Finja dares to challenge Pakistani banks and telcos with free digital transactions

Qasif Shahid Founder & CEO at FinJa talks about SIMSIM
Qasif Shahid Founder & CEO at FinJa. Image: MIT Pakistan
Qasif Shahid Founder & CEO at FinJa talks about SIMSIM
Qasif Shahid Founder & CEO at Finja. Image: MIT Review Pakistan

Mobile digital payment is not a newer term in Pakistan, but it is far from a real success story in a country like Pakistan where more than 80% of the population don’t have access to conventional and mobile banking even today. People have this habit of relying extensively on cash payments for everyday need, and there could be multiple reasons for not making it a part of their lives. Even the bigger mobile banking players of likes JazzCash and Easypay have on their balance sheets a significant contribution of paper based money transactions. The e-commerce websites heavily bank on cash on delivery.

Thanks to less than desired attention from the government that has kept us away from establishing a proper financial gateway in the country and dearth of financial players who can only believe in the digital way of executing things.

SimSim

However, the situation is not as hopeless as it sounds. At a recent Lahore Eat food festival, we happened to experience the digital transactions occurring among the buyers and sellers of food items under a pilot project of Finja, SimSim. The company is a technology partner for branchless banking solutions of a relatively smaller US-based microfinance bank Finca.

Since it was a pilot activity and Finja is yet to receive a proper license for this digital way of transactions from the State Bank of Pakistan, the service was limited in certain ways. If you want to see how it works and what was the user’s feedback, check out the following video;

Using SimSim mobile application was just a matter of holding your smartphone in your hand and scanning the QR Code at the registered sellers’ payment counter. With two or three clicks, we saw people paying digitally for the eatables at the event. There were few cases when people had difficulty in making payments due to one technical reason or the other including the availability of mobile data service.

At a three days event in Lahore, the idea that a bank account can be opened so seamlessly and within minutes through a smartphone was very novel for everyone present. It took us 42 seconds to open our account.

According to Finja, it accommodated more than 6000 transactions during the festival which for them is encouraging.

“It’s a new way of making payments in Pakistan, and we must realize that it is the future of shopping. The percentage of smartphone users is increasing rapidly in Pakistan, and in 3 years we estimate that 100 million people will use a smartphone of any denomination and this is where the prospects are”, commented Qasif Shahid, the CEO of Finja who looked curious at the event while seeing people using SIM SIM app for making transactions.

“It’s a pilot activity for which State Bank has permitted us, and soon we are expected to get a formal approval for the commercial launch of our digital payment solution,” added Qasif.

As of today, SimSim app at the Google Play shows that some 10,000 users have already downloaded the app. We can make a guess that 50% of them would be active users; however, the company might claim a different number at this stage which they did in an email to MORE News, but we are not convinced since they haven’t launched the Wallet commercially. It is a Mobile Wallet which is very similar to the bank account that one can maintain with a bank however the difference lies at the execution level which is entirely digital and above all, without any processing charges.

Finja believes that there is no need to charge a person for sending and receiving money which belongs to him.

“The money belongs to the customer, and we shouldn’t’ charge him for transacting it simply because we are running the system. In actual, the transaction charges are one of the major bottlenecks in the way of e-commerce revolution in Pakistan, and we must not walk in the footsteps of other banks which are earning billions out of transaction charges and becoming a hindrance themselves in the way of paperless economy”, Qasif said.

State Bank has already announced that it will draft e-commerce policy this year to attract foreign investment. In this budding environment, SimSim can further facilitate this market with an efficient digital payment system.

Digital Receipts

SimSim mobile application is not just limited to sending and receiving payments but offers an entirely new method of handling our everyday cash transactions.

Whether you’re paying to a street vendor or buying some expensive jewelry, SimSim can remove the hassle of keeping the stack of paper money at all times.

We make tens if not hundreds of small transactions every day where keeping track of every cent we have spent can be exhausting, but the app offers users the added convenience of keeping track of all of their money with the digital receipts.

Public can Lend and Invest Money

SimSim is more than a payment solution as it can add value to the society. If you’re a small merchant or a simple man who doesn’t have too much in his possession to qualify for the extensive bank loan criteria, you can always count on your fellow Pakistanis using P2P (person to person) lending.

Pakistanis surely spend a small amount of money giving alms to the beggars or giving charity. Through SimSim, people can lend money to the most deserving ones by looking at their income and spending displayed on the mobile app, ensuring that he/she truly needs help.

The mobile wallet can also help securing bank loans as all your transaction are recorded, and one can show the complete cash statement including how much he/she owns in contrast to how much they spend.

SimSim is creating a digital stock exchange where the public can come together and invest in any small business. Whether a person is a street vendor or a rickshaw driver, they can get the required money which they’ll have to pay back and failing to do so will result in bad ratings.

Finja is a team of nearly 70 people headed by Qasif Shahid who has a financial background and Monis Rehman (the owner of Rozee.pk and Naseeb). The company hopes for the future where e-commerce will be free for all, leading Pakistanis into a digital cashless society.

If it’s Free, what’s the business case for Finja?

Although the services and transactions are free, however, Finja plans to build a business case by investing people’s money in various projects. The company will also drive benefit from studying the user generated data regarding how they spend their money. This will lead to the better and innovative financial technologies (FinTechs) that can help the e-commerce industry flourish in Pakistan.

To a question, if it’s free for the consumer, what response they are expecting from the rival companies? Shahid responded that if SIM SIM becomes a success story, the deep-rooted rival will try to buy Finja. “But we will hold our position,” claimed Shahid.

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