"It's Going To Be Much Easier To Be An SME" - Payfort Acquires White Payments The July acquisition of White Payments by Payfort has all the signs of becoming a huge turning point in the MENA's somewhat blossoming e-commerce industry.

By Kareem Chehayeb

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The July acquisition of White Payments by Payfort has all the signs of becoming a huge turning point in the MENA's somewhat blossoming e-commerce industry. Payfort's presence in the region has been growing extensively, but its client-base has mostly been in larger businesses and institutions. But startups won't feel left out for long, now that they have acquired White Payments, whose key selling point is the simple and quick setup process for startups and small businesses.

For both PayFort Managing Director Omar Soudodi and White Payments founder Yazin Alirhayim, the deal was something that was incredibly beneficial for both parties. I spoke to both Soudodi and Alirhayim to find out more about what entrepreneurs across the MENA region can expect out of the acquisition. With Payfort's wider presence in the MENA region, White's startup and SME-friendly platform could now perhaps make its way to more entrepreneurs than previously envisioned- as Alirhayim himself put it: "It's going to be much easier to be an SME."

Tell us about how the deal between White and PayFort. Why do you say it was beneficial for both parties?

Soudodi: I had started hearing about White [a lot]- I met Yazin at events, such as ArabNet, Wamda and more. I also started hearing about White from clients, merchants, and people telling me we should always bring in White, because of their platform for startups. Integration is simple, and the process is overall straightforward.

Payfort has always been dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs. However, the way we set up wasn't very startup friendly. So, it might make sense to have a team within the organization whose sole purpose is to solve the payment problem for startups.

Alirhayim: Payfort is phenomenal at handling larger merchants: airlines, governments- all sorts of crazy large merchants. But the same process doesn't exactly apply to smaller merchants. This is something we're very good at. This [deal] allows Payfort to span the entire spectrum, and as startups grow, they can still operate within Payfort.

For White, we see this as an opportunity to leverage banking relationships that Payfort already has in the region, and grow faster than we would have been able to do alone.

So does this mean we're going to see Payfort's presence ramped up across the region?

Soudodi: You'll definitely see Payfort ramp up its presence in the entire GCC very soon. We're looking at Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait. There's Jordan and Lebanon as well. Of course some markets will be launched closer than others- end of this year, early next quarter, etc. Expect some announcements after Eid.

Has there been any tweaking with branding, now that White's on board?

Soudodi: Branding is something we're still working on. Over the past couple of weeks and for next few weeks, we'll be going through a lot of integration workshops for both teams- not only for the startup proposition, but for other propositions too. This is in order to be consistent on communication with potential merchants. We've also been working internally on how to categorize merchants, whether it's a startup or [any] other kind of enterprise.

Alirhayim: There are two primary parts to that. There is the "technology side," which is the migration process to Payfort. Then there is the "process side," which are all these internal processes. Everything's happening in parallel, and we should have things wrapped up in a matter of weeks.

Kareem Chehayeb

Former Columnist & Online Liaison, Entrepreneur Middle East

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