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.

 


Alshaya Group, MODON launch Starbucks factory in Sudair City

Alshaya Group, MODON launch Starbucks factory in Sudair City
Updated 31 January 2023

Alshaya Group, MODON launch Starbucks factory in Sudair City

Alshaya Group, MODON launch Starbucks factory in Sudair City

Alshaya Group and the Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones, known as MODON, celebrated the official inauguration of Alshaya’s central food production facility, in the presence of MODON’s Chief Executive Majid bin Rafid Al-Arqoubi, and General Manager of Alshaya Group in Saudi Arabia Faisal Alshaya, along with other officials.

Spread over 18,000 square meters in Sudair Industrial and Business City, located approximately 120 km from Riyadh, the new facility falls within masterplan efforts to stimulate and attract private sector investments to achieve the goals of the national strategy for industrial growth.

Alshaya said: “We are very proud to officially open our first central food production facility in the Kingdom at Sudair Industrial and Business City. In partnership with MODON, this facility will continue to manufacture locally produced products for our Starbucks coffee shops in the Kingdom, as well as provide more opportunities for Saudi nationals to join Alshaya.”

The opening of the new facility comes within the framework of attracting international investments in MODON and contributing to the localization of manufacturing and product delivery, as well as supporting the expansion plans of the Kuwait-based Alshaya Group. 

Manned by a workforce of more than 200 employees, including Saudi nationals, the new factory operates with a production capacity of 60,000 units per day. Production includes a variety of freshly baked goods, sandwiches, and healthy options that are supplied to more than 400 Starbucks outlets across the country daily. The facility aims to supply over 500 branches by the end of 2023. 

MODON’s strategy to enable the industry and contribute to increasing local content relies on developing more services and products. Their aim is centered around an innovative vision that meets the requirements of private sector partners and enhances their participation in economic diversification in line with Vision 2030. This includes its initiatives in the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program.

Sudair City for Industry and Business was established in 2009 on an area of 63,936 million square meters, of which 16.9 million square meters comprise a developed area. 

It includes 331 industrial, service and logistical contracts, including those in operation and those under implementation. It also includes many important industries, most notably: food and beverage, medical, machinery and equipment, and other manufacturing units, such as computers, electronics, optical products, and electrical equipment.


Mobily’s support for Diriyah E-Prix shows potential for sustainable tech

Mobily’s support for Diriyah E-Prix shows potential for sustainable tech
Updated 31 January 2023

Mobily’s support for Diriyah E-Prix shows potential for sustainable tech

Mobily’s support for Diriyah E-Prix shows potential for sustainable tech

As another action-packed 2023 CORE Diriyah E-Prix race weekend concluded, viewers were shown the exciting future of sustainable technology, with Mobily being at the forefront of this bold potential. 

The weekend’s Diriyah E-Prix provided the ideal platform for new and emerging technologies as the drivers proved electric-powered cars can be just as fast and exciting as traditional petrol vehicles. Mobily has already shown its support for the event after signing a partnership agreement to sponsor the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship Season 9 of the 2023 CORE Diriyah E-Prix.

Nora Al-Shiha, SVP, corporate brand and communications at Mobily, said: “The huge success of 2023 CORE Diriyah E-Prix not only reflects the amazing potential for electric-powered racing but also the profound impact this kind of sustainable technology will have on the lives of everyone. At Mobily, we have placed sustainability at the core of what we do, and it is why we decided to sponsor both the 2022 and 2023 events in such a manner. But as a company, we are going beyond just sponsorship deals, we are implementing a series of initiatives that will have a meaningful impact in helping to safeguard the environment for future generations.”

Mobily has worked closely with local promoter and event organizer CBX, the Ministry of Sport and the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation before and during the race event. 

Formula E is the largest global sports event promoting sustainable practices and the further adoption of electric vehicles. Mobily’s sponsorship, therefore, reaffirms its commitment to supporting and nurturing sustainability in line with its vision and the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals. The Formula E sponsorship deal is perhaps the most high-profile example of Mobily’s wider commitment to sustainability while it is also pushing ahead with technological advancements and delivering excellent services and solutions to customers.

As a result, the company is focused on raising society’s awareness of the impact of carbon emissions and the benefits that come with clean mobility, all while pushing the Formula E World Championship as the first major global sport to be certified with a net-zero carbon footprint. 

As the importance of a sustainable future becomes imperative, Mobily aims to play a central role by implementing innovative digital solutions that enhance the way people communicate and elevate their lifestyle. 


stc Bahrain partners with American Express ME

stc Bahrain partners with American Express ME
Updated 31 January 2023

stc Bahrain partners with American Express ME

stc Bahrain partners with American Express ME

stc Bahrain has partnered with American Express Middle East to support the company’s ongoing “Trees for Life” campaign. As part of the partnership, American Express Middle East has pledged to plant 1,000 trees across various locations in the country to increase the number of green spaces in Bahrain.

The partnership is a part of stc Bahrain’s commitment to preserving the environment and combating climate change in line with the country’s vision to double the number of trees from 1.8 million to nearly 3.6 million by 2035. The campaign also aims to reduce desertification, address increasingly high temperatures and promote environmental awareness and air quality enhancement in Bahrain. 

stc Bahrain CEO Nezar Banabeela said: “As part of our efforts to increase the number of green spaces in Bahrain, we are delighted to partner with American Express Middle East to commit to the ongoing cause and to spread awareness on the importance of preserving the environment.” 

We are proud to be at the forefront of the Kingdom’s largest afforestation campaign and are grateful to American Express Middle East for joining us in achieving our high ambitions to create a sustainable future for all.”

Mazin Khoury, CEO of American Express Middle East, said: “Sustainability and environmental protection are key priorities for our business strategy and operations at American Express Middle East.”


LuLu brings back flavors & deals with ‘World Food Festival’

The LuLu World Food Festival has rolled out massive offers and exciting deals across all its hypermarkets in the Kingdom.
The LuLu World Food Festival has rolled out massive offers and exciting deals across all its hypermarkets in the Kingdom.
Updated 31 January 2023

LuLu brings back flavors & deals with ‘World Food Festival’

The LuLu World Food Festival has rolled out massive offers and exciting deals across all its hypermarkets in the Kingdom.

LuLu Hypermarket’s popular annual promotion — the “World Food Festival” — is back, bringing with it attractive deals on ingredients and kitchen equipment, and hands-on lessons on the latest food trends from some of the most famous names in the culinary world today. The festival, which started on Jan. 25 and will run until Feb. 8, will cover all meals from fast food to breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas.

Headlining the roster of celebrity chefs who will interact with LuLu shoppers is Chef Isam Alghamdi, a Saudi culinary rockstar with a massive fan following among women and youth. His famous cinnamon rolls draw crowds from other regions to taste it. Chef JP Anglo from the Philippines, widely known for his delicious cuisine and restaurant, is also at the festival this year. He is a TV star with programs such as Junior MasterChef: Pinoy Edition and Master Chef: Pinoy Edition as well as a food vlogger and YouTuber. Moreover, Chef Vicky Ratnani, an award-winning Indian chef from Mumbai who has a cooking show called “Vicky goes Veg,” will wow crowds with his innovative culinary creations.

The LuLu World Food Festival has rolled out massive offers and exciting deals on its wide range of globally sourced products and hot food varieties across all its hypermarkets in the Kingdom. As part of the celebration, shoppers can look forward to some delicious sampling of skillfully put together meals from around the world by LuLu’s team of in-house chefs, who will bring some of the world’s best-known dishes to the Hot Foods section of the hypermarket.

In addition to all the goodies, two South Indian states known for their flavorful cuisines will share the spotlight — the “Hyderabadi Dhamaka” and “Tamil Nadu Thali” events will feature the best of the cuisines of these states with specialties such as filter coffee, Hyderabadi biryani, and others. Shoppers can participate in pop quizzes about these cuisines and compete in cookery contests that will be judged by celebrity judges, who will focus on talented home chefs. Anyone can be the “LuLu Chef of the Day” by simply creating a recipe and sharing on social media with #LuLuChef.

This year, the festival is focusing on healthy food, with plenty of great-tasting ingredients and new ways to use kitchen technology to deliver food that is less greasy and packs a nutritional punch. Keto, vegan and organic food trends are being showcased too. With the weather being perfect for outdoor grilling, shoppers can check out the best cuts of meat and seafood for barbecue parties as well as vegetables and fruits at their juicy and seasonal best from all over the world.

LuLu is also showcasing its popular own-label products, including its paratha, tiramisu, sahlab and karak chai — items that are increasingly popular among Saudis.
Besides some terrific deals on a range of ingredients that cater to every imaginative culinary experiment — think decadent desserts or seafoods and meat or vegan — and new choices for every meal plan from breakfast onwards, the festival aims to be a true celebration of good food across the 27 LuLu Hypermarkets, 18 Aramco Commissaries and six minimarts inside Saudi Arabian National Guard in the Kingdom.

“We are witnessing a blossoming of the gastronomic culture in Saudi Arabia and with their exposure to world cuisines and trends and the influence of social media, a new taste palate is being shaped here. LuLu is ready for this culinary adventure. With our sourcing offices and food processing plants in 26 countries, we can ensure that only the very best ingredients and food trends find their way to our customer trolleys,” said Shehim Mohammed, director, LuLu Hypermarkets Saudi Arabia.


'Your Ticket Your Visa': Saudia first airline to offer stopover transit visa

'Your Ticket Your Visa': Saudia first airline to offer stopover transit visa
Updated 31 January 2023

'Your Ticket Your Visa': Saudia first airline to offer stopover transit visa

'Your Ticket Your Visa': Saudia first airline to offer stopover transit visa

Saudi Arabian Airlines, the Kingdom’s national flag carrier, has announced the launch of a new service that provides guests with even easier access to the Kingdom through a digital integration system that links transit visas with flight tickets.

The “Your Ticket Your Visa” service will allow guests to stay in the Kingdom for up to 96 hours, during which they can travel around the Kingdom and perform Umrah. The first-of-its-kind service has been introduced in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, Pilgrims Service Program, and Saudi Tourism Authority, and covers all international airports in Saudi Arabia. 

The digital integration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs facilitates the issuing of the transit visa and links it to the flight ticket within three minutes.

Captain Ibrahim Koshy, CEO of Saudia, said: “The launch of this innovative and seamless stopover visa is the first-of-its-kind in the aviation industry and a significant milestone in our digital transformation program. It is a testament to Saudia’s commitment to supporting the Kingdom’s strategic goal of reaching 100 million visits by 2030 and we are confident it will positively impact the growing number of transit passengers while enhancing our position as a hub that connects east and west. The new service will also encourage passengers to perform Umrah, visit key destinations and attend events and Saudi seasons.”

The launch of the service comes in line with Saudia’s commitment to promoting King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and strengthening its role in the region by configuring the airline’s flights coming from the east and departing to the west. It will facilitate travel procedures by collaborating with the Jeddah Airports Company, and coordinating with the Saudi Tourism Authority to provide incentive packages for those wishing to benefit from the “Your Ticket Your Visa” service.

The new service is part of the digital services provided by Saudia via its website and smart applications, which are constantly evolving to facilitate and simplify travel procedures and make a shift in the after-sales services.