Fawry seeks to ease hassle of bill payments
Cairo, November 24, 2009
Egyptian start-up bill payments company Fawry is betting a rising number of Egyptians opening bank accounts will translate into traffic for its operation, which aims to ease hassle for consumers, billers and banks.
Fawry (Arabic for immediate) will launch in January, offering payment options for telephone and internet service providers, but is eyeing a wider market including utilities, credit cards, auto payments, insurance premiums and even charity donations and school fees.
In Egypt's cash economy, where just 10 per cent of the 77 million population hold bank accounts, utility bills are still collected door-to-door and bank transactions are overwhelmingly done in person.
Fawry's system will act as intermediary, alerting a customer via email or text message when a bill is due and how much needs to be paid. The customer can then authorise Fawry to pay the bill, or access their own bank account to pay the bill online, over the phone, at a cash machine, or via Fawry's branded shops.
"Many services are going to come and then you create another way of convenience," Chief Executive Ashraf Sabry told Reuters in an interview.
The group, in which IT firm Raya has a 35 per cent stake and which has a paid-in capital of EGP46 million ($8.4 million), plans to have 4,000 such pay points in place by the end of 2010 and 12,000 within three years, he said.
"The core target is young married couples in the medium-income bracket who are both working," said Magda Habib, Fawry's chief commercial officer.
"They don't have anybody at home for the bill collector and they are not rich enough to have a secretary or driver to send out."
The firm has signed up four banks -- Credit Agricole and Bank of Alexandria, along with state-owned Banque Misr and Banque du Caire -- and expects agreements with National Bank of Egypt and Arab African International and another unnamed bank soon.
Sabry estimates these banks cover 80 per cent of Egypt's banked population, with some state-run firms and government ministries moving payroll operations to banks while banks are actively seeking to grow their retail business.
Fawry's system can handle one million transactions in a 10-hour period, the executives said, adding extra capacity could be added if necessary. – Reuters