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SAUDI ARABIA - Finance

Abdulaziz Al Jouf

Founder & CEO, PayTabs Group

Bio

Abdulaziz Fahad Al Jouf is a Saudi entrepreneur and the Founder and CEO of PayTabs Group, a ground-breaking payment processing company which he started in Saudi Arabia in 2014. He is a dynamic, enthusiastic, focused and a hands-on natural leader, who is dedicated to supporting and mentoring young entrepreneurs. He is a self-confessed risk-taker, always open to opportunities as they arise and making the most of them. He recognises failure not as a failing but as a lesson from which to gain invaluable experience.

"We have grown by almost 200% since 2022 in terms of numbers. In terms of the economy, Saudi Arabia has been a hotspot for many industries, including fintech, and is growing much faster."
TBY talks to Abdulaziz Al Jouf, Founder & CEO of PayTabs Group, about the performance of the company over the past year, opportunities in the financial sector, and strategic priorities.

How would you assess the performance and progress of PayTabs over the last year?

We have grown by almost 200% since 2022 in terms of numbers.. In terms of the economy, Saudi Arabia has been a hotspot for many industries, including fintech, and is growing much faster. The figures for Saudi payments is a great indicator of fintech developments in the region. For example, the Saudi market no longer offers cash on delivery (COD), and almost 100% of the economy is cashless. This shift reflects the growing adoption of digital payment methods and the emergence of specialized products like Tabby and Tamara. One notable trend driven by consumers, particularly in Saudi Arabia, is the rise of the Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) model. While this trend may be more pronounced in the Kingdom compared to other regions, its impact is felt across various sectors, driving changes in consumer behavior, and shaping the retail landscape.

PayTabs has gained a strong position in the MENA region. What opportunities do you anticipate for the financial sector in the coming year?

The geopolitical situation has been tough in certain markets and positive in other markets. There is massive growth in Iraq and Egypt, for example, which requires more fintech solutions to enable consumers and businesses. Even though everyone talks about  the MENA market in totality, the local situation in Iraq is completely different from Kuwait, Egypt, or Morocco. Each market has its own unique characteristics. This makes it extremely unique for PayTabs and is the reason it is difficult for other players from outside to come into the foray. I view this as an opportunity for us as a company.

What key elements differentiate Paytabs from its competitors in Saudi Arabia?

It is all about customization. For example, QR codes are used extensively in Egypt, but do not exist in Saudi. There is a booming card business in Iraq; however, the Saudi card business has been here for almost 20 years. We have been transforming ourselves to become more of a payment technology stack provider, and this has helped us reap great rewards. We go in with our toolkit of technologies in every market and customize them   to deliver solutions that the market truly needs.

How do you see innovative payment technologies transforming transactions for companies and SMEs in KSA?

The evolution of digital transactions extends beyond traditional services to encompass a wide array of innovative products. QR codes have emerged as a versatile tool for facilitating payments and donations across various contexts. From restaurants implementing QR codes on tables for seamless ordering and payment to donation centers leveraging QR codes for contributions, the versatility of QR technology is transforming how transactions are conducted. This trend is not limited to specific industries or regions. In locations like Dubai and Qatar, QR codes have become ubiquitous, with their presence expanding to diverse settings such as billboards, sporting events, and even religious gatherings. For example, the use of QR codes to make donations during Friday prayers at mosques demonstrates how digital payment methods are being integrated into everyday activities. Even environments such as Dubai Airport now offer QR payment options, underscoring the widespread adoption of digital transactions across various sectors.

What products does PayTabs have in the pipeline?

We have several projects in the pipeline, some of which have been meticulously developed to cater to specific segments within the market. Our approach involves tailoring our products to suit both micro and macro businesses, financial institutions, and fintech companies. In one aspect, we focus on providing a comprehensive ecosystem of orchestration for larger entities, , who have substantial workforces. This entails offering a range of services including payments, bank transfers, B2B solutions, and more, all seamlessly integrated into their operations. For medium-sized enterprises, we recognize the need for diverse services beyond just payments and offer a suite of solutions including back transfers and additional services tailored to their requirements. Our partnership with fintech companies is aimed at enhancing the capabilities of merchants, enabling them to manage their finances more efficiently. This includes features such as real-time access to bank accounts and transaction monitoring. Finally, we are particularly excited about our initiatives targeting micro and small businesses such as freelancers, Instagrammers, and small retailers. For them, we have developed a Super App—a one-stop solution that consolidates all our services into a single platform. This Super App simplifies the process of setting up and managing a business, offering features like QR payments, voice commands, and integration with popular payment methods like Apple Pay; however, implementing these solutions comes with its challenges, particularly regarding regulatory compliance and market-specific requirements. Each country has its own set of regulations and organizational structures, necessitating careful navigation and adaptation to ensure seamless operation of our Super App across different markets.

Can you elaborate on your expansion plans and the main sectors in which you are focusing your operations?

Our current focus is solely on the MENA region, with no plans to expand beyond this area. Our strategy revolves around establishing a strong market presence and building market share over the next few years. We aim to double our market share in the region, after which we will concentrate on stabilizing our position before delving further into the market. Still, certain geographies such as North Africa and specific Middle Eastern countries may require additional attention and investment to penetrate deeper. In these regions, we recognize the need to intensify our efforts and allocate resources strategically to expand our footprint and strengthen our market position.

What are your expectations for the company for 2024?

Over the past eight years, my primary focus has been on developing and refining our platform’s products and services. Unlike many companies in the region, we have dedicated significant resources to building our own intellectual property rather than outsourcing technology from external sources. This strategic decision, while sacrificing short-term revenue and profit, is driven by our vision to create an ecosystem that seamlessly integrates online and offline businesses with the banking system. This ecosystem forms the cornerstone of our platform, and in the past year, our efforts have shifted toward consolidating and connecting the various platforms within our ecosystem. This strategic alignment has led to significant milestones, including partnerships with eight ministries and nine banks. Looking ahead, our focus for the next three years centers on driving growth and expanding our market share platform. Our immediate priority is to leverage our orchestration platform capabilities and Super App to fuel growth in our target countries. To support this ambitious agenda, we are actively pursuing funding opportunities, as securing investment will enable us to intensify our efforts in building market share and expanding our presence in key markets. Our goal is to double our market share in countries where we already hold a significant position, positioning us for sustained growth and success in the years to come.

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