Bahrain entrepreneurs working on smart plans
Manama, November 19, 2011
Baharain's entrepreneurs are working on smart new business plans including making payments using mobile phones under an initiative organised by Batelco.
Seventy participants, divided into nine teams, are taking part in the Bahrain Startup Weekend that will offer participants cash prizes as well as funding and technical support to put their business plans into action.
They are competing for a top cash prize of BD4,000 ($10,608) and financial support of up to BD20,000 from Tenmou. The second prize is BD2,000 and the third is BD1,000.
The competition which began on Thursday concludes today at Batelco Staff Centre in Hamala.
Two of the teams are working on initiatives that explore how smartphones can be used to pay for goods and services.
One team, Paycell, is led by Indian Hitinder Bawani, 27, who is an IT training manager at Bahrain Institute of Entrepreneurship and Technology.
The other team members include four Bahrainis and a Briton, who all work at Batelco and joined together following an IT training course given to them by Mr Bawani.
'Our slogan is 'Drop the Plastic', Bawani told the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication. 'We are planning to make shopping and payment easy for customers,' he stated.
'Everyone carries a smartphone device, so they can pay using their smartphone, drop the plastic and cash and there is no need to wait for change to come.'
'They can do fast checkouts or use their mobile to make transactions from home,' he added.
Bawani said the smartphone payment application would be linked to the banking system and directly debited from the consumer's bank account.
The consumer will enjoy the service free and the merchant will pick up the nominal fee, which is expected to be less than what they are currently charged for using the credit card system, he said.
The merchant pays for the transactions but it comes with benefits such as raffles and prizes, he added.
Bawani said the smartphone payment system would be particularly useful for those who don't have a credit card.
Those without a bank account might also benefit by purchasing a pre-paid voucher for the smartphone payment application.
The application will also enable users to deposit extra funds to other users' accounts, he added.
'A family could be connected to the same account, which means they don't need to have separate credit cards,' explained Bawani.
'You can have one major account holder who can have sub accounts which are accredited to one account.
'In the end you can regulate where the transactions happen and monitor your daily budget and it's crucial for people who want to save.
'We are also planning to give merchants a device that will produce a receipt for the customer.'
If successful, Paycell aims to launch the initiative in Bahrain and then expand it to other GCC countries and the world.
Another Bahrain Startup Weekend team with a similar concept is EZ Pay, who are a group of Bahrainis led by real estate broker Khalid Al Mousawi, aged 35.
Their idea is to give consumers the option to pay for services and goods using their smartphone. The amount spent is then added to their telephone bill.
'We are planning to integrate mobile phones with payments for commodities and services,' he told the GDN. 'We want to revolutionise the way people use mobile phones.
'We want to integrate customer experiences within applications of smartphones, for example they pull up at a petrol station and they can just pay using their mobile phone.
'You will press an application and retailers that have signed up to the service will have a device that receives your data.
'The benefit is the user gets the service and the retailer and operator get money and this would increase the traffic in services.'
The seven other teams and their business ideas are Charitime (Charity Volunteers Network), Alpha (medical test awareness website), EveryWeb (code converter for all web browsers), Future Mobi Network (promoting proximate marketing areas), Students_Tube (educational videos online), Gozilla (website/applications for bored people, activity suggestion), and Search Bahrain (Bahraini market intelligence dashboard website).
Batelco Staff Centre is open throughout the 54-hour event giving the teams access to facilities and support from mentors to develop their business plans in preparation for presenting them to a panel of judges this evening.
In addition to cash prizes, the first three winning teams will be given free enrolment into Bahrain Development Bank's (BDB) Entrepreneurship Development Programme.
The BDB will be evaluating the projects during the judging session to see if they qualify for the Pre-Seed Capital Support Scheme that is jointly run with Tamkeen and includes a grant of up to BD5,000.
Batelco, through its newly-established Innovation Centre, also hopes to select a relevant project to offer its financial and technical support.
Startup Weekend is a non-profit initiative that began in Seattle, the US, in 2007 and has been held in 91 countries, said Startup Weekend Facilitator Hashem Zahrain. Those 300 events have results in 14,000 ventures across the world.-TradeArabia News Service