There will not be completely cashless societies, say industry experts

Founded in India, airpay now plans to foray into Saudi Arabia and other Gulf markets

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Waheed Abbas

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Published: Thu 16 Nov 2023, 3:29 PM

Will societies be completely cashless?

Advancements in technology are increasingly eliminating the need to carry cash. However, societies will not become entirely cashless, industry experts have said.

During the Banking, Innovation and Technology (BIT) event organised by Khaleej Times, Kunal Jhunjhunwala, founder and managing director of airpay, said: “It has to be less cash society, simply because technology fails. If technology fails, what do you do? People say mobile wallets work, but what if you don’t have network? So, you will need cash.

Jonathan Chan, associate partner, Dubai, McKinsey & Company; Fernando Pacheco, SVP, head of cash management products, global transaction banking, Mashreq; and Mohamed Imtiyaz, regional BD head at Amazon Payment Services, also took part in the panel decision on the topic of ‘The dynamics of building cashless or fewer cash societies’.

Region still maturing

Founded in India, airpay now plans to foray into Saudi Arabia and other Gulf markets. “We are in five markets in Africa and plan to develop further over the next few years. This region as a whole is the central focus.”

Kunal Jhunjhunwala, founder and managing director of airpay. — Shihab/Khaleej Times
Kunal Jhunjhunwala, founder and managing director of airpay. — Shihab/Khaleej Times

When entering a new market, he said understanding local regulations is a major challenge as financial services is a very highly regulated market. “In many places, policies are not fully evolved yet in this region. Regulators don’t have clear guidelines on what needs to be done to get a licence.”

He added that everything in India is structured, but in the Middle East, businesses have to extract clarity because it is evolving.

He revealed that the Indian market is still largely untapped. “We are still playing in the top 10-20 per cent of the Indian market. We haven’t started exploring the market deeper. Over 80 per cent market remains untapped.”

Growing organically and inorganically

Going forward, the airpay chief said the plans to grow both organically and inorganically.

“We are looking at markets beyond India, specifically this region. Our natural tendency is to go through organic growth because it allows us to control what we are doing and it also allows us to find a way of our own.”

He added that the market is right for some inorganic opportunities. There will be some interesting opportunities to grow inorganically as valuations are coming. We are not actively looking, but if the right opportunities come up, we will not shy away,” he concluded.


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