Mohaimin Mostafa, a young Bangladeshi entrepreneur, completed his Bachelors in Finance and Business from Ohio State University, Columbus, USA in 2013. Shortly after his graduation, he shifted his career to a new stream and started working for an ITcompany called Nationwide Insurance in USA. His curiosity for IT software made him start his own company Fyne Tech in Columbus. However, that could not hold him there and Mohaimin came back to his country with a hope to invest his potentialities in Bangladesh. Pay 365, his contribution in the field of mobile wallets thus came into being.
When you have an appointment with a C-suite of a Fintech startup, you don’t exactly anticipate a person with a bespoke suit to appear. A jeans-T shirt clad youth with a brim glass better suits the bill. But Mohaimin Mostafa appeared, rather restlessly, in the Crimson Cup Coffee outlet of Dhanmondi on a weekend noon and he personified an appearance in-between the two.
The restlessness with which he arrived and greeted can be traced back to the swift decision of running all the way back to Dhaka with the thirst of introducing the idea of mobile wallet in Bangladesh. Mohaimin is not a newbie in the world of entrepreneurship. In fact, the coffee chain Crimson Cup which serves the famous Columbus Coffee of Ohio to different outlets of Crimson Cup in Dhaka is owned by him. However venturing in the arena of financial technology has been his life-long dream and not even his thriving business of USA could make him shy away from pursuing that. During an hour-long interview with Fintech, this young and restless entrepreneur talked about how quickly he could turn his dream of Pay365, the mobile wallet, into a reality. Here is the excerpt of the interview for our readers.
FINTECH: You had your education in the US and also worked there. When did you first think of coming back to Bangladesh?
M.M: I studied in finance in Ohio State University of Columbus in 2009. I was working there for three years and was involved with financial campaigns and projects. I worked for a fortune 100 company called Nationwide Insurance. Besides, I started a fund raising campaign with Bangladesh Student Association at OSU and with that money, we built a school for underprivileged kids with Jaago foundation. At one point of I thought of coming back to my own country to do something unique.
FINTECH: So you were a finance majore and was working in a successful USA Company, why did you left your career and job there?
M.M.: I was interested in music; wanted to have a band of my own. I started a music band, ‘bajhna’ but it failed twice. I had no interest in IT; I just had an idea of mobile wallet and payment by a QR code or NFC. I just learned it from people by seeing them doing this and that. I used to say, “I don’t understand IT terms, teach me in Bangla” and I learned it as a layman. I could have easily brought some projects of outsourcing IT to Bangladesh but I did not want that.
But I wanted to return to Bangladesh and contribute something valuable to the country. It was a hard decision for me to come back. But representing Bangladesh to the world and take Bangladesh to the next level was my primary goal. I saw some news about the progress of Digital Bangladesh in some foreign media and after that I had decided to try my luck in doing something innovative on my own country’s turf.
All I wanted is to start something new in Bangladesh; something I will be able to launch in my country and then take it to other parts of the world as a Bangladeshi product. People have also gotten accustomed with other payment options like bKash, Payza and other mobile wallet platforms.
However, I did not want to borrow ideas from others and mimic it in our country.
FINTECH: So what was your idea here and how did you plan to implement here?
M.M: The idea was simple but new to Bangladesh. But implementation seemed almost impossible. I contacted Mahboob Zaman, (Former President of BASIS) and shared my idea with him and he trusted me, and this is what I needed the most- ‘trust in my ideas.’ Even during that time, I had little idea about the tech usages; I am not an IT guy at all. I was not aware of software and how it works. I was exploring and learning. I had no basic idea about coding language. However, I initiated the idea and was in charge of the whole project, but it’s because of Mahboob Zaman that we have built successfully the first mobile wallet in Bangladesh.
FINTECH: How does this app work? I mean it’s a new concept in our country. Can you explain it in simple language?
M.M: This is a smart phone based payment app to make payment easy, convenient and secure through your bank cards. Pay365 is replacing physical wallet, bank card, coupons etc. with additional features likepersonal financial management, merchant info log, loyalty program and many more upcoming innovative offerings. For Merchants Pay365 is a cashless, CRM, financial management, and business analytics tool that offers brand promotional platform i.e. loya Pay 365 has three parts Easy pay, more secure than your physical wallet, and Rewards.
User will have to only tag their bank’s information during sign up once. They can also save multiple bank accounts. They don’t have to carry their cards to cash with them anymore. The payment process is simple; you just have to go to the app and tap on pay, a QR Code will generate and just scan the phone. Not only that, we also have reward program where users will be getting rewards every time they use the pay system. The higher they go up in the membership level the more the rewards they will get.
FINTECH: For doing all that you need some clearing banks. Who are your clearing banks till now?
M.M: We contacted Dutch Bangla Bank Limited (DBBL) and our project started at the end of 2014. There were a lot of struggles from then on. We had to work a lot on the tokenisation platform created by DBBL, build security portals by complying with VISA, Mastercard and Bangladesh Bank which were major security requirement for a mobile wallet like Pay 365. We have Dutch Bangla Bank as an acquiring bank now and we are planning to bring other banks on board soon. DBBL securely saves the bank information and every time some pays they will need to have their money in their bank and they will go to their favourite store and pay. Actually I am talking at the back end much since we don’t have an online national chip here; here payment gates are not connected with the bank.
FINTECH: How many merchants you have so far?
M.M: So far we have merchants like Dhaka Chakka, Meena bazar, Crimson Cup, Taste of Lanka, Madchef; among the clothing stores we have Textmart and Plaire. The app has all these brands in one platform and with that we have added the payment feature. You can access to multiple reward programs. For example, with Tk. 100, you will get a free coffee.
FINTECH: Do you have competitors in the market?
M.M: till now we do not have any. But many think bkash is our competitor.
FINTECH: So how it is different from bkash? M.M: It is completely different from bkash. bkash is about money transfer; p2p whereas my one is a payment system. The difference lies in the policy level. In case of p2p, you cannot do without the involvements of banks but ours is about payment merchants.
FINTECH: What are the obstacles that you think Pay 365 will face?
M.M: Changing people’s spending behaviours and habits can be an obstacle because people first need to understand that smartphones are much safer than your physical wallet. It’s even safer than your card and cash. It’s also important to teach people how to use the app. The challenge will be in conversion marketing and I hope we succeed on that. I also think country’s economic stability is also an important factor because we depend on businesses like e- commerce, retail outlets like coffee shops and restaurants, universities, departmental stores where people will actually go and spend. It’s important that businesses grow and the merchants can use this app as a tool to increase their business growth.
Bringing all merchants under one platform can also be an obstacle because pay 365 also facilities merchants to make their retail marketing strategy more efficient, find the best fit and track the demographics and lifestyle, and make the best use of data analytics. Not all merchants are ready to understand and accept this concept in Bangladesh yet. It’s like once there was a question in people minds that how to put a status on Facebook. It will take time.
FINTECH: So how you are doing the branding? It must not be very easy…
M.M: In branding, we are going a bit slow, since it is not everyone’s cup of tea. I want to connect with each and every customer. We are training people to sign up one by one, but still they are finding it difficult; they are reluctant to do it. They are asking about why they have to answer three security questions. Now it is like if your phone get lost and you call me, I will have to maintain a three layer security. The point is to maintain security, the users are reluctant to give what we need. However, if there is a security breech than it will be my responsibility.
We are doing activation campaigns in different universities. Initially I know what our target customers don’t understand. The targeted customers are young generation because they are more eager to learn new technology. They like exploration and new technology. Hopefully we will have more users.
FINTECH: Where do you want to see it within 5 years?
M.M: We are not thinking very far ahead; we are considering a short time period. We are not a company looking for making business very early. We want to contribute in the Digital Bangladesh. We just want people to get aware of these types of apps. We are in a high end and we want to get into the mass market with time. We also have plans to go beyond Dhaka. Eventually we want to popularize the mobile wallet usage here and turn our society into a cashless one.
FINTECH: Thank you very much for the interview.
M.M: Thank you too. ■