpay is the only payment gateway with access to all banks in KSA. We work with all 11 banks in Saudi Arabia, this gives our clients and merchants the ability to choose the bank they prefer to deal with. With regard to STC Pay, we consider them a partner, and this partnership is growing. You will see increasing collaboration between STC Pay and Hyperpay in the near future.

What do you see in terms of recovery in the coming year?

We have learned a lot in this first stage, and we invested in our product line, so we have many new products that will serve all the categories in the coming year. Whatever happens, we are ready for all kinds of merchants and transactions to be covered by Hyperpay immediately. We see a bright future, no matter what.