Geidea Founder Abdullah Othman talks growth journey, expansion, and more

Abdullah Othman, founder and chairman of Saudi fintech company Geidea
Abdullah Othman, founder and chairman of Saudi fintech company Geidea
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Updated 05 August 2022

Geidea Founder Abdullah Othman talks growth journey, expansion, and more

Abdullah Othman, founder and chairman of Saudi fintech company Geidea

Abdullah Othman, founder and chairman of Saudi fintech company Geidea, believes the distinction between “online” and “offline” will soon disappear when all transactions are conducted digitally in some capacity.

The founder of the leading payment service provider aims to create opportunities for all merchants around the world to connect with global consumers by leveraging all possible digital assets and technologies. 

Geidea offers digital banking technology, point-of-sale terminals and business management solutions for both financial institutions and small businesses in retail and digital commerce. 

Othman said the MENA region is growing rapidly and the demand for convenient payment solutions is increasing all the time, which is why Geidea will continue to expand its services across more markets — as it has done recently in Egypt and the UAE.

Othman talks about actively supporting the digital transformation drive across countries, achieving financial inclusion and much more.

1. As an entrepreneur involved in numerous ventures, what made you launch Geidea several years ago? 

As far back as 2008, it was clear to me that merchants needed access to affordable and intuitive payment solutions to grow their business. I could sense that the digital revolution would be all-encompassing and understood that fintech innovations held the capacity to transform the way we think about doing business and bring incredible opportunities for SMEs and aspiring entrepreneurs. 
And, of course, there are huge benefits for the consumer through the shift to a cashless society. For me, solving problems required innovative ideas — and that’s where the name Geidea came from. We see ourselves as an enabler for the business environment — one that reduces time and costs to set up businesses for the small merchant — one that can make their customer experience significantly better, and leverage the digital, high-tech ecosystem through the emergence of the Internet, open-source software, cloud computing, and other trends.

2. Geidea has come a long way since its beginnings — could you tell us about that growth journey?

The Geidea journey is unique in Saudi Arabia. After launching our point-of-sale product in 2013, it took us just four years to become the country’s largest fintech provider by market share. This was a significant responsibility, as digital innovators, to ensure we develop and provide the right solutions to support the Kingdom’s vision toward becoming a cashless society. 

Additionally, Geidea was not only one of the first companies to obtain a fintech license from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority in 2021, but also the only non-bank institution in the Kingdom to be granted an acquiring license from SAMA.

Throughout that journey — from startup to the country’s largest fintech company — we have worked incredibly hard to serve our society by bringing new digital payment solutions to the market. Geidea was the first fintech in the region to develop an app-based contactless “phone-POS” solution, empowering SMEs with a simple and intuitive way to process customer payments. This technology is vital because it allows merchants to accept payments quickly and securely on their Android mobile phones without the need for a separate payment terminal or connection. 

This solution includes the traditional POS terminal features, including acceptance of payments from contactless cards, mobile wallets, and wearable devices. We wanted to create a holistic ecosystem within one application, so all transactions are settled directly, and funds are automatically transferred into their existing bank account. 

Currently, we support more than 700,000 payment terminals and ATM networks with 150,000 merchants, including regional and international brands, SMEs and e-commerce players. That vast contribution has earned Geidea widespread recognition

3. Can you tell us about some of the notable partnerships and products that Geidea has rolled out over the last few years?

Collaboration and co-creation is important to our success. From Day 1, I recognized that Geidea had an opportunity to look at things differently and reshape the way customers, banks and merchants interact. The technologies we have invested in are game-changing, and that is why Geidea has always had very close alignment with not just the investor community but with regulators and the business ecosystem as a whole. 

Strategic partnerships have played — and will continue to play — a crucial role in our growth. A great example is our recent partnership deal with Magnati, formerly part of First Abu Dhabi Bank, which has provided us with an in-road to the UAE market, where we intend to roll out a full suite of value-added services and payment solutions to UAE-based companies. We have also partnered with institutions in Egypt, such as Banque Misr, which is provided with our SoftPoS payment solutions. Looking ahead, we hope to extend our partnerships even further to provide more services where Geidea is based — across the Kingdom, the UAE and Egypt. 

Some of our recent and exciting new partnerships include “channels by STC,” which is the exclusive sales and distribution arm of the stc Group and the National Computer Systems Company, a leading IT infrastructures and software businesses solution provider in the Kingdom. The stc partnership allows us to provide an integrated suite of solutions to the company and their network of retailers, which will enable them to seamlessly manage their stores, accept payments and resell top-ups and vouchers. Additionally, the partnership with Natcom expands the reach of our SoftPos solution, empowering the company to provide its customers with a payments experience that is transformational and innovative in the Kingdom.

Last year, following the launch of phone POS, we entered into strategic partnerships with global payment institutions including Mastercard and Visa, and major Saudi player SABB — these are important partnerships as we scale-up our technologies across the region.

4. Where do you hope to take the company in the next 5-10 years?

The digital economy is an incredible enabler of financial inclusion and economic activity and a way for governments to manage their economies. As a leader passionate about digital technologies, I understand that we have a unique role in accelerating the digital economy, particularly in widening access to business fintech tools critical to economic growth and social mobility. 

Commerce has continued to evolve at great pace since Geidea first began. Today, e-commerce is growing at such a proliferating rate that consumers are shopping through mobiles, laptops and more. Our aim is therefore to level the playing field and create opportunities for all merchants around the world to connect with consumers all around the world. It’s a bold vision that requires us to leverage all possible digital assets and technologies and become part of the merchant’s retailing strategy. This is vital, as I believe the distinction between “online” and “offline” will disappear as soon as all transactions will be conducted digitally in some capacity.

Additionally, I believe we will continue to expand our services across more markets — as we have done recently in Egypt and the UAE. The MENA region is growing rapidly and the demand for convenient payment solutions is increasing all the time. As an example, in 2021 we received a payments facilitator license from the Central Bank of Egypt. By partnering with Egypt’s leading entities — including the National Bank of Egypt and Banque Misr — we are actively supporting the country’s drive toward digital transformation and achieving financial inclusion.

5. Saudi Arabia is widely considered to be a flourishing fintech hub in the Middle East. What progress do you think the country has made toward becoming a leading digital economy?

I strongly believe that Saudi Arabia has made incredible progress — especially in the last few years — from both growth and regulatory perspectives. Saudi Arabia has continued to maintain its position as an attractive place for investment in financial technologies, and is actively supporting new ideas. New ground is being broken — empowering budding entrepreneurs. 

An example includes the Saudi Fintech Initiative, which supports fintechs as they enter the market and enhances the country’s digital payments infrastructure. Investors will also be interested in the sector’s sustainability, so issues like data security and analytics should also form part of the regulatory landscape to ensure that the business community and its customers are sufficiently protected.
The safety of the fintech space in Saudi Arabia is also buoyed by a regulatory framework that recognizes the power of unity and standardization across the sector. As far back as 2019, Saudi Payments set out to enable collaboration between 12 fintech companies and banks by signing a strategic MoU. It set out to provide consumers with new cashless payment opportunities and enabled the introduction of a QR-based national payment system that benefits retailers, payment service providers and individual customers. 
The regulatory framework for a new QR code payment system acted as an essential precursor to a whole new digital ecosystem of collaborative development. Outcomes include an open-loop payment environment that means retailers, payment service providers and digital wallet users will be able to make payment transactions regardless of the relations among the involved parties. 

This approach brings together the perspectives and ideas of many so that the entire ecosystem can evolve — and it is fantastic to see SAMA launch the Open Banking Exchange in Saudi Arabia in January 2022. The move means that Saudi Arabia can leverage the past achievements and knowhow of Open Banking Europe and the OBE communities in Southeast Asia and Latin America to accelerate the implementation of open banking in the country. Open banking exchanges have a proven track record of building collaborative environments — they are invaluable in helping their members develop effective open solutions based on jurisdiction-neutral technology frameworks. The hope is that this new framework will drive greater competition and collaboration — and those are the keys to innovation, financial inclusion and sustainable economic development.

6. The Kingdom has attracted a lot of fintech-related investment in recent years. How does Geidea see its role in this ecosystem? 

Our role is critical. Saudi Arabia has a cashless transaction target of 70 percent by 2030, and we look forward to building on our progress so far. We have worked to actively diversify across the transaction value chain through PoS license expansion, aiming for an electronic money institution license and a host of value-added SaaS- and LaaS-based solutions.

Through new partnerships, we are also working to transform how businesses access financing. In November 2021, we partnered with the financing company Alamthal to make accessing loans and processing repayments in a way that is easier, with less hassle and less stress. This partnership allows us to expand our role within the fintech ecosystem by providing a secure, trusted solution that empowers businesses with access, safety and flexibility. This is really important in helping growing companies to expand and scale. 

In January 2022, we developed our strategy for simplifying access to capital and loan financing for businesses by collaborating with the debt crowdfunding platform, Forus. The partnership enables SMEs to pay back their loan amounts directly through point-of-sale terminals by automatically setting aside a percentage or amount of monthly revenue toward their loan obligations. It is actually a really creative and exciting way for us to replace the need to make cash or physical payments by automating the entire process — and that is all part of our drive to democratizing access to capital — because financing has often been a barrier to growth for a lot of entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia.


Alaan launches UAE’s first business cashback card

Alaan launches UAE’s first business cashback card
Updated 17 August 2022

Alaan launches UAE’s first business cashback card

Alaan launches UAE’s first business cashback card

Alaan, a UAE-based corporate spend-management fintech, has announced the launch of an industry-first business cashback card. The startup previously had raised $2.5 million in seed funding and built a platform enabling businesses to spend through modern corporate cards and automated invoice payments. Business customers using Alaan cards will be rewarded with up to 2 percent of their spending in cashback.

Commenting on the launch, Parthi Duraisamy, chief executive and co-founder of Alaan, said: “It’s great to have launched an industry-first business cashback card. Consumers have long had access to such cards in the UAE, but that has not been the case for SMEs and corporates. When businesses across the world are trying to conserve cash and cut spending during a recession, we are happy to be supporting UAE businesses to save and take control of their business spending.”

Founded in 2021 by ex-McKinsey employees, Duraisamy and Karun Kurien, Alaan aims to transform the processing of business expenses through its platform that provides employees with business cards to make company purchases and automatically reconciles spending in real-time.

Additionally, Alaan instantly issues virtual cards for e-commerce transactions, SaaS subscriptions, vendor payments or in-store purchases. These cards can be set up with daily or monthly spend limits and can be merchant-locked to be used only with certain merchants such as fuel stations. The platform eliminates expense reports, need for petty cash, and automates bookkeeping tasks via seamless integration with various accounting solution providers.

Philip Johnston, co-chief executive of Opontia, and an early customer of Alaan, said: “Until now, we have had to rely on debit cards, which have high FX rates and no cashback options. We look forward to scaling with Alaan cards, both to save money and to save precious time for our finance teams, so they can focus on our business instead of month-end manual expense management.”

Alaan is headquartered in Dubai and is expanding its headcount and scale in multiple markets across the Middle East.

APICORP and nogaholding sign MoU to promote collaboration

APICORP and nogaholding sign MoU to promote collaboration
Updated 17 August 2022

APICORP and nogaholding sign MoU to promote collaboration

APICORP and nogaholding sign MoU to promote collaboration

The Oil and Gas Holding Company B.S.C (c), known as nogaholding, and the Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation signed a memorandum of understanding to promote collaboration between the two entities.

Under the MoU, nogaholding will leverage APICORP’s experience as a partner to the Arab energy sector to support the company’s strategic initiatives and projects that will be crucial to the future of Bahrain’s energy sector. This includes sharing knowledge and best practices on environmental, social and governance aspects, sustainability initiatives, and green financing.

The MoU was signed by APICORP Chief Executive Officer Khalid Ali Al-Ruwaigh and nogaholding Group Chief Executive Officer Mark Thomas. The signing ceremony was attended by Dr. Mohammed bin Mubarak bin Daina, minister of oil and environment and special envoy for climate affairs, and Dr. Aabed Al-Saadoun, chairman of the board — APICORP, alongside a number of other officials from both parties.

Dr. bin Daina said: “We are delighted to witness this partnership between two entities focusing on the development of the Arab energy sector and exchanging knowledge for the benefit of communities. The Kingdom has taken massive strides in the development of the oil and gas sector while responsibly working on meeting the decarbonization mandates as pledged by Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, the crown prince and prime minister of Bahrain at COP26, as well as the UN sustainable development goals. With APICORP’s experience, we can expect this partnership to accelerate the energy transition and adoption of ESG principles in Bahrain.”

Al-Saadoun said: “Our mission is to contribute to the development and transformation of the Arab hydrocarbon and energy industries through equity, debt financing and advisory services and provide the Arab energy sector with financial solutions for the energy of tomorrow. The MoU with nogaholding is a testament to our focus on our goals in supporting the Arab energy sector in a balanced energy transition that enables socioeconomic growth and workforce empowerment.”

Meanwhile, Al-Ruwaigh said: “Being the region’s only multilateral financial institution with established experience in financial services and solutions for sustainable energy, APICORP is delighted to partner with nogaholding and support its commendable strategic initiatives that aim to improve the Bahraini energy sector. We will work closely with nogaholding to strengthen corporate sustainability and ESG practices, provide financial advisory on sustainable energy projects and support on effective structuring and arranging of financing. This partnership will help APICORP to cement its legacy of providing financial services for impact.”

Thomas added: “We are proud to be signing this MoU with an esteemed company like APICORP. The knowledge-sharing aspect of this partnership will provide nogaholding with opportunities that will help bolster the future of Bahrain’s energy sector, enabling us to take on additional projects, in line with Bahrain’s Vision 2030. We look forward to revitalizing our oil and gas sector while moving toward a more sustainable method of energizing the Kingdom and exploring avenues that lead to more efficient and alternative energy sources.”

KPMG joins Digital Cooperation Organization as official observer

KPMG joins Digital Cooperation Organization as official observer
Updated 16 August 2022

KPMG joins Digital Cooperation Organization as official observer

KPMG joins Digital Cooperation Organization as official observer

The Digital Cooperation Organization, an intergovernmental organization established to enable digital prosperity for all, has announced KPMG as the first professional services organization to join as an official observer.

The DCO, whose programs work to accelerate the inclusive growth of the digital economy, has swelled its ranks to represent nearly 600 million people and $2 trillion of GDP. Its programs are dedicated to supporting women, youth and entrepreneurs to harness the power of the digital economy across its 10 member states.

KPMG is a global network of professional services companies with more than 200,000 employees worldwide, helping clients thrive in a digital world and accelerate their digital transformation. KPMG has 26 global strategic alliances with world-leading technology companies, including Google Cloud, IBM, Alibaba Cloud, and Infosys, cementing its position as a leader in digital transformation on the international stage. Bringing this extensive expertise into the wider DCO ecosystem, KPMG will work alongside DCO experts on multinational projects designed to enhance the global digital economy in areas such as digital taxation, cross-border data flows, digital transformation and e-governance.

Dr. Samer Abdallah, global lead partner at KPMG, said: “KPMG is aligned with the DCO’s mission to promote social prosperity through more inclusive participation to grow the digital economy. We have played an active role in building key strategies, policies, and enablers to foster innovation and the digital economy. The digital era we live in brings us opportunities as well as challenges. Digital and innovation are part of our DNA at KPMG, and as part of the DCO ecosystem, we are proud to work together to promote digital prosperity.”

Welcoming the announcement of the partnership, Hassan Nasser, DCO vice president of international affairs, said: “The partnership between DCO and KPMG is the latest leap forward for the DCO as we continue to forge partnerships wherever and however they can play an active role in harnessing the power of the digital economy. KPMG is the first professional services observer of the DCO, with international expertise and a vital knowledge partner as we continue our mission to enable digital prosperity for all.”

The DCO is quickly expanding its ecosystem of international collaborators to include leading private sector companies, academic institutions, think tanks, civil society organizations, international organizations, and other partners across North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

The global multilateral organization, founded in November 2020, brings together the Ministries of Digital Economy and ICT of 10 nations — Bahrain, Djibouti, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Rwanda and Saudi Arabia.

‘House of the Dragon’ drone show to light up Riyadh Boulevard

‘House of the Dragon’ drone show to light up Riyadh Boulevard
Updated 16 August 2022

‘House of the Dragon’ drone show to light up Riyadh Boulevard

‘House of the Dragon’ drone show to light up Riyadh Boulevard

OSN+, a regional streaming service for premium entertainment, is celebrating the premiere of House of the Dragon, the Game of Thrones prequel, with an immersive drone show and screen takeover that will light up the Riyadh skyline during the Gamers8 festival on Aug. 18.

OSN+ will celebrate the premiere of the highly anticipated series with a breathtaking 1,000-drone light show above Riyadh Boulevard, preceded by a complete screen takeover and firework display during the Gamers8 festival, the largest eSports and gaming event worldwide, currently taking place in Riyadh.

“OSN+ is excited to launch a spectacular drone show as part of the Gamers8 festival ahead of the highly anticipated release of House of the Dragon on Aug. 22 in the Middle East. Alongside an expansive screen takeover and firework display, the gaming festival will provide an engaging and immersive platform to celebrate the premiere of the first episode of the Game of Thrones prequel with fans, both within the Saudi Arabian capital and across the Kingdom,” said Ashley Rite, vice president, marketing and growth at OSN+.

The 10-episode HBO Original drama series, available exclusively on OSN, is based on George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Blood, which is set 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones, and tells the story of House Targaryen. The prequel to one of the most successful series of the past decade is set to air exclusively on OSN+ on Aug. 22, simultaneously with the US premiere, with new episodes dropping weekly on the platform.

The lineup in the upcoming series includes Paddy Considine as King Viserys Targaryen, Matt Smith as Prince Daemon Targaryen, the king’s younger brother and heir to the throne, Olivia Cooke as Alicent Hightower, daughter of the Hand of the King, Emma D’Arcy as King Viserys’ firstborn child Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, Steve Toussaint as Lord Corlys Velaryon “The Sea Snake,” Eve Best as his wife Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, Fabien Frankel as Ser Criston Cole, Sonoya Mizuno as Mysaria, and Rhys Ifans as Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King and father to Alicent.

OSN+ is an accessible online platform and is available for download across all iOS and Android devices for $9.5 per month.

Tanmiah delivers robust earnings growth supported by strong product demand

Tanmiah delivers robust earnings growth supported by strong product demand
Updated 16 August 2022

Tanmiah delivers robust earnings growth supported by strong product demand

Tanmiah delivers robust earnings growth supported by strong product demand

Tanmiah Food Company, a leading provider of fresh and processed poultry and other meat products, animal feed and health products, and a foods brand franchise operator, has announced its results for the first half ending June 30, 2022, with a 31 percent year-on-year growth in revenues amounting to SR965.9 million ($257.2 million). The gross margin improved to 23.3 percent from 22.8 percent in H1 2021, while the EBITDA of SR107.5 million (+30 percent YoY), yielded a margin of 11.1 percent. The net income increased 43 percent YoY from SR22.2 million to SR31.7 million, on the back of a robust top-line performance and gradual price increases in the fresh chicken category.

Zulfiqar Hamadani CEO of Tanmiah, said: “We have continued to successfully execute our capacity expansion program, resulting in solid top-line performance as Tanmiah’s products continued to grow in popularity during the first half of the year as we drive innovation across all our product lines. The recent completion of refurbishment projects at our Majmah facility to reach a capacity of 420,500 birds per day will further boost revenues and profitability in the upcoming quarters and is a major milestone in our goal to reach a production capacity of 1.2 million birds per day by 2025.

“Despite the volatility in global commodity prices, our strong market positioning, and the increasing preference by customers for our diversified product offerings has enabled us to mitigate this impact by carefully managing pricing, thus resulting in margin improvement during the period.”

He added: “As we embark on a new phase in Tanmiah’s journey through the landmark partnership with Tyson Foods, we expect to unlock substantial long-term value for our shareholders by enhancing all stages of the value chain, along with diversifying our product offerings, and expanding our global footprint. Collectively, we will continue to significantly invest in our business to raise production capacity further and meet the expected rising demand that could be captured through the potential launch of a new global halal brand with Tyson, which may be marketed worldwide.”

Ahmed Osilan, executive board member and managing director of Tanmiah, said: “We are proud to have achieved major milestones since the start of the year, including the strategic partnership with Tyson Foods. Our sustained investments in ramping up production capacity and strengthening our long-standing relationships with our key business partners, have rewarded us with a robust performance during the period, whereby we have successfully attained a remarkable growth in profitability.

“We are delighted to be taking our company to a whole new level, by advancing our technical expertise and tapping new opportunities for realizing wide-ranging synergies across the group, whilst accelerating our pace of growth.

“Further supporting our strategic growth plans is the SR150 million financing facility recently secured by our subsidiary ADC, from the Agriculture Development Fund. This forms part of a comprehensive bundle of loans that are aligned with the government’s ongoing initiatives to boost food production. We remain committed to our pioneering role in reinforcing Saudi Arabia’s food security and self-sufficiency goals, through enriching the domestic ecosystem by bringing world-class sector expertise to the Kingdom and creating a number of job opportunities in the local market, which will emerge as a result of our significant partnership with Tyson Foods.”

Revenue analysis

Tanmiah reported first half revenues of SR965.9 million, up 31 percent YoY from SR734.9 million. The top-line growth was driven by strong performance across all segments, in particular fresh poultry and processed products, reflecting a combination of both price and volume effect.

Fresh poultry sales, comprising 69 percent of total revenues, increased 31 percent YoY to SR666.2 million from SR510.7 million in the similar period of last year. The fresh poultry revenue growth was driven by a continued expansion of capacity, leading to sustained volume growth, in line with the rising popularity of Tanmiah’s products, as well as a gradual increase in prices across the fresh chicken category. The group ended 2021 with a daily capacity of 370,000 birds and increased it to 420,500 birds per day (net of rental capacity), marking a 13.6 percent growth, following the upgrade of Tanmiah’s facility in Majmah, north of Riyadh.

Further, the processed products revenues grew by 31 percent YoY to SR199 million during H1 2022. This increase in sales comes on the back of growth in demand from the food service channel, and a gradual revision of prices for key food service customers during contract renewals.

The feed and animal health revenues grew by 26 percent to SR91 million in H1 2022, predominantly due to the increasing demand for animal health products and equipment.

Meanwhile, the food franchise operator revenues amounted to SR9.8 million in H1 2022, with Q2 reflecting the second full quarter since the launch of the food franchise vertical. During the period, Tanmiah opened a total of six Popeyes stores in the Kingdom, bringing the total to 10 operational outlets as of June 30.

Growth strategy

Tanmiah’s strategy to further reinforce its market positioning hinges on both organic and inorganic growth. In order to capture lucrative opportunities from rising demand for poultry, coupled with the Kingdom’s strategic goal of attaining 80 percent self-sufficiency in the poultry sector by 2025, Tanmiah continues to invest substantially on capacity expansion and continues to make good progress in this regard.

The company has increased its local sales of fresh chicken by 9 percent YoY from 49.2 million chickens in H1 2021 to 53.5 million chickens in H1 2022, as a result of sustained investments in its assets and operations. Tanmiah has recently completed the refurbishment of its facility in Majmah, which has resulted in increasing its total production capacity to 420,500 birds per day (net of rental capacity), from 370,000 birds per day at the end of 2021.

Another key event for Tanmiah is the strategic partnership with Tyson Foods. Tanmiah considers this partnership an important milestone in its 60-year journey, demonstrating its commitment to its pioneering role in reinforcing Saudi Arabia’s food security and self-sufficiency goals. The partnership will also enable Tanmiah to gain exposure to global industry know-how and could lead to emerging opportunities in the fast-growing halal market. By capitalizing on this significant collaboration, Tanmiah will be well-positioned to enhance its product, customer, and geographical diversification, and deliver substantial value through advancing its operational processes, which will enable the company to realize material operational efficiencies and improve its revenues and profitability going forward.

Tanmiah has continued to capitalize on other strategic initiatives by the government to reinforce the domestic food sector, whereby the company has obtained a short-term financing facility of SR150 million from the Agricultural Development Fund to finance the import of grains. Moreover, Tanmiah recently secured a 48.2-million-euro ($49.1 million) long-term Shariah-compliant facility from Rabobank to further support its expansion program.