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TAQADAM Tales: Fintech Startup Boonus Is Aiming To Dominate The Loyalty Program Market In Saudi Arabia Launched in July 2020, Boonus is a fintech company that specializes in providing loyalty and rewards programs by enabling retailers and merchants to curate their own loyalty solutions.

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Yahia Battach and Abdul Rahman Jami, co-founders, Boonus

Since its inception in 2016, the TAQADAM Startup Accelerator, a program powered by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in collaboration with Riyadh-based Saudi British Bank, has been able to boast of providing a nurturing environment for many successful startups. TAQADAM Tales is a series of success stories of six such businesses, and through these, what is made evident is TAQADAM's secret for success, which seems to be a combination of the best of technological advancements and mentorship, with a keen focus on building a sense of community within Saudi Arabia's entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Launched in July 2020 by Abdulrahman Jami and Yahia Battach, Boonus is a fintech company that specializes in providing loyalty and rewards programs by enabling retailers and merchants to curate their own loyalty solutions. "By using Boonus, retailers can have their own loyalty programs, run it the way they want, create campaigns, get to know their clients, and get more insights about their customers and clients," explains CEO Jami. "It is dedicated for small- to medium-sized businesses, particularly restaurants, cafes, and entertainment outlets."

When Jami and Battach joined TAQADAM in June 2020, they'd initially had the plan of creating a links and quick response (QR) code platform. That plan was quickly redefined with the help of the mentors at TAQADAM. "We had to pivot and come up with something easy for the customers to understand and clients to get, and a service that actually provided them with benefits," explains Jami. But while the business plan changed owing to the COVID-19 crisis, Boonus CTO Battach notes that the startup wasn't keen on catering to retailers that already had an online presence anyway. "We weren't really focusing on the e-commerce sector, because our initial thought was about how we can help local retailers who have physical stores sell in this pandemic," he adds. Notably, this also entailed saying "no" to the rising demand that came in from some already established online businesses.

Abdul Rahman Jami, co-founder and CEO, Boonus. Source: Boonus

It is perhaps this forthright approach that helped Jami and Battach despite the many struggles they had to face early on- a phase in which TAQADAM's impact was majorly felt. "What I sensed back then was that every time I thought we were going to hit a wall, they'd give us a new direction and we wouldn't hit the wall," adds Battach. "Haitham Alhumsi, TAQADAM's Online Learning Manager, was our own one-to-one mentor, and he was available for us at any time of the day or night to answer questions. It was amazing!" And it is this mentorship that the duo continues to be grateful for even as Boonus recently got acquired by Saudi digital gifting company Resal- a move they believe will help them achieve their entrepreneurial dreams much quicker.

Yahia Battach, co-founder and CTO, Boonus. Source: Boonus

"Our vision matches very well with that of Resal's," explains Jami. "They were planning to add loyalty programs in the future, but we came up with a ready-to-use loyalty solution. So, right now we are trying to create a unique ecosystem of loyalty, gift cards, and prepaid cards to become one big fintech company in the future. The way we see it, we are going to dominate the market with our services, and we're going to change how people look at loyalty."

Battach says they're only on the cusp of what they truly want to achieve from this point onwards. "It was amazing to have this M&A," he says. "Who can believe that you can achieve your exit just over a year into your entrepreneurial journey? So, we are now working on a lot of things that we want to bring to the region from a technology perspective. Stay tuned!"

Related: TAQADAM Tales: Biotech Startup Wayakit Is Creating Organic, Non-Toxic Products That Will Help Make Travel Safer

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

Features Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed is the Features Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East.

She is an MBA (Finance) graduate with past experience in the corporate sector, and was also co-founder of CyberSWIFTT- an anti-cyberbullying campaign that ran from 2017-2018 as part of the e7: Daughters of the Emirates program.

Ahmed is particularly keen on writing stories involving people-centric leadership, female-owned startups, and entrepreneurs who've beaten significant odds to realize their goals.

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