As sectors of the global economy become progressively intertwined and interdependent, the need has grown for ways to connect businesses in developed countries with contract workers in the developing world. The goal of London-based e-commerce platform provider Payza is to bridge that gap with online ecosystems localized to the areas where workers receive their pay.
"We play a very strong bridging role between the developed markets and the emerging markets and facilitating e-commerce between the two," said Alastair Graham, the new Chief Executive Officer of Payza. "That's our mindset. We generally believe that we're a global company that has a local outlook."
As an example Graham gave a U.S. corporation that contracts with a freelancer in Chenai, India, to work on website development. "We see our role is to make that [relationship] as seamless as possible," he said.
Payza has set up networks in 197 countries and deals in over 20 international currencies – a breadth and scope that rivals PayPal Inc., Graham noted. Payza supports over 75,000 merchants and has over 9 million end users (called "members" by Payza), with 8,000 new members joining daily, for 300 percent growth over the last three years.
Information technology (IT) professionals comprise Payza's main membership base. "You have all of these highly educated people who have these outsourcing skills who just need to get paid," Graham said.
Payza was formerly AlertPay Inc. MH Pillars Ltd., a U.K. provider of white-labeled prepaid card solutions, acquired AlertPay in April 2012 and relaunched it as Payza in May. Among its global operations is an implementation in Bangladesh.
Of a population of over 150 million in the South Asian nation, Payza has targeted the country's 10,000 freelance IT workers. Their combined yearly income is $10 million in a total remittance market of $11 billion. The payments infrastructure in Bangladesh is not advanced. Therefore, wire transfers can be costly, corporate prepaid cards can include high fees and check payments involve lengthy mailing delays, Payza said.
Payza integrated with the recently instituted Bangladesh Electronic Fund Transfer Network by partnering with Bank Asia Ltd. Payza then set up a local presence, involving sales, marketing and customer support, by teaming with Bangladesh's version of an ISO, Casada Technology Bangladesh Ltd. Finally, Payza deployed a dedicated online payment gateway that facilitates payments from businesses in the developed world to their IT freelancers.
Since Payza Bangladesh went live in February 2012, Payza has seen member enrollment grow by 30 percent, the number of transactions processed over the network increase by 26 percent and the total volume of payments expand by 20 percent.
Graham said the secret to Payza's success in Bangladesh is understanding the market and what types of services fit the needs of its members. "It's not just about, can somebody in that country get paid," he said. "Because that might mean somebody having to travel 10 hours to go to a U.S. bank in the capitol to get their money, or it could mean just traveling to the nearest town or the nearest ATM to get paid. So the detail is key here."
Payza has also created a kind of closed-loop, restricted access network of local Bangladesh merchants where the IT workers can transact online using their Payza e-wallets. "The wallet itself enables them to have money under their control," Graham said. "Still, they can only make local transactions through that wallet to other merchants in Bangladesh that also accept that wallet. It makes it possible for them to receive internationally and pay locally and never actually leave the wallet environment."
Graham believes that Payza will become firmly integrated into the payments infrastructure of places like Bangladesh and broaden its role as a financial services provider. Payza is already making plans to extend its services, in the form of cash remittances and Payza-issued prepaid cards, to the general Bangladesh citizenry, which is overwhelmingly unbanked.
Using its Bangladesh implementation as a template, Payza expects to expand into other emerging markets with large unbanked populations, including India, the Philippines, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
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