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Unlocking Potential: Raj Brahmbhatt, Founder, Zeebu Raj Brahmbhatt, founder and CEO of UAE-based blockchain loyalty token platform Zeebu, believes his startup can positively shape the future of the global telecom industry

By Aalia Mehreen Ahmed Edited by Aby Sam Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Zeebu
Raj Brahmbhatt, Founder, Zeebu.

In most parts of the world today, the day-today endeavors of the average person are dependent on the services offered by telecom companies, from internet connections to mobile connectivity. But while many customers unassumingly enjoy the speed and quality of such services, there has been one persistent financial bottleneck within the global telecom industry that has often threatened to slow down its growth: delayed transaction payments between carriers and operators, and the many repercussions that come with it. It was thus to address these issues that Raj Brahmbhatt launched Zeebu in July 2023 as a B2B blockchain loyalty token platform that eases the settlement process for telecom operators and carriers. "We've been developing this solution to cut down transaction times dramatically -from days to seconds- while ensuring greater transparency, significantly lower fees, and minimal FX conversion losses," Brahmbhatt reveals. "At Zeebu, we leverage blockchain to transform telecom payment systems into something significantly more efficient and reliable, aiming to complete transactions in as little as 30 seconds -and at most 10 minutes- thereby transforming the way telecom companies around the world handle their financial operations."

Like many entrepreneurs, Brahmbhatt's inspiration to launch his own venture stemmed from personally witnessing the aforementioned problems firsthand. This was courtesy the work he did as a financial analyst at Bankai Group, a Singapore-headquartered telecom investment company that Brahmbhatt's family has run for over three decades. "In my role within my family's business, I was directly confronted with several chronic issues that plague the industry: delays in settlements, lack of transparency, high transaction fees, and substantial losses due to foreign exchange (FX) conversion," Brahmbhatt recalls. "These challenges were not just operational nuisances but significant barriers to growth and efficiency, in both developed and emerging markets. For example, settlements could take up to 96 hours in some regions, and even up to 16 days in others, often compounded by restricted access to major currencies like the US dollar and the euro, which are crucial for global telecom trade. Furthermore, each transaction required approvals from central governments or banks, adding another layer of delay and opacity."

Here, Brahmbhatt notes that while his personal background in finance certainly made him choose blockchain as the base technology for his business idea, there were also some encouraging developments in this space that strengthened his resolve. "I noticed that many companies were open to adopting blockchain technology for its utility beyond just speculation, specifically using stablecoins to avoid market volatility," he says. "This real-world need and willingness for innovation drove me to start Zeebu."

According to Brahmbhatt, by becoming a part of the Zeebu ecosystem, telecom merchants can override the many stalemates that traditional financial institutions can create. "When a telecom carrier joins Zeebu, the process begins with an essential onboarding phase that includes compliance with know-your-customer (KYC) standards to ensure security and transparency," Brahmbhatt explains. "The carrier then purchases Zeebu tokens to start transacting within the platform. These tokens facilitate quick, secure international payments, reducing reliance on traditional banking systems, and lowering transaction costs and times. Zeebu's platform is also designed for ease of integration with existing payment models, allowing carriers to seamlessly transition without disruptive changes to their operations. As carriers conduct transactions, they earn loyalty rewards in Zeebu tokens, which can be used to reduce future transaction fees, or converted into fiat currency. Continuous support from Zeebu ensures that carriers can integrate and use the system effectively, enhancing their payment processes and operational efficiency."

Raj Brahmbhatt, Founder, Zeebu. Source: Zeebu

Now, it should come as no real surprise that once telecom companies can achieve quicker settlement times, improved liquidity and better cash flow management are a direct result. But consider the implications of Zeebu unlocking such opportunities in an industry that, as per PwC's Global Telecom Outlook 2023-2027 report, requires "significant investment—of time, money, strategic thinking and resources" if it is to achieve greater innovation. The same report also notes that global telecom firms are now part of a landscape where an increasing cost of capital poses significant challenges. In this regard, Zeebu's blockchain-powered platform stands to offer some much needed respite. "With Zeebu, carriers no longer have to chase payments or wait for funds to reflect in their accounts," Brahmbhatt explains. "Transactions are settled almost instantaneously, freeing up capital that can be reinvested into the business more quickly. This enhanced liquidity is vital for maintaining operational continuity and supporting expansion efforts in these dynamic markets. By addressing these challenges, Zeebu significantly boosts operational efficiency and financial agility for telecom carriers."

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In Zeebu's ability to offer such financial empowerment, Brahmbhatt says his startup's service has wide-reaching implications for the overall telecom space. "By utilizing Zeebu's blockchain-powered services, telecom carriers benefit from several key advantages beyond just time savings," Brahmbhatt continues. "The removal of intermediaries significantly cuts transaction fees, directly reducing operational costs. The platform's enhanced transparency and security features reduce disputes and accelerate resolutions, fostering trust among network participants. This increased trust encourages more carriers to join and actively participate in the ecosystem. Instantaneous transaction settlements improve carriers' liquidity, enabling them to manage their cash flow more effectively and allocate resources efficiently. Overall, Zeebu's platform supports the creation of a more cohesive and robust network, allowing carriers to collaborate with greater ease and reduced operational friction, leading to a more streamlined and responsive telecommunications industry."

Having thus set its primary target market as pretty much the global telecom wholesale industry, Brahmbhatt says Zeebu has adopted a model that will allow it to cater to otherwise financially underserved segments too. "Geographically, our platform is designed to serve a global clientele, with a special focus on emerging markets where traditional banking and payment infrastructures are less developed, and the need for efficient, cost-effective transaction solutions is most acute," he adds. "This global reach is supported by our blockchain infrastructure, which allows for rapid scaling across different regions without the need for extensive physical infrastructure."

It is this inclination to encompass all types of telecom companies that could potentially prove to be a particularly supportive tool for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in this space- especially in a country like the UAE where SMEs account for over 63.5% of the country's non-oil gross domestic product (as per a 2023 report by the UAE Ministry of Economy). "One significant advantage is the accessibility of the system, which does not require extensive infrastructure to join," Brahmbhatt adds. "This democratizes access to the telecom market, allowing smaller players in the Lucia's UAE and the Middle East to compete on a more level playing field with larger corporations. Overall, Zeebu provides a combination of security, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness that can be particularly transformative for SMEs in the telecommunications sector in the UAE and broader Middle East, enabling these businesses to innovate and expand in ways that were previously challenging due to traditional constraints."

Raj Brahmbhatt, Founder, Zeebu. Source: Zeebu

Now, amid this discourse detailing Zeebu's pursuits, it is tempting to bring up Brahmbhatt's first interaction with Entrepreneur Middle East -in May 2023 at the inaugural Dubai Fintech Summit, an event organized by UAE-based onshore financial hub Dubai International Financial Center- when the founder was just on the cusp of launching his startup. Back then, Brahmbhatt had lamented that while the token economy on the blockchain was picking pace, there was often no real utility attached to them. Nearly a year after that conversation took place, the founder has ensured that he hasn't just talked the talk, but walked it too. "Since our discussion at the Fintech Summit in Dubai last year, the blockchain space has certainly seen phenomenal evolution, particularly with emerging concepts like asset tokenization, real world assets (RWA), and decentralized physical infrastructure networks (DePIN)," he notes. "These developments signify a growing industry awareness and readiness to drive real-world impacts. But despite these being relatively new and still developing, Zeebu holds a strategic advantage as a first mover with a solution that offers real utility. In terms of growth, we are extremely pleased. In June 2023, we had announced a goal of completing US$1.5 billion in transactions within 12 months. And I'm ecstatic to announce that we have already surpassed this milestone well ahead of our roadmap- having gained trust from over 100 active telecom carriers, and successfully settling nearly 20,000 invoices with a daily settlement volume now over $20 million. This success underscores not only the practical utility of Zeebu's token but also our effective execution and growing influence in the regional blockchain industry."

Unsurprisingly, Brahmbhatt then adds that staying attuned to the latest trends within blockchain has been an innate part of the Zeebu company culture. "At Zeebu, we are deeply engaged with the latest innovations in blockchain technology, particularly the advancements in bitcoin infrastructure and liquidity protocols," he says. "These developments are crucial, they unlock value and bring more liquidity to the market. The Bitcoin infrastructure is undergoing significant expansion with the introduction of Bitcoin Layer 2, ordinals, and BTCfi, among other developments. The primary objective of these innovations is to unlock the idle capital within the largest blockchain networks and channel it into the market, thereby enhancing liquidity. In-line with these technological advances, we are transitioning to a more decentralized payment protocol structure. This shift is a strategic move toward empowering our community and stakeholders, transforming them from passive participants into active contributors within our ecosystem. These initiatives are crucial for achieving our vision of becoming as decentralized as possible, and establishing a truly democratized, user-centric payment network."

As the Zeebu team now gears up for a promising 2024, Brahmbhatt has firmly set his sights set on creating impact over a much longer timeframe. "As the founder and CEO of Zeebu, my vision for the company's legacy is to fundamentally transform how transactions are handled globally," he declares. "Specifically, we are targeting to surpass $14 billion in transaction volume over the next year. Additionally, we aim to capture at least 66% of the transaction volume in the telecom carrier segment within the next five years, potentially exceeding $80 billion. The impact I hope for Zeebu to have is to enable telecom businesses, particularly SMEs, to thrive in an increasingly digital economy by reducing barriers to entry. By driving broader Web3 adoption, Zeebu intends to lead a shift towards more decentralized and utility driven application of blockchain technology across various sectors. Ultimately, the legacy I envision is Zeebu being pivotal in creating a more inclusive and efficient global marketplace, leveraging blockchain technology to deliver lasting benefits to users and stakeholders worldwide."

Related: Committed To Success: Farah Zafar, Co-Founder And CEO, Lyvely

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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