KUWAIT - Finance
General Manager, Tamara, Kuwait
Faris Al-Obaid is General Manager of Tamara, Kuwait.
TBY talks to Faris Al-Obaid, General Manager of Tamara, Kuwait, about the experience of the pandemic, the Kuwaiti market, and priorities for the coming year.
What has been Tamara’s experience growing through the pandemic and setting up in Kuwait?
Tamara is the leading buy now, pay later (BNPL) player in the MENA region. Our core offering is enabling customers to split their payments at checkout, completely interest-free. For merchants, Tamara offers seamless integration with existing processes and ultimately an increase in key metrics such as average order value, conversion, and purchase frequency. Crucially, our service is also risk-free –partners receive the full purchase price up-front excluding a commission while their customers enjoy paying over time. The entire organization was built from the ground-up during COVID-19, offering seamless payments and facilities in a market that was quickly shifting its focus towards FinTech and the future of payments, so we have always prioritized careful and sustainable growth. In the two years since launch, we have quickly grown from Saudi Arabia to the UAE, with millions of customers and more than 3,500 merchants using our services. Kuwait as a market is a logical extension for us and the next step in Tamara’s growth journey.
What has been the reception of this model in Kuwait compared to other markets that Tamara operates in?
Financial literacy is an important component of what we do. For Kuwait and the greater GCC region, the concept of saving is important, so we want to educate our customers while also widening access to the latest payments products. For example, if one receives a specific amount of cash or income every month, they can start saving and utilize Tamara as a way to support their long-term financial goals. We must work to educate the market, and the youth will pick up on this quickly once they start utilizing our platform. We are also proud to be sharia compliant. Looking at the banks in the Kuwaiti market specifically, those that are capturing new segments and target audiences are Islamic sharia banks. For example, Boubyan Bank has done a fantastic job in capturing the youth and promoting the concept of Islamic sharia as something which is cool and tech savvy.
What is your assessment of the fintech regulations in Kuwait, and how do they help Tamara develop its operations?
At Tamara, we work very closely with governments to not only benefit from existing initiatives, but also to help shape the future of regulation in the fast-moving payments industry. For example, Tamara started in Saudi Arabia and acquired a license to operate as part of the FinTech regulatory sandbox, and we did the same thing in the UAE – this has been critical to our success. In Kuwait, there are many FinTech companies on the rise, and the start-up scene is booming. It is still a young landscape with significant opportunities. The players that come into the market post COVID-19 and manage to gain a solid foothold in the market will see success in the region in the next five to 10 years. There are many great examples of start-ups, such as Floward, which was initiated in Kuwait and grew internationally. That is a successful and great example of the start-up scene in Kuwait.
How would you distinguish Tamara from its competitors in the payment and fintech sectors?
We recently fully established and incorporated a company on the ground and plan to go live soon with our full operations in Kuwait. We are ahead of the game in terms of the competition. On the merchant side, our unique partnership approach emphasizes growing together and offering an unparalleled level of support to every business that works with us, whether they are a multinational retailer or small e-commerce startup. Something else that distinguishes us is the combined experience of our team. We have more than 50 nationalities working in Tamara, with more than 200 employees globally. We work on a hybrid model whereby most of our teams work remotely, and some go to the offices. Being a youth-driven company, we know what we need and aspire to deliver that.
How important is Kuwait to Tamara’s global portfolio of operations?
A payments player that is strong, understands the market, can support, facilitate, and provide different products for the market, and actively supports different communities is key for a strong post-COVID-19 recovery in Kuwait. We hope to be that player and take care of all needs and all segments of Kuwaiti society.
What trends do you see driving BNPL forward in the region, particularly in Kuwait?
The trend will grow toward having fast cash disposal in your hand and a seamless experience whereby payment platforms can immediately onboard and facilitate customers. We facilitate this by having a quick KYC process online and a seamless operation for the customer to click and get their item as soon as possible without any friction.
What are Tamara’s priorities for the next six to nine months?
We see ourselves as a win-win solution for all segments of society, whether it is the customer or the merchant getting more revenues, especially at times where customers are not spending as much as they used to. We offer flexibility to our employees with a remote work model, we are conscious of their lifestyle and want them be happy. We aspire to support society and promote financial literacy to all segments, particularly the youth graduating from university. We want to instill the concept that they need to save money for a rainy day – Tamara can be their support system to purchase low-ticket items. We aim for a long-term presence within the market, and would like to work with local universities in Kuwait to facilitate and provide courses, lectures, and workshops on financial literacy. We seek to work with the government and private sector to identify areas to bolster financially conscious spending and defining a framework that supports innovation in Kuwait. I strongly believe in Tamara’s mission, and that is why I decided to join the company. As a team we aim to support the economies and societies and educate our customers.
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