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Gateway To Growth: Here's How Saudi Arabia-Based Tamam Is Reshaping The Kingdom's Micro-Financing Landscape A look at how the first fintech company in KSA to receive a license for consumer micro-financing from the Saudi Central Bank is ensuring that diverse populations receive financial services on an equal footing.

By Aalia Mehreen Ahmed Edited by Aby Sam Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Yousef Al Musaileem, CEO, Tamam

In the world of business, there is usually a tone of impressiveness that accompanies the mention of any first-mover in this realm. And that's the narrative that accompanies Tamam, the fintech arm of Saudi Arabia-based telecommunications provider Zain KSA, which, in 2021, became the first fintech company in the Kingdom to receive a license for consumer micro-financing from the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA).

"Tamam was conceived with the ambition of becoming the leading one-stop shop for financial services in Saudi Arabia, seamlessly integrating with the fast-paced digital lifestyle of today's consumers," says Yousef Al Musaileem, CEO of Tamam. "As the fintech arm of Zain KSA, Tamam's establishment within Zain KSA's ecosystem was motivated by a clear strategy to expand into adjacent markets, and tap new areas of growth. The overarching goal is to drive the local fintech sector by pioneering a homegrown innovative financial services platform, tailored to the growing needs of Saudi Arabia. Within this framework, our vision and center of gravity are focused on evolving and enriching the digital customer experience."

With an aim to be known as the "vanguard of the fintech revolution," Tamam has thus been built as a platform that offers quick, easy and secure short-term financing solutions that not just promise instant approval processes, but are also Shari'ah compliant. These solutions are available on a mobile app -available to download on both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store- as well as on its official website. "Our main services include micro-loans and installment financing options, all designed to empower consumers and support them to fulfill their financial needs," Al Musaileem explains. "By leveraging cutting-edge technology, Tamam's mission is to ensure seamless and inclusive access to financial services, with a particular focus on servicing employees of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) through digital micro-finance services. Tamam also focuses on enhancing the e-commerce sector through our integrated micro-lending solutions."

While Tamam has been curated to ensure financial inclusion for a wide cross-section of consumers who have had limited access to monetary support, there has been one particular group whose access to financial services is found wanting: the aforementioned MSME sector. "One significant pain point we've identified is the limited access to finance, particularly among employees of small and medium-sized enterprises, who often face challenges in swiftly obtaining necessary documentation like salary certificates," Al Musaileem notes. "Open banking solutions are vital to ensure these segments are reached and adequately supported. At Tamam, we address this by offering a streamlined, document-free, and entirely digital application process. This innovation ensures that individuals can secure financial products without the bureaucratic hurdles of traditional banking, emphasizing our commitment to accessibility and immediacy. Our platform's ability to provide instant approval around the clock, with funds available within 24 hours, is crucial for those in need of rapid financial assistance. Tamam is also leveraging partnerships as part of our dedication to meeting the immediate needs of customers through efficient microfinance solutions."

Source: Tamam

According to Al Musaileem, it is Tamam's digital approach -and the ease of access it creates- that has accentuated the other advantages offered by the fintech platform. "Tamam stands out in the market with our focus on 100% digital on-boarding and instant approvals," Al Musaileem notes. "We offer hassle-free financing solutions tailored to meet the diverse needs of consumers. The purchase financing service simplifies the user's e-commerce needs, offering them a seamless digital experience to finance their installments. This solution also provides users the flexibility to select repayment options spanning up to 24 months. The cash financing service ensures accessibility and convenience through a simple digital process and similar repayment terms. Both services are Sharia-compliant. Tamam engages with consumers through a mobile app that has achieved a start-to-finish cycle time of less than two minutes for consumers to complete the application process and receive approval."

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In its quest to keep improving the end users' journey, in 2023, the company also entered into strategic partnerships with two MENA-centric open banking platforms: Tarabut Gateway and Lean Technologies. "At Tamam, we're expanding and scaling up our financial services with open banking, and utilizing artificial intelligence, to improve customer experiences," Al Musaileem adds. "We're particularly excited about open banking's role in enhancing service accessibility, especially for segments like freelancers, who have been largely overlooked. By leveraging alternative data for credit scoring available through open banking, we aim to better serve the underbanked, driving financial inclusivity across the Kingdom with a more personalized approach. This focus not only aligns with our mission, but also positions us at the forefront of financial innovation. The collaborations [with Tarabut Gateway and Lean Technologies] will thus enable Tamam to expand our service offerings, potentially including financing solutions for freelancers."

At this point, it should perhaps come as no surprise that a large part of Tamam's pursuits lie in creating an equitable micro-financing ecosystem that -according to a report by Allied Market Research, a global provider of market reports, analytics, and consulting services- is set to reach US$1.68 billion by 2031, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.4% . "As an integral part of Zain KSA's diversification approach, we are also driven by a clear-cut sustainability vision that prioritizes societal well-being and serves as a cornerstone for realizing the ambitious national goals," Al Musaileem notes. "And so, by ensuring that individuals from all walks of life have equitable access to essential financial services, we can contribute to improving the quality of life across the Kingdom. This aligns with Zain KSA's focus on harnessing innovation to empower people and drive sustainable growth."

Al Musaileem is also quick to highlight that Tamam's solutions also directly contribute towards Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia's national plan to create a "vibrant, thriving, and ambitious society, economy, and nation by 2030". Indeed, while Tamam may have received the license from SAMA in 2021, the entity was actually officially launched in 2019 with a clear vision to address Saudi Vision 2030's Financial Sector Development Program (FDSP)- an initiative which aims to increase financial inclusion in the Kingdom and develop digital solutions for the same. "We thus ensure our solutions are accessible, transparent, and inclusive, aligning with the nation's FSDP, formally approved by the Council of Economic and Development Affairs on May 9, 2018," Al Musaileem adds. "The FSDP, a cornerstone of Saudi Vision 2030, aims to develop a diversified and effective financial sector, enhancing its contribution to the national economy and promoting income diversification, savings, and investment opportunities."

Source: Tamam

The first noteworthy indication of Tamam's commitment to the FDSP came through the fintech enterprise's participation at the SAMA Regulatory Sandbox, a 1.5-year-long program that offers a live testing environment for financial and fintech companies as well as startups to test new business models and concepts in the market with real consumers within a specific period. In fact, Tamam receiving the honor of becoming the first fintech with a SAMA license to provide micro-financing services came in the aftermath of this 18-month-long scrutinous journey.

"From 2019 to 2020, our 18 months within the SAMA Regulatory Sandbox allowed us to intricately navigate the multifaceted regulatory environment, aligning our innovative business model with the stringent requirements of the new microfinance license," Al Musaileem recalls. "The process involved testing the app and the service for functionality, security, and compatibility with customer user profiles in Saudi Arabia. The platform displayed high product viability and strong demand throughout testing. This rigorous adaptation process not only enhanced our service offerings, but also established our commitment to adhering to the highest financial industry standards. Culminating in a milestone achievement, Tamam was honored to receive the first consumer micro-financing license from SAMA and a subsequent Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS) accreditation [a cybersecurity standard backed by all the major credit card and payment processing companies], enabling us to launch full-scale operations as a trailblazer in offering instant micro-lending solutions."

It has been this sense of validation received from SAMA, as well as its foundational vision to align with Saudi Vision 2030, that has defined Tamam's journey so far- and if Al Musaileem's plans for the future are anything to go by, these elements will certainly continue to dictate the enterprise's upcoming endeavors too. "As a subsidiary of Zain KSA, Tamam is committed to leading the digital transformation of financial services, ensuring inclusivity, transparency, and security," he declares. "The Kingdom has a growing fintech sector, driven by remarkable expansion due to several factors, including the tech-savvy nature of the young community, and the rising e-commerce demand. We aim to catalyze the growth of this promising fintech market, delivering to our customers the right products at the right time. Additionally, Tamam's leading position within the Saudi fintech industry will position us within the lead of the regional fintech ecosystem. Central to our success is the robust digital application program interface (API) ecosystem fostered by SAMA and supportive government initiatives over recent years, which has been instrumental in propelling us to the forefront of digital finance. Moreover, the dedication and ingenuity of our team have been pivotal in demonstrating that fintech innovation originating from Saudi Arabia can compete on a regional and global stage, underscoring our commitment to excellence and the broader potential of the Kingdom's fintech sector. Backed by Zain KSA's continuous investment in technology and talent and our leading partnerships, Tamam seeks to create a lasting legacy of positive change and progress in the fintech landscape in Saudi Arabia and beyond."

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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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