Can you tell me a little bit about your background, and your history with Amazon Payment Services?
Yes of course. One year ago, I joined Amazon Payment Services as the Managing Director for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. I took on the role to lead the team into an ambitious period of expansion for Amazon Payment Services in the region through developing partnerships and enabling the digitisation of businesses across all sectors of the economy. Prior to moving to the UAE to head Amazon Payment Services, I was already a 10-year Amazonian veteran, as one of the first employees to join the Amazon India team.
I started in the Business Development team for Junglee.com, Amazon’s first foray into India in 2011 before becoming part of the Marketplace team that launched Amazon in 2013. Then in 2017, I helped launch Amazon Business (AB IN), Amazon’s B2B enterprise focused business in India, which has since grown to over 25 million listings and over three million Indian businesses enlisted as customers and shoppers.
As a result of this experience, I developed a keen insight into the needs of Amazon’s business partners and their customers, which has helped me better understand how we can support Amazon Payment Services’ merchant network here in the region.
Congratulations on your one-year milestone. What changes have you overseen at Amazon Payment Services since your appointment here?
It has been a real source of pride for me to watch the rapid expansion of Amazon Payment Services over the past year, in every meaningful metric – whether it be our geographical footprint, the volume of transactions we process, our partner network that spans the private and public sectors across the MENA region, our ever-growing merchant base that cuts across industries, or our workforce that is constantly expanding to include more top talent from the region. This expansion stems from the customer-obsessed philosophy that we built Amazon Payment Services on as well as our ongoing dedication to operational excellence and long-term thinking — all of which are among Amazon’s guiding principles which have informed our work since the beginning.
Today, we are actively supporting the development of the regional payments industry through ongoing efforts working with our partners, governments, financial regulators, banks, and other entities. For instance, in Saudi Arabia, we have worked with global schemes to improve acceptance and onboard additional channels to accept MADA cards for customers in the country, in addition to engaging with several banks to ensure 3D Secure 2.0 readiness in the Kingdom. In the UAE, Amazon Payment Services is also part of a range of participating institutions working to embrace the Instant Payment platform introduced by the Central Bank. In Egypt, we have also played an advisory role with the Central Bank to launch Instant Payment in the country.
We are committed to providing secure, seamless, and flexible payment solutions to as many customers as possible, in as many countries as possible. Through Amazon’s innovative technologies and extensive partner network, our efforts bring us closer to this vision every day.
What have been your key objectives with regards to building relationships with customers in the region?
At Amazon, we always pride ourselves on being customer-obsessed, which means working backwards from customer wants and needs. We constantly adopt a customer-first approach, placing customer needs at the center of everything we do.
This philosophy is fundamental to how we operate at Amazon Payment Services. We work backwards to eliminate customer pain points, in this case, our merchant customers, as we help them maintain trust with their end customers, which, in turn, builds the merchants’ trust in us. We remove the burden from the merchant wherever possible, enabling them to focus on their core business while we facilitate seamless, fast, and secure payments. We innovate on their behalf, implementing technologies and integrations, so that they reap the benefits of our expertise. In a rapidly evolving environment, we understand how important it is for brands to offer their customers a unique, transparent, and convenient purchasing experience. At Amazon Payment Services, we work to offer our partners exactly that.
Amazon Payment Services was a payments service provider founded in the MENA region, and acquired by Amazon. Why did Amazon acquire the business, and what did Amazon bring to the offering?
Amazon Payment Services was originally founded as a UAE-based regional start-up in 2013, before joining the Amazon family in 2017. Amazon recognised Amazon Payment Services as one of the most dynamic and successful Fintech startups in the MENA region, with extensive knowledge and a deep understanding of the payments landscape in MENA.
We knew that combining the regional in-depth knowledge of Amazon Payment Services with the strength of Amazon’s global expertise, and best-practice would enable us to better serve and grow our merchant network in the region. Leveraging innovative infrastructure such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), which offers products such as Private Link, a multi-pronged solution for secure and private connectivity, we are able to deliver value, reliability, security, and quality to merchants and their customers.
Amazon Payment Services announced new programmes for startups earlier this year. Firstly, what are the benefits to such businesses and secondly, how will this leverage Amazon Payment Services’ positioning in the MENA region?
Amazon itself was a startup once, as was Souq. So, the startup DNA is well-ingrained in all of us here. At Amazon Payment Services, empowering startups across the MENA region is a fundamental part of our mission and culture. Offering regional support, with just one integration, merchants can instantly go live in eight different countries, with payment solutions tailored to each locale through our partners across the region.
Our ‘Startups Go Online’ programme aims to support startups across the MENA region who are looking to grow and scale their business online. As part of the Startups Go Online suite, we support startups from the onboarding stage all the way through to go-live and scaling phases, by leveraging our network to reduce their costs, all the while offering extensive go-to-market guidance and support through our dedicated relationship managers. The programme also extends benefits from AWS, providing eligible startups with cloud computing tools and resources, including AWS Credits to help them quickly launch and grow their business.
As part of our efforts to support the startup community, we also launched the Amazon Fintech Lab at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), working with Arif Amiri, CEO of DIFC, and his team there, in collaborating with DIFC’s community of startups to promote innovation in Fintech through networking, mentorship opportunities, workshops, and more.
Ultimately, our mission is to empower online businesses with a simple, affordable, and trusted payment experience. We democratise technology for startups and SMBs looking to expand their business online, as well as support large-scale enterprises by offering a dependable payment service enabling them to handle huge volumes of transactions safely.
What opportunities does this region provide to Amazon Payment Services and what kind of shift do you see in consumer behaviour towards adopting digital payments?
We witnessed accelerated adoption of online retail and digital payment solutions during the Covid-19 pandemic, and we believe there is increasing opportunity in the region in this space as its digital infrastructure continues to grow. The Middle East, and the GCC in particular, is one of the most dynamic and rapidly growing regions in the world, with a relatively young population who boast a strong entrepreneurial spirit and accelerated acceptance of new and emerging technologies. Millennials are currently the world’s most significant age group in terms of spending power, which amounts to $2.5 trillion globally for this demographic, according to YPulse. However, Gen-Z will drive innovation in the Fintech sphere in the near future – particularly in the GCC, where nearly half of the population is currently under 25, according to data from UNICEF.
Governments in the GCC were also early in recognising the importance of telecoms and IT infrastructure, and have been investing heavily in this space. As a result, we have witnessed a process of rapid digital transformation to make cities in the region some of the smartest in the world, with internet coverage amongst populations close to 100 per cent. In fact, according to World Bank reports, the UAE actually already reached 100 per cent in 2020.
Building an online presence is a top priority for most small and medium enterprises, and Amazon Payment Services continues to facilitate digital transformation for thousands of businesses across multiple industries with a focus on offering dependable payment services, to handle high volumes of transactions, safely.
Can you shed some light on Amazon Payment Services’ approach to Fintech innovation and emerging trends that will gain traction in the near future?
At Amazon Payment Services, we will always adopt our customer-obsessed approach to determine what it is our customers want and need, and work backwards to innovate on their behalf. For example, we became the first payment service provider (PSP) in the region to offer Installments to merchants online. Installments is a fully automated and secure service that breaks down large purchases into easy monthly payments, without the need for customers to make separate arrangements with their banks. Our merchants receive 100 per cent of the purchase value upfront while customers have the flexibility to repay their bank in installments based on their bank’s offering.
Today, we offer Installments in partnership with over 30 banks across the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, offering customers a more flexible way to pay for thousands of products and services. We have also pushed Installments into multiple new business verticals, from e-commerce to airlines and travel, electronics, insurance, education, entertainment and the government sectors.
Based on feedback from our merchants, using and actively promoting Installments have seen their sales increase by 10-15 per cent, average basket size grow by 20-25 per cent, and customer repeat purchases increase by 20-30 per cent.
At Amazon Payment Services, we consistently seek to encourage innovation and foster discussion in the Fintech and startup community, which is why we established the world’s first Amazon Fintech Lab at DIFC’s Innovation Hub in Dubai. We look forward to leveraging our Amazon Fintech Lab to further engage with the wider Fintech community, discussing the future of payments, the challenges, opportunities and disruptive technologies that will shape this space over the next decade.
Amazon Payment Services will continue to innovate and launch new products as it has been in the past. Would you be able to provide a sneak peek into what’s next?
While we don’t discuss future business plans, we are always innovating on behalf of customers and look forward to continuing to provide solutions to facilitate seamless, secure, fast, and flexible payments as we work with our partner network in the region.
At the Seamless Middle East event that took place in May of this year, I also talked about how Gen-Z is playing an increasingly big role in shaping the future of payments. We will continue to conduct research into the industry, looking at how audiences and customer behaviors are shaping it over the next few years. Continuous learning is a part of our process, because for us it is always Day 1.