Telr's effort to provide what it considers the ultimate online payment solution in the e-commerce wars has received the financial support it needs. The company recently announced Series A funding from iMena and Hatcher, investing from the Middle East and Singapore. Telr's vision goes beyond the Middle East and North Africa. Founder Elias Ghanem, who has work experience with PayPal MENA, PayPal South East Asia and India, and Visa Inc., has established a Telr hub in Singapore, in addition to one in Dubai. The end goal? An efficient payment gateway that is not only multilingual but also multi-currency, all while sustaining good cash flow. Ghanem's ideal alternative to COD transcends borders, hence including South East Asia and certain emerging markets in Africa are in Telr's scope. Telr has a lot on their plate, but Ghanem and co. are confident that they'll make a positive impact. While one may suspect that their presence in the Middle East won't be as prominent as some of their competitors, it's important to take note of them; after all, their vision looks like a sound one in the long run.
Do you believe as a payment solutions startup founder who had significant regional and international connections that you had more access to strong capital injections than others in the same space? Is that a reality for most MENA startups?
Fundraising is a complex art and science. It takes more than regional and international connections to attract serious investors. What has worked well for Telr is the combination of a strong and highly-skilled team; a very solid and versatile payment solution adapted to SMEs and the geographical scope we want to play in: all emerging markets across Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. Any company looking to raise funds must be truly solving a need in the market, have a vision and a strong execution roadmap driven by a well-prepared team.
What do you suggest is needed to generate more MENA awareness in the e-commerce space? What steps can be taken from government perspective?
Many things are required to raise the e-commerce awareness, but let me start by saying that I am very optimistic as you see more and more ads on billboards and newspapers promoting online merchants. The single most important factor for e-commerce growth is the supply: the more merchants sell their goods and services online, the more consumers will get used to comparing the online offers to the ones in stores. Which brings me to the second important factor for awareness which is demand: currently few people can shop online using their credit card. The population shopping online must increase beyond the people with a card, to include the banking population -through direct debit from bank account- and the cash population. We, at Telr, are working on all these streams. The third element to increase awareness is to eradicate Cash On Delivery (COD). At Telr, we strongly believe that online goes hand in hand with modern payment options. COD kills the growth of e-commerce and has disappeared from all mature markets, why not here?
In your opinion, when do you think we can expect mass adoption of e-commerce in MENA?
It is happening every day, slowly but surely. Mobile adoption, social media ongoing engagement and connectivity are enablers to e-commerce. At Telr, our payments options consider online, mobile and social media payment solutions so our merchants can cater to each type of buyer. The e-commerce revolution has started... it only needs to be enabled and supported, and Telr is here for that!