Marketing Featured South Asia

UM expands APAC presence with new Pakistan affiliate office

Singapore – Global media agency network UM from IPG Mediabrands is expanding its presence in Asia-Pacific with a new affiliate office in Pakistan, launched in agreement with IG Square Pakistan.

The affiliate partnership takes effect immediately, and adds up to the 14 existing markets UM is in the region, including Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Speaking of the new affiliate office, Muhammad Sarwar Khan, chief executive officer at IG Square Pakistan, said, “We are very excited to be a part of IPG Mediabrands and I believe this relationship will bring a fresh perspective to the media landscape in Pakistan with data, technology and commerce playing a key role in reshaping consumer journeys and experiences.” 

He added, “I would also like to thank all of our clients and media partners for extending their support and I assure them that this new partnership will further equip us to deliver on our promise of imagining growth globally.” 

Meanwhile, Adnan Shaikh, director and chief operating officer at IG Square Pakistan, commented, “I am humbled and excited to share news of IG Square’s affiliation with IPG Mediabrands to represent Universal McCann (UM) in Pakistan, and introduce other agency brands in the future. We are extremely thankful to our team members, clients and vendors for their trust and confidence. We are committed to magnifying the UM brand image in Pakistan, and extend UM’s regional and global experience and expertise to our clients.”

Kasper Aakerlund, president at UM APAC, commented, “I am delighted to be in a position to confirm our official affiliate partnership with IG Square for UM Pakistan. An important growth market for many of our regional and global client brands; the launch of UM Pakistan will serve to future-proof our regional efficiencies and expand our competitive remit and opportunities across the Asia-Pacific region.”

Marketing Featured South Asia

Pakistan-based e-commerce marketplace Dastgyr raises funds to bolster expansion efforts

Amsterdam, Netherlands — Dastgyr, a Pakistan-based B2B e-commerce marketplace platform, has announced it has secured a US$15m investment as part of a series A funding. This investment will contribute to boosting Pakistan’s e-commerce market. The investment was supplied by VEON, a digital operator that provides mobile connectivity and services through its VEON Ventures division.

Dastgyr offers businesses a one-stop-shop application that connects thousands of retailers with suppliers to give them access to real-time visibility on pricing and financing rates. Platform partners have included Coca-Cola, Nestle, and Reckitt.

Dastgyr will remain an independent entity, with a minority position being taken by VEON Ventures. The new investment round will support Dastgyr’s expansion into 15 new cities in Pakistan, alongside its existing network in Karachi, Lahore, Sialkot and Gujranwala.

Zohaib Ali, co-founder of Dastgyr, shared, “We are thrilled to achieve this milestone in the current global economic environment. We welcome the new investors to the Dastgyr family as we continue to work relentlessly toward our vision of building an Alibaba for emerging markets worldwide.”

Ali adds, “We’re lucky to have found strategic partners who believe in our mission and have displayed unwavering faith in our team. Financial inclusion, which is central to the startup’s mission, will uplift and enable Pakistan’s small- and medium-sized retail entrepreneurs, potentially unlocking up to an additional US$10b for the country’s GDP, according to our estimates.”

Meanwhile, Mohd Khairil Abdullah, CEO of VEON Ventures, said, “As part of VEON’s transformation into a digital operator that delivers a growing range of services to our customers we are investing in leading digital companies like Dastgyr in the countries where we operate. These investments are the building blocks of the digital ecosystem that will enable us to deliver on our strategy.”

The deal is VEON Ventures’ largest investment in a Pakistani start-up and reflects the group’s continued commitment to the region and to the growth of Pakistan’s digital economy.

Marketing Featured South Asia

Mastercard, OPay to bring virtual payment solutions to Pakistan

Cairo, Egypt — Payment industry giant Mastercard and fintech OPay have announced a strategic partnership, which marks a significant boost for wider financial inclusion and economic prosperity by opening up digital commerce to customers in Pakistan.

The collaboration enables OPay Pakistani consumers and merchants to engage with brands and businesses anywhere across the globe, thanks to a Mastercard virtual payment solution linked to the OPay eWallet. The partnership’s effect also reaches other regions namely in the Middle East and South Africa.

This partnership is the latest milestone in Mastercard’s emerging market strategy where the technology company is collaborating with growing fintech such as OPay to expand access to digital payments, enable multiple lifestyle services, and create new pathways to financial inclusion and support the next generation of super-apps.

Consumers are increasingly looking for seamless user experiences on a single platform offering easier interactions to complete various day-to-day needs, including sending and receiving money, ordering food and groceries, organizing transport, lending, investing and listing items they wish to sell.

In the initial phase of this partnership, OPay customers will benefit from the Mastercard virtual payment solution linked to their OPay wallets, to shop at well-known global brands for leisure, travel, accommodation, entertainment, streaming services and more. The service is available regardless of whether or not the customer has a bank account. It also allows small business owners to purchase from suppliers abroad and pay with the secure virtual payment solution.

Amnah Ajmal, executive vice president for market development at Mastercard EEMEA, said, “At Mastercard, our innovation strategy is rooted in partnerships to support inclusion at scale. Our partnership with OPay demonstrates our commitment to supporting payments providers across the world to create an interconnected global payments ecosystem that benefits an array of consumers with unique needs.”

Yahui Zhou, CEO of OPay, commented, “As the leading fintech in the Middle East and Africa, we are delighted to be partnering with Mastercard as we continue on our journey to promote financial inclusion, helping to open up the global economy to more consumers and businesses across the Middle East and Africa.”

Since its operations started in 2018, OPay’s active users have grown to 15 million in dozens of markets in which it operates. The company processes millions of transactions per day on average.

Plans are in place to launch OPay services in other markets in the next three to five years, significantly driving the growth of digital inclusion and digital commerce, while at the same time widening OPay customer inclusion into the global economy.

Marketing Featured South Asia

Bank of Punjab inks agreement with Mastercard to become credit card issuer, acquirer

Punjab, Pakistan — The Bank of Punjab (BOP), a Pakistan-based financial institution, has signed an agreement with Mastercard, the leading tech company in the global payments industry. The collaboration will see the bank’s customers in the region and across the globe benefit from a new range of electronic payment products.

The agreement will see BOP issuing Mastercard debit and credit cards to its customers and enable point-of-sale and e-commerce acquiring, utilizing Mastercard’s industry-leading Mastercard Payment Gateway Services platform.

Representatives from both parties attended the ceremony, namely from BOP; Zahid Mustafa, group chief of consumer and digital banking, Asim Qureshi, head of cards, and Syed Shahzad Shahid, head of customers, among others. From Mastercard, a notable attendee was J.K. Khalil, country GM for MENA east of Mastercard.

Addressing the participants, Mustafa said, “Cards and payments are critical components of our digital banking strategy to provide ease and convenience to our customers. We have developed a strong value of proposition for our cards with the help of Mastercard as we seek to give value to our customers with our transactions.”

Mustafa added, “We are bringing learnings from international markets to Pakistan and partnership with Mastercard is playing a pivotal role in the digitization of retail, as well as government initiatives.”

Meanwhile, Khalil shared some insights of his own, saying, “Pakistan is fast embracing digital payments and the endless opportunities it presents to people and communities. We are delighted to deepen our long-standing partnership with The Bank of Punjab through this milestone launch.”

Marketing Featured South Asia

Pakistani fintech Abhi’s US$17m funding to scale marketing capability

Pakistan — Financial wellness platform Abhi has announced the successful closure of its US$17m Series A funding round, which will be used to meet the massive customer demand, scale the Abhi team and build out marketing capabilities.

The financing round was led by international venture capital firm Speedinvest, supported by VEF, Global Ventures, VentureSouq, and more.

Founded in 2021 by Omair Ansari and Ali Ladhubhai, Abhi’s objective is to tackle financial stress by enabling employees to meet their financial obligations without exposure to negative loan spirals – but also to benefit employers. For employers, the platform has zero costs involved – thus avoiding any impact on the payroll cycle or cash flow.

Omair Ansari, chief executive officer of Abhi, said, “We are delighted to announce this US$17m funding round, especially with the calibre of investors involved. The continued backing of VEF, plus the support from other leading VC firms, is a testament to our platform, business model and the hard work of our team. We have grown rapidly since our inception in July 2021 and our momentum has opened up a significant B2B opportunity. All sizes of companies and their employees want the services we provide. The proceeds will support our exponential growth and help us meet customer demand.”

The company’s strong growth has continued since its inception and the company is cash-flow positive. Its total payment value processed has scaled rapidly, increasing from US$2m in November 2021 to US46m as of February 2022. Abhi works with hundreds of companies, including household names like Hilton Pharma, Soorty, Din Group, among others. The company has partnered with two of the largest banks in Pakistan – United Bank Limited and Bank Alfalah – and has also expanded its offering to business financing, taking the step from a pure B2C company to now being also a B2B company.

Dave Nangle, CEO of VEF, commented, “Our congratulations to Omair, Ali and all the Abhi team. We backed this team from the seed stage and watched all the impressive progress and traction they have achieved in less than a year of existence. It is the reason behind their ability to raise a size Series A round from a deep bench of quality investors.

Nangle adds, “From a capital perspective, In the wake of having placed our debut sustainability linked bonds, it feels appropriate to be able to deploy capital so swiftly into an asset like Abhi, supporting consumers and MSMEs in the vastly under-penetrated financial market of Pakistan. Abhi is a perfect example of how VEF, as a company, can positively contribute to financial wellness across emerging markets, while staying true to our mandate of delivering superior shareholder returns.”

Platforms Featured South Asia

Bank Alfalah, Paymob team up to drive digital payment acceptance in Pakistan

Karachi, Pakistan – National private bank Bank Alfalah has partnered with fintech platform Paymob to drive payment acceptance in Pakistan, which will empower over 100,000 merchants across Pakistan and launch new innovative services in e-commerce acceptance for online merchants.

Through the partnership, both entities have collaborated to activate and support merchant acquisition and integration services across Pakistan. This is Paymob’s first collaboration outside its Egyptian home market and comes as part of its expansion strategy in the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (MENAP) region.

Bank Alfalah’s partnership with Paymob will drive financial inclusion and lead the way for swift payment acceptance, and will follow Bank Alfalah’s objective to support merchant acquisition and integration services across the country. This collaboration will enable an instant onboarding feature for the first time in Pakistan using Paymob’s advanced solutions such as payment gateway integration, POS terminals and SoftPOS.

Atif Bajwa, President and CEO of Bank Alfalah said, “Bank Alfalah is proud to partner with Paymob in one of Pakistan’s largest Fintech partnerships. Our collaboration will aim to serve thousands of merchants across Pakistan and the industry-first ‘Tap-on-Phone’ service will allow us to reach even the most remotely located merchants in Pakistan.”

Furthermore, the instant onboarding feature made by the partnership is empowered by the digital onboarding regulations recently published by the State Bank of Pakistan and comes as one of many positive steps the State Bank has led to enable MSME merchants in order to further digitise the ecosystem.

Meanwhile, Alain El-Hajj, COO of Paymob, commented, “This is a remarkable moment for Paymob. We are honoured to partner with Bank AlFalah under its progressive leadership to provide reliable and seamless digital payment services for SMEs across Pakistan. With this partnership we aim to contribute to the shared vision of economic growth and digitization of SMEs.”

Marketing Featured South Asia

European automobile brand PEUGEOT officially launches in Pakistan

Karachi, Pakistan — Automobile company PEUGEOT has officially launched operations in Pakistan through its exclusive partner Lucky Motor Corporation in Karachi. The partnership commenced with the opening of eight 3S dealerships that offer sales, after-sales and other services in six cities namely Islamabad, Lahore, Faisalabad, Sialkot and Gujranwala.

The tie-up also aims to facilitate the creation of state-of-the-art assembly facilities in Karachi to boost employment, localization and local automotive industry in Pakistan and enhance the internationalization of PEUGEOT.

PEUGEOT is an inventive brand that has been a pioneer in the automotive industry for over 200 years guided by its brand values; ‘Allure, Emotion and Excellence’, which represent sharp design, intuitive driving pleasure and uncompromising quality. With its entry into Pakistan, these values will be upheld as the brand strives to provide the market with the latest innovations and mobility solutions.

Linda Jackson, CEO of the PEUGEOT brand, said, “We are delighted with this partnership. This will be the first time a European car is assembled in Pakistan and we are excited to work with Lucky Motors to support employment, localization and the local automotive industry in the country. Internationalization is a key focus for PEUGEOT, with the B and C segment SUV growth in Pakistan, representing a great opportunity for us. This is also bolstered by the evolution of the legislation of the country towards electrification which is fully in line with our own strategy.”

Simultaneously, Samir Cherfan, chief operating officer of Stellantis Middle East and Africa, commented, “We are excited to embark on this journey in Pakistan with our new partner, Lucky Motor Corporation. We see tremendous potential and opportunity for PEUGEOT in Pakistan and are looking forward to serving customers in this exciting market.

Lucky Motor Corporation is a subsidiary of the Yunus Brothers Group, which has a legacy spanning over five decades. Yunus Brother Group’s robust and dynamic approach has enabled it to gain considerable market share in the Pakistani automotive industry and to set new benchmarks in terms of product offering and customer service. With the introduction of PEUGEOT, the company now aims to provide the best mobility solutions the European brand can offer its customers.

Asif Rizvi, chief operating officer of Lucky Motors Company, shared that Lucky Motors is set to change the automotive landscape of Pakistan by introducing PEUGEOT, the first locally made European brand in the country. Rizvi added that they are very excited to partner with Peugeot and look forward to being associated with Stellantis, a company that strongly believes in futuristic mobility solutions.

“Pakistan, with its 220 million population, offers a great opportunity for someone to come in and disrupt the automotive market. And we have no doubt that the Stellantis with its 14 brand portfolio, will be the one to do so. Lucky Motors is proud to become the first company in Pakistan to have multi-brand manufacturing and dealers. We are delighted to embark on this adventure, bringing with it the best automotive solutions, while also making meaningful contributions and investments that will support economic and social development in Pakistan,” Rizvi said.

The first step of the partnership will begin with the introduction of the locally built PEUGEOT 2008 model. The full-electric e-2008 local production is also considered. The introduction of the PEUGEOT 2008 is the first step of this ongoing commitment to Pakistani customers.

Platforms Featured South Asia

Fintech NayaPay raises US$13m to drive digital payments in Pakistan

Karachi, Pakistan – Pakistan-based fintech NayaPay has raised US$13m in one of the largest seed rounds in South Asia, which was led by Zayn Capital, global fund manager MSA Novo, and early-stage VC Graph Ventures from Silicon Valley, as well as the participation of Singapore-based Saison Capital, amongst many others.

NayaPay aims to be at the forefront in the digitisation of Pakistan with its two-sided platform for the underbanked. The fintech has launched its chat-led super app targeted primarily at students and freelancers, and is building a SaaS-based platform called NayaPay Arc offering universal payment acceptance and financial management tools for SMBs. NayaPay’s platform strategy will harness the network effects between consumers and merchants, as seen in platforms such as Square Cash/Square, WeChat Pay, and AliPay as well as Venmo in their native markets.

According to NayaPay, Pakistan presents a significant market opportunity for the platform, where over 50 million adults are unbanked and only 33% of women have a bank account. With 70% of the population under 35 years old, there is a significant mobile-first generation. It also said that almost US$4t payments are made each year but only 1% of these are made digitally currently, while on the merchant side, the majority of SMBs in Pakistan are unregistered. They only have traditionally dealt primarily in cash, and have very limited access to business banking.

Danish A. Lakhani, NayaPay’s founder and CEO, shared that micro, small and medium businesses make up 90% of the merchant base in Pakistan and yet they are underserved when it comes to access to basic financial services. 

“NayaPay Arc will provide universal payments acceptance and a range of business financial management tools to empower entrepreneurs and small business owners. The tools are intended to give business owners visibility of their cash flows, pay suppliers and grow sales. Our goal is to enable them to focus on growth while we take care of the rest. By helping small businesses harness the power of technology, we believe we can transform the Pakistani economy,” said Lakhani.

Meanwhile, Faisal Aftab, Zayn Capital Frontier’s managing partner and co-founder, commented that they were impressed by the completeness of the vision of the founding team at NayaPay, and their differentiated platform-based strategy, first focused on servicing the needs of underbanked consumers and SMBs with specific use cases and building out from there. 

“With a proven ability to execute on the ground, the founder has an impressive track record of building and scaling businesses in Pakistan, including the country’s largest fibre broadband service, StormFiber,” said Aftab.

Omar Siddiqui, Graph Venture’s general partner, said that they are excited to see the mobile and fintech technology trends that have empowered consumers in these markets also emerge in Pakistan. 

“NayaPay already offers the most robust solution for consumers to access next-generation financial conveniences in Pakistan, and we look forward to working with the team as they roll out new products and grow their consumer base,” added Siddiqui.

Technology Featured South Asia

GroupM rolls out influencer marketing solution platform INCA to Pakistan

Karachi, Pakistan — Media investment group GroupM announced the Pakistan launch of its AI-powered brand-safe influencer marketing solution, INCA during its latest virtual event. Leveraging GroupM’s remarkable scale, INCA connects brands to a vast network of reliable publishers and influencers to create and promote content in social channels that will drive brand engagement across digital platforms.

With the platform now entering Pakistan, clients in the country can now leverage the additional benefit of global expertise and run campaigns across YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok. Assisting these clients is INCA’s specialist teams in four regions and 30 countries who have created more than 2,500 campaigns with over 100,000 content pieces for more than 300 unique clients around the world.

INCA’s proprietary end-to-end AI-powered platform provides numerous useful offerings namely unique creator and audience insights, fraud detection, workflow tools, content amplification, and detailed campaign reporting dashboards. It leverages a proprietary algorithm that uses real-time data to source, curate, and match influencers and publishers to a brand’s campaign objectives to deliver the most credible partners and content for the greatest impact.

Naveed Asghar, CEO of GroupM Pakistan, commented, “We are thrilled about INCA’s launch in Pakistan. We look forward to helping brands scale up their digital campaigns through our best-in-class AI-enabled influencer marketing technology to guarantee not only effective marketing but also connect brands with relevant, authentic influencers and publishers.”

With INCA’s trusted and scalable solutions, the platform can accommodate publishers, influencers, and their content needs to be manually identified, screened, and managed to ensure quality and brand safety, as the trend of fake followers enabled by bots makes it harder to tell if an influencer is a genuine and valuable creator.

Ghulam Jillani, business director (INCA) of GroupM Pakistan, said, “Using technology to challenge norms is the route to change the landscape. INCA addresses these challenges to provide a trusted network of verified influencer partners and campaign management processes. With this step, we expect for the ecosystem to change in order for us to bring that change in Pakistan we have INCA at GroupM.”

Meanwhile, Ateeq Rehman, CIO of GroupM Pakistan, shared, “At INCA, we build genuine relationships between brands, consumers, and creators to drive business outcomes for clients and maximise returns on their digital spend. Influencer marketing is growing at a phenomenal pace in Pakistan and we look forward to implementing INCA’s influencer marketing solutions for our valued clients in this region.”

Technology Featured South Asia

HBL, Temenos partner to bolster digital banking services

Pakistan – Pakistan-based bank network HBL has partnered with Temenos, a global banking software company, to adopt the company’s core banking platform, aimed at providing domestic and international operations with a cutting-edge banking experience.

Through the partnership, HBL will be onboarding over 25 million of its clients onto Temenos’ open platform for composable banking, which will accelerate its services across all segments, markets, and channels. HBL clients will now have an enhanced user experience in the form of increased reliability, security, and a modern platform that will enhance the bank’s digitalisation journey.

In addition, the Temenos implementation will include a full suite of client-friendly products and services that will provide end-to-end, technologically advanced solutions to both HBL’s conventional and Islamic banking clients. This faster onboarding and quicker transaction processing will provide a more seamless client experience, enabling HBL to increase its digital footprint across Pakistan and internationally.

The new system will also enhance adherence to local banking regulations and improve reporting standards for international markets in China, GCC, Europe, and SAARC countries.

Muhammad Aurangzeb, HBL’s president and CEO, said “The open technology platform provided by Temenos is flexible, global-ready and has the breadth of banking services to meet our clients’ fast-developing banking needs. This partnership contributes to our goal to become a ‘Technology company with a banking license’.”

Meanwhile, Sagheer Mufti, HBL’s chief operating officer, noted, “At HBL, we are always looking at better ways to serve our clients. By adopting this leading platform, we will add to our capability to give clients an improved experience when using our services, now and for many years to come.”

Max Chuard, Temenos’ CEO, commented that HBL is a forward-looking bank with a pioneering approach to shaping the future of banking, and Temenos’ open platform for composable banking will free the bank from legacy constraints. 

“To innovate safely at speed, as well as scale its offering and achieve its growth goals. We are proud to support HBL as it delivers on this exciting vision for more than 25 million clients worldwide,” said Chuard.