MUHANNAD EBWINI

Saudi Arabia 2022 | FINANCE | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Muhannad Ebwini, CEO of Hyperpay, about dealing with the pandemic era, trends in the industry, and goals for the coming year.

What opportunities has Hyperpay been able to leverage over the last 18 months?

When the lockdown occurred in 2020, everything came in very quickly, and the future was uncertain. This created a panic where not everyone was prepared for online transactions, which meant those companies lost their business completely. We produced products quickly to bring companies online as soon as possible, with hyper invoicing and hyper payments. During this time, there was a spike in the market, sometime triple-digit growth. Looking at the present, while not everything is back to normal, the majority of restrictions have lifted. In the height of the pandemic, most government services were halted, as were travel services and events and entertainment. So if we had 300% growth during this spike, we have maintained 150% of that growth today, where services have restarted. That shows that half of the players that went online out of necessity during the pandemic have remained online for its benefits. We are in no rush this year; the pandemic is still ongoing. That is why commercial players have begun officially learning how to make their online presence. They are upgrading their websites and applications, as they are aware that another lockdown situation could arise at any time. Today, the market knows the importance of an online presence. It is no longer a luxury, but mandatory. It is just an important sales channel as a retail location. We are reaching the majority of users, both merchants and consumers. On the consumer side, people are becoming experts in finding what they want at the price they want to pay. The market is changing due to this online business. That is why we expect huge growth in the Middle East in the coming years.

Why trends do you expect to emerge in the future, and how are you ensuring you are able to cater to these future needs?

We have two tracks going forward. The first is to own our product. Currently, banks, card schemes, and the payment gateway are involved in our process. We seek to own some part of this cycle, for example by getting our acquiring license. In that case, we can reduce our dependency on banks. We are trying to offer more products for banks and the current business, including processing and transactions. This track will also happen with our geographic expansion. We are now working heavily in Egypt and other countries. Our second track is to follow the trend of payments and fintech. Today, this trend is moving toward open banking technology, which provides access to the infrastructure of the bank directly. Third parties can do bank transfers between accounts and not necessarily through bank systems. It is already available in the US and is growing in Brazil and India. Now, it is coming to the Middle East. We made a healthy investment in our payment processing platform in late 2019. By the end of 2021, we will have seen a 500% growth in volume and over 500% growth in the number of transactions. Now, we are finalizing a new round of investment to focus on faster geographic expansion. Our targets include Egypt, which we expect to have as much potential as KSA. We are investing in the infrastructure, technology, relationships with banks, and partners to achieve this. We might start acquiring small companies to serve us in certain markets or with certain products. We are also looking at a few infrastructure projects for emerging markets that still need infrastructure for fintech and payment technologies.

What are your goals and expectations for the next six to nine months?

We want to launch in Egypt; serving the Egyptian market is our top priority. Within KSA and the current market, our goal is to obtain the license so we can launch new products and grow our market share. We want to serve our partner banks with more products based on their needs and ours.