Qasif Shahid, CEO & Co-Founder of Finja in Pakistan, spoke with Samee Zafar (Director, London).
1. Please give us an overview of Finja and your different products
.Aiming to provide innovative digital lending products and solutions; we are a new-age financial services platform focused on digitising payments, savings, collections, investments, insurance and lending for MSMEs and the associated salaried professionals in the country. Currently, we’re the only fintech in the country to have bagged two regulatory licenses i.e. EMI pilot approval from the State Bank of Pakistan and a fully functional NBFC license through the Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan. Finja was co-founded by myself, Monis Rahman and Umer Munawar in 2016. It is backed by leading global venture capital funds including Sweden based Vostok Emerging Finance, BeeNext of Japanese origin, and Washington based Quona Capital.
Our star product is Finja Business; a cloud-based platform which allows businesses to manage their banking relationships, payrolls, vendor relations, employee relations, collections and disbursements, taxes, utility payments, HRM, and attendance along with other parts of the businesses with advanced business intelligence and reporting. Due to our EMI status, Finja Business portal is now compatible with all bank accounts and wallets in the country and is not just limited to disbursements or collections into the Finja App. To date, more than a thousand businesses have made disbursements close to PKR 10 billion (USD 60 million) using the portal already.
In addition, Finja is focused on digitizing the Kiryana store or the local corner store network as an underserved segment. Finja, through its partnership with multiple FMCGs and their distributors, has already crafted relationships with over 5,000 merchants in multiple cities and have extended short term digital loans of over PKR 500 million (USD 3 million) to this segment at the back of using its NBFC (Non-Banking-Financial Corporation) status.
2. What can be done to promote FinTech in emerging markets like Pakistan where there is an abundance of talent but perhaps a lack of access to capital?
The power of partnerships should never be underestimated. Nowhere is this truer than in the financial services industry, which is undergoing a significant shift as the ecosystem is increasingly dominated by partnerships rather than one-man shows. In markets like Pakistan, collaborations with incumbents are imperative to get fintechs off the ground. While, incumbents are unable to scale, fintechs possess the agility and disruptive force to help them evolve very quickly. In order to stay viable, competitive, and relevant, banks and fintechs should continue to partner with one other in some form, since it has a tremendous impact on long-term growth for both sides.
3. What are your personal interests? What do you do in your spare time?
I’m really fond of the outdoors and love to travel, so I try to spend maximum time with feet on the ground to understand different segments in the society and their unmet needs. In my opinion, no amount of theoretical knowledge can give you raw insight, like speaking directly to the people does. Hence, the passion for understanding human psychology is something that I like to pass on to my team too so that they’re able to crack their nuances and create innovative solutions. Moreover, I like to study nature too. A lot of conversations that I have with my team members revolve around decoding nature’s inherent structure which is that of a giver rather than a taker. And, that’s what inspires the engagement model of our products at Finja. We believe in giving rather than taking.
4. Any personal goals? Bucket list? (climb a mountain; write a book; direct a movie!)
Over the years, we’ve realized that nothing succeeds like success. So I consider it my personal goal to be able to create value that inspires newer companies and young individuals to achieve greater heights. If I speak for myself, I’ve been in the shoes of someone who has been enamoured by companies that build the new paradigm; so that’s something I would want to incite and stimulate in the youth too.
5. What books are you reading?
“The Infinite Game” by Simon Sinek was the last book that I read. Before that, I had voraciously consumed “Principles” by Ray Dalio, which led to the inception of the Finja Pledge. With that, we began an exercise to read books as a team that would define our core values which came together seamlessly in what we call the “Finja Pledge” that all team members, existing and former, are bonded by. These values resonate with who we are at the core of our being and something that we wouldn’t compromise on, ever!I would recommend these books to all new-age CEOs who are aspiring to do the next big thing!
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