myZoi x Gulf Business Q&A

Tell us about the inception of myZoi. What led to its creation?

Christian Buchholz Co-founder and Chief Product Officer: During my role at SC Ventures in Singapore, I had the privilege of personally interacting with the underbanked and hearing about their families in their home countries such as Philippines, India, Bangladesh. The insights and experiences gained from these interactions were inspirational. “I was deeply moved and inspired by their unwavering commitment to their families and their remarkable optimism in the face of any challenge.

I was surprised to hear how they worked so hard and then sent up to 80% of their income back home, leaving very little for personal use, let alone having savings! “

I was moved when I heard from a housekeeper that she sends funds to her husband in the Philippines to further distribute it to the rest of the family, but never knowing if her mother receives it. These personal stories left a lasting impact on me and made me think about a solution to this problem.

At the end of 2019, after a lot of research and talking to migrant workers, I had an idea which has now turned into myZoi. I called my friends and our now Co-Founders, Shanawaz RoufNabid Hassan, who connected with the idea and were instrumental in putting together a concept paper and pitching our idea, myZoi, to SC Ventures. We were excited to hear that after multiple challenging sessions and further research, our idea was given the go ahead. That moment marked a turning point in our lives.

What have been some of the key highlights since you started the company?

Christian Buchholz Co-founder and Chief Product Officer: Driven by our vision, I then later met Arsalan Siddiqui, at a remittance workshop in Pakistan. Following this, I was introduced to Syed Ali who shared the same vision and passion for myZoi. So, most of the founding members came together in the UAE to pursue the idea except for Arsalan stayed back in Pakistan to expand our offering for migrant workers’ families. From that point on, there was no looking back. We have always heard that the UAE was a place for supporting startups and that it offered a business-friendly environment, making it easier for entrepreneurs to set up and operate their businesses. However, having experienced it first-hand left no doubt that we made the right choice to have the UAE as our first market and as our base! Fast forward 1.5 years later, we now have myZoi—an innovative fintech proposition attracting initial interest and soon going into public beta.

What are some of the key trends you see impacting your industry? 

Syed Muhammad Ali, Co-founder and CEO: The financial technology sector is a hotbed of innovation, enabled by advances in cloud computing, blockchain, machine learning & artificial intelligence, and robotic process automation etc. Players are vying for the attention of consumers and corporates by simplifying the access & UI/UX, enabling interoperability, and reducing transactional costs.

Specifically in the consumer segment, the proliferation of affordable smart phones and ubiquitous internet access, have allowed providers to reach previously inaccessible populations. There is a realization that technology now allows developing solutions that can enable financial inclusion of underserved segments of our society.

The super app model conceives a one-stop online platform catering to the consumers’ commerce and communication needs and embraces many aspects of personal and commercial life. Such platforms are gaining in popularity in urban areas amongst both the tech savvy youngsters and increasingly with traditional laggards in the older generations. The platform approach is being successfully adapted for the underserved communities, for whom simplicity, cost effectiveness, and choice in their day to day transactional needs are previously unknown luxuries.

Last but not least, these advances entail increased financial crime risk – particularly the risk of fraud for the new ‘digital immigrants’. It is the responsibility of technology providers to assume the responsibility of eliminating cyber fraud risk to the extent possible from their offerings. In addition, they can differentiate themselves by making efforts to add elements of financial education and literacy for their more vulnerable users.   

Tell us about your funding rounds and how you intend to use the capital raised in the coming months? 

Syed Muhammad Ali, Co-founder and CEO: This funding forms part of myZoi’s initial raises after the seed round to enable continued product and corridor development post its commercial go-live. Prior to this round the entire funding has been through SC Ventures.

Can you share your future plans?

Syed Muhammad Ali, Co-founder and CEO: myZoi is preparing for its full commercial launch by the end of 2023. We’re also looking to expand into other GCC markets and beyond. The myZoi team have plans to roll out community educational initiatives that will deepen our understanding of the people who are using our product. The development process is a continuous cycle and we will always aim to improve to meet the needs of our users and make their lives easier.

How are you digitizating the journey and making it simpler and faster for a generation which was left out?

Shanawaz Rouf, Co-founder and COO: For end users – myZoi is a tech led solution and everything from onboarding to KYC and real time transfers is automated and digitized to enable seamless and simple experience. Our primary goal is to enhance the user experience by making it cleaner, more visual, and simpler at every stage. This includes ongoing education and digital literacy seamlessly embedded into consumer’s journey.

Behind the scenes, the back-end infrastructure is designed to enable efficiency – we try to keep everything automated, minimize service time or make it near instant, building in automated controls around cybersecurity, including fraud detection which is a critical aspect for the underserved. Being able to deliver continuously high standard of service as we scale is another area that we focus on. In addition to multiple languages on offer for our client segments, we also aim to have data analytics and marketing technology, which enables to serve personalized offers to the right client at the right time and be able to measure the output to optimize.

What steps did you take to understand the needs of your audience to inform the product design?

Nabid Hassan, Co-founder and Product Lead: My approach to product design at myZoi has been significantly shaped by personal experiences, particularly those involving my uncle, who was a blue-collar migrant worker in Al Ain, UAE. He diligently sent money back home to support his my aunt and cousins, only to have those funds unfairly withheld by a family member. I witnessed firsthand the far-reaching consequences this had on our family.

These personal encounters with the struggles faced by migrant workers have influenced my approach to product design. When confronted with challenges, I always make an effort to empathize with those who are directly affected and envision how our innovations can effectively address these real-world issues. Our design philosophy revolves around human-centered principles, placing a strong emphasis on user feedback and an iterative development process.

Our design journey typically begins with preliminary, rough concepts and prototypes, which we subject to rigorous testing and user feedback. We continuously refine our solutions, gradually progressing towards more sophisticated prototypes that undergo further scrutiny through user interviews. This meticulous approach enables us to create user experiences that are intuitive and practical, specifically tailored to individuals with limited tech literacy.

By adhering to this user-centric methodology, we have developed solutions that genuinely cater to the needs of our target audience and seamlessly align with the real challenges faced by those we aim to assist.

What experiences have shaped the journey of myZoi and our role as Country Head of Pakistan?

Arsalan Siddiqui, Co-founder and Country Head of Pakistan: It’s the collective commitment and shares values to that brought all of us at myZoi together. The people who joined us share the same zeal and drive which makes the journey even more pleasant. As a Country Head of Pakistan, my role is to form strategic partnerships with entities that share a similar goal and passion for financial literacy and financial inclusion. My focus in particular is on enhancing the myZoi proposition for the beneficiaries ie families of low-income migrant workers here. Always on a lookout to collaborate and partners in the space of tech innovation or ecommerce to enhance our product champion financial freedom.

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