The Business Year

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KUWAIT - Finance

Faisal Alharoun

Managing Director, Kuwait, Tap Payments

Bio

Faisal Alharoun has over 15 years of experience in various roles in the investment, non-profit and tech entrepreneurship sectors. He started his career in investments and progressed during his time with Kuwait Finance Center (Markaz), where he engaged in private banking services. His interest in youth development started when he moved to LOYAC and led the organization in developing various initiatives including career development, arts and sports. Moving to the tech world, Alharoun launched multiple tech start-ups and continues his passion in supporting tech start-ups in his role as Managing Director of Kuwait at Tap Payments.

"As pioneers in the fintech space, one of our primary focus has been to build and enhance the infrastructure necessary to foster a digital economy."

TBY talks to Faisal Alharoun, Managing Director Kuwait at Tap Payments, about collaborations with governmental authorities and capitalizing on the region’s tech-savvy youth demographic, facilitating the easy acceptance of digital payments by businesses.

What is the story behind Tap Payments, and what is your target market?

Tap was born out of a distinct need. We identified a clear gap in the market where numerous entrepreneurs grappled with the intricacies of payment acceptance for their new business. Recognizing this challenge, Tap took the initiative in early 2014 to streamline payment acceptance for small to medium-sized start-ups. Along our journey, we observed a trend of businesses branching out into omni channel selling like Instagram, Facebook, and Whatsapp. This inspired us to introduce the region’s pioneering billing service. This innovation resonated so well that it inspired many in the financial sector, including banks and emerging fintechs, to explore similar avenues—a testament to Tap’s forward-thinking approach. Today, we are proud to say that Tap has empowered over 100,000 businesses across nine countries in MENA. Witnessing the transformation of incredible ideas into flourishing businesses through our products and services is truly rewarding.

In which markets has the company found most success?

Tap has experienced success in every market it operates in, largely attributed to our product offerings aligning with the cashless initiatives driven by most MENA governments. Kuwait has consistently been a strong market for Tap. This is partly because local consumers have been familiar with online payments for some time. Kuwait’s local scheme, KNET, introduced online payment acceptance as early as 2004, preceding other regional payment schemes. Beyond Kuwait, the payments sector has seen significant growth in neighboring countries like UAE, Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain. Notably, Saudi Arabia is experiencing rapid growth. Furthermore, Egypt showcases tremendous potential and is on a promising trajectory. Government initiatives promoting technological progress and financial inclusion are primarily responsible for the emergence of several innovative tech start-ups in the country. Such efforts make Tap optimistic about our investments in Egypt, as we believe the current growth is just the beginning.

What are the challenges and opportunities in Kuwait?

The fintech industry is always evolving, bringing both challenges and opportunities. One of the primary challenges is navigating regulatory gaps. The rapid pace of innovation in fintech often outstrips the rate at which government institutions and regulatory authorities can update or introduce legislation. This sometimes results in a waiting period, where we are left waiting for specific regulations to be introduced for new products or services. However, with the Central Bank of Kuwait’s recent fintech regulations, we feel we’ve made significant strides in addressing these challenges. These regulations have greenlit services such as open banking, BNPL, and digital wallets. Such progressive steps are crucial because they enable fintechs to launch innovative products and services that cater to businesses and consumers alike. This aligns well with the New Kuwait Vision 2035, which envisions a prosperous and diversified economy. Given these advancements, we’re quite optimistic about what lies ahead and firmly believe that Kuwait is on track to emerge as a regional fintech leader.

With the rapid evolution of fintech, how is Tap positioning itself to navigate the forthcoming digital transitions?

As pioneers in the fintech space, one of our primary focus has been to build and enhance the infrastructure necessary to foster a digital economy. This goal is not just local; our vision is global with a particular emphasis on achieving a cashless society across the MENA region. From the outset, our approach has been rooted in collaboration. We have consistently partnered with governmental authorities in Kuwait and across the region, supporting their endeavors in sculpting a sturdy regulatory framework for the industry. With projections indicating a significant surge in the GCC’s fintech market value, combined with the intensified push for digitization from governments, we are poised at the threshold of a fintech revolution. Our unique vantage point in the MENA region is further amplified by the invaluable support we receive from both governmental and regulatory bodies. Additionally, our efforts are greatly aided by the MENA region’s vast youth demographic—tech-savvy individuals who are eager to embrace and drive innovation.

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