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.


Al-Rajhi, Qassim Health Cluster to open diabetes center in Buraidah

Waleed Al Mogbel, CEO of the bank, and Dr. Sultan Al-Shaya, CEO of Qassim Health Cluster, signed the agreement.
Waleed Al Mogbel, CEO of the bank, and Dr. Sultan Al-Shaya, CEO of Qassim Health Cluster, signed the agreement.
Updated 06 October 2022

Al-Rajhi, Qassim Health Cluster to open diabetes center in Buraidah

Waleed Al Mogbel, CEO of the bank, and Dr. Sultan Al-Shaya, CEO of Qassim Health Cluster, signed the agreement.

The Qassim region will have the region’s first of its kind diabetes center that will focus on the treatment of type 1 diabetes patients and provide 100,000 medical services every year.

Prince of Al-Qassim region, Dr. Faisal bin Misha'al , sponsored the signing of an agreement between Al-Rajhi bank and Qassim Health Cluster to establish a 3,000 sqm Al-Rajhi Diabetes Center in Buraidah.

Waleed Al Mogbel, CEO of the bank, and Dr. Sultan Al-Shaya, CEO of Qassim Health Cluster, signed the agreement.

Abdullah Bin Sulaiman Al-Rajhi said the project is one of the bank's sustainable social responsibility projects that costs SR13.5 million riyals, which is fully guaranteed by the bank.

He added that this project will serve as a model for community service through collaboration and integration between the Ministry of Health and Al-Rajhi bank.

Al Rajhi explained that the bank's social responsibility strategy focuses on education, health, and housing sectors, and that they have never hesitated to support any projects that benefit the community. All their efforts are toward the contribution of  Kingdom's Vision 2030 vision, which seeks a prosperous future and sustainable development.

The chairman thanked the Prince of Qassim for sponsoring and praising the initiative, and the Ministry of Health, represented by the Qassim Health Cluster.

Alshaya thanked Al-Rajhi bank for their social efforts in adopting the establishment of the center.

The Kingdom is one of the countries most affected by type 1 diabetes (adults and children), as there are nearly 100,000 people with type 1 diabetes (of various ages) in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia is also considered the seventh country in terms of the annual rate of new incidence of type 1 diabetes, according to the International Diabetes Federation.

The region has 20,000 patients, which is expected to double in the coming years as they require better treatment and medical care.

stc launches Center3 for Kingdom’s digital economy

stc launches Center3 for Kingdom’s digital economy
Updated 05 October 2022

stc launches Center3 for Kingdom’s digital economy

stc launches Center3 for Kingdom’s digital economy

Leading digital enabler stc Group has inaugurated one of its largest and significant projects, Center3 — the digital regional center for the Middle East and North Africa.

The new company will be the owner of the digital infrastructure assets owned by stc group, including data centers, submarine cables, international points of presence, and internet exchange points.

The inauguration took place in the presence of Prince Mohammad bin Khalid Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the board of directors of stc Group, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah bin Amer Al-Swaha, and a number of other senior executives of the company.

Center3 will be a group of carrier-neutral data centers and a provider of international communication for the telecommunications sector through a submarine fiber optic network. It aims to develop digital businesses and enhance investment opportunities in international communication services and data centers by providing the latest communication and hosting technologies and raising there capacities to meet the needs of the markets across Asia, Europe, Africa, and the rest of the world.

“The stc Group launched Center3 to enhance the digital system, which in turn will contribute to enhancing the Kingdom’s position as a regional digital center. This launch is in line with our strategy to expand the scope and markets to achieve digital empowerment,” said Olayan Alwetaid, CEO of stc Group.

“At Center3, we aim to build an integrated ecosystem of cables and data centers that seeks to attract hyper-scalers, big data, and local and international service providers,” said Fahad Al-Hajeri, Center3 CEO.

He added: “Center3 will provide data center services, international communication and internet exchange services through its assets. We will work to achieve the company’s vision of making the Kingdom the main digital hub connecting the three continents Asia, Europe, and Africa as well as leading the largest share of internet exchange and data traffic in the region.”

With the launch of Center3, stc Group have completed the digital system pursuit by launching a number of companies in the fields of cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, internet of things, and digital infrastructure.

LG redefines household chores

LG redefines household chores
Updated 05 October 2022

LG redefines household chores

LG redefines household chores

Household chores is an unavoidable part of daily life. Many people consider it boring and time-consuming, given that we often spend hours on the monotonous actions of washing dishes or doing laundry. Keeping this in mind, LG Electronics offers state-of-the-art home appliances with innovative features designed to deliver the ultimate user convenience so that people spend less time and effort on their household routine.

 Get More Hygiene with LG Dishwasher: Designed to clean all dishes the first time, LG QuadWash Dishwasher is equipped with the multi-directionally rotating arms that shoot water streams in various angles that reach every corner of the dishwasher. With four spray arms instead of two, the dishwasher provides enhanced coverage to clean every dish on every rack, no matter the shape or size. With temperatures reaching up to 80 degrees Celsius during the rinse cycle, LG Dishwasher ensures the ultimate hygienic care of dishes. Additionally, LG QuadWash is equipped with the LG’s Inverter Direct Drive Motor that provides quiet and reliable operation without compromising on performance. Compared to other motors, it also helps to reduce energy consumption.

 Get More Smart Convenience with LG Dryer: Allowing users to save time on drying and ironing clothes, LG Dryer features the Sensor Dry humidity sensor that automatically optimizes drying time and ensures that laundry is well dried the first time. The TrueSteam feature creates pure steam that removes allergens and smooths out wrinkles, leaving laundry fresh and clean with no need for ironing. With the Lint Filters that minimize lint and dust, the clothes are even cleaner than natural drying. Additionally, LG Clothes Dryer does not need any external venting outlets, making it suitable for any location.

 Get Intelligent Fabric Care with LG Vivace Washer&Dryer: For complete clothing care, the LG Vivace Washer&Dryer is equipped with Artificial Intelligence Direct Drive technology that detects the weight and softness of the fabric being washed or dried and automatically selects the optimized washing or drying pattern for each load to enhance fabric protection while reducing cycle times and energy usage. Additionally, the LG Vivace Washer&Dryer delivers maximum hygiene thanks to the LG Steam that eliminates 99.9 percent of common bacteria such as dust mites that can cause allergy or respiratory diseases. Ensuring maximum space capacity, the LG Vivace Washer&Dryer is equipped with LG’s advanced low vibration technology that creates more space inside the machine.

Bupa Arabia participates in the 6th edition of Saudi Insurance Symposium

Bupa Arabia participates in the 6th edition of Saudi Insurance Symposium
Updated 05 October 2022

Bupa Arabia participates in the 6th edition of Saudi Insurance Symposium

Bupa Arabia participates in the 6th edition of Saudi Insurance Symposium

Bupa Arabia for Cooperative Insurance, a leading health insurance company in the Kingdom, participated in the 6th edition of the Saudi Insurance Symposium, which was organized by the General Insurance Committee on Sept. 28-29 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh.

The event, which spotlighted the growth and evolution of the insurance sector, was sponsored by Dr. Fahd Abdullah Al-Mubarak, governor of the Central Bank of Saudi Arabia.

The symposium this year was graced by the presence of more than 1,000 regional insurance experts, in addition to the participation of selected local and international administrators and executives.

With the insurance sector playing an indispensable role in the national economy, the two-day conference provided a timely opportunity for industry leaders to review developments in the sector and provide solutions to its most pressing challenges.

Loay Nazer, chairman of the board at Bupa Arabia, participated in a panel discussion on “Economic Growth and Developments in the Insurance Industry” with Dr. Khaled Al-Dhaher, vice governor for supervision and technology, SAMA; and Abdulmohsen Al-Fares, chairman of the board, Alinma Tokio Marine Co.

“Bupa Arabia’s participation at the Saudi Insurance Symposium came as part of our continuous efforts to be active partners in the development and growth of the insurance industry in Saudi Arabia and to support the government’s directions aimed at developing the Saudi insurance sector,” Nazer said.

Moderated by Resini Alresini of the Saudi Central Bank, the panel shed light on the developments in the Saudi insurance industry under the ambitious Vision 2030.

During the session, Nazer stressed the importance of building Saudi national cadres in the insurance sector and training them to provide quality services and distinctive insurance products.

He also said that the insurance sector has created 17,000 job opportunities in the Kingdom, estimating the Saudization rate in the sector at 77 percent.

Ali Sheneamer, chief ubsiness development officer at Bupa Arabia, moderated the panel discussion “InsurTech and Value Added” with several key leaders and CEOs in the industry discussing the significance of digital transformation currently underway in the insurance sector.  

Bupa Arabia’s CEO Tal Nazer also joined a panel discussion on “The Future of Health Insurance.”

Callebaut brings 100 percent dairy-free, plant-based NXT Chocolate to Kingdom at EMF outlets

Callebaut brings 100 percent dairy-free, plant-based NXT Chocolate to Kingdom at EMF outlets
Updated 05 October 2022

Callebaut brings 100 percent dairy-free, plant-based NXT Chocolate to Kingdom at EMF outlets

Callebaut brings 100 percent dairy-free, plant-based NXT Chocolate to Kingdom at EMF outlets
  • First-of-its-kind dark and milk chocolates that are dairy-free, lactose-free, nut-free, allergen-free, 100% plant-based and vegan – without any trace of dairy
  • Made with a plant-based alternative to milk with unique & delicious taste (more neutral compared to almond milk, soy milk, rice, oat milks or other alternatives)

Callebaut, the chocolate maker preferred by artisans and chefs around the world, debuts its game-changing ‘Callebaut NXT’ series to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. NXT is 100 per cent plant-based dark and milky tasting chocolates, guaranteed free from any traces of dairy.

The launch comes on the heels of its successful global unveiling in early 2022 and responds to the burgeoning demand for plant-based foods across the Middle East. To kick off the NXT movement, an event held at Marriott Hotel in Riyadh on 4 October 2022, where three renowned chefs brought their A-game and took the audience by surprise with their creative spirit.

Chef Marike Van Beurden, Pastry & Chocolate Consultant presented an Earl Gray tea snacking bar, hazelnut and lime tarts and exotic coconut travel cake using the NXT chocolate, whereas Chef Romain Renard, Head of Chocolate Academies MENA curated two recipes by blending tropical fruit flavours like apricot, passion fruit, and lemon with the Callebaut NXT range to give the audience a great experience. And Chef Panagiotis Samaras, Sr. Technical Advisor, Chocolate Academy Dubai created a Vegan - Peanut & Caramel bonbon using the Dairy-Free NXT Milk tasting chocolate. Recipes can be downloaded here

Epitomizing innovation in the world of chocolate, Callebaut NXT is all set to make waves in Saudi with its 100% plant-based dark and milky-tasting chocolates, guaranteed free from any traces of dairy. Promising the same great taste, creamy texture, smooth mouth feel and quality as traditional chocolate, NXT dark and milk chocolate is innovation like no other.

Specially curated for chefs & artisans, who frequently receive requests for vegan, plant-based, allergen-free and planet-friendly desserts and chocolates, the NXT range not just offers worry-free alternatives for traditional and new recipes, but also how-to guides, inspiration and tips and tricks through the new NXT digital platform—introduced with the support of R&D experts and an impressive line-up of chefs and artisans who’ve developed and tested the chocolate throughout several recipe applications.

Over the last quarter of 2022 and next year, Callebaut aims to create and grow a true NXT chef community for dairy-free confectionery, bakery, pastry, horeca and gelataria with a subsequent launch in UAE and the rest of the Middle East.

NXT is already available in Riyadh and Jeddah through Callebaut’s official partner Mawassem Al Ghizaa Co. EMF Saudi.

BOX OUT 1: NXT is 100 per cent plant-based dark and milky tasting chocolates, guaranteed free from any traces of dairy are curated for chefs & artisans to bring genuine vegan, plant-based, lactose-free & dairy-free chocolate indulgence to life without compromising taste and quality as compared to traditional chocolate.

BOX OUT 2: Plant-based foods are growing fast across the globe—not just in the savoury sphere but in the world of desserts and more specifically chocolate. According to industry stats, 54 per cent of Generation Z avoid meat or other animal-based products versus 34 per cent of baby boomers.