Saudi based Seera Group taps Checkout.com for digital payments
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Saudi based Seera Group taps Checkout.com for digital payments

Saudi based Seera Group taps Checkout.com for digital payments

Digital transformation key to travel industry recovery

Emirates Dubai Health Authority

The travel industry is no stranger to disruption. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, a range of digital players were upending the sector with tech-enabled experiences and new business models. Established travel companies raced to embrace digital transformation — and not always successfully.

Seera Group is one of the success stories. But the company isn’t resting on its past achievements. Rather, Seera Group recognises the need for reinvention across the board, with payments and its partnership with Checkout.com, core to its digital strategy. To achieve its growth plans, Seera Group has embraced an ambitious innovation agenda — including a willingness to disrupt itself.

“Our group was established 41 years ago as a very traditional travel agency focused on serving corporate and government customers,” says Muzzammil Ahussain, EVP Consumer Travel, at Seera Group. “As we matured, we continued to grow our market share and expand our portfolio. But around 2015 we realized that we couldn’t exactly articulate who we were and who we wanted to be. We had a car rental business, we had an insurance business, we had a travel magazine. But we didn’t have a vision for ourselves.

“So, we went about developing our transformation plan, and part of that transformation was defining not only how we operate but who we are,” he adds.

The initiative resulted in a new name — Seera Group — which stands for ‘journey’ in Arabic. It also led to a digitisation programme across its portfolio.

Designing payments systems for scale and speed
Payments are at the heart of that strategy, because as Ahussain points out, they affect so many aspects of the business.

With Checkout.com, Ahussain is confident that Seera Group has a payment service provider that’s able to move at the speed needed to achieve its objectives. As Ahussain explains, one of the essential reasons that Checkout.com can solve these problems is because of its modular design. This lets customers like Seera Group tailor their integrations and allows for rapid experimentation and expansion.

Ahussain: We’ve been focused on ensuring we have the right local payment methods, like Mada in Saudi Arabia and KNET in Kuwait.
In the markets that Seera Group operates, the ability to tailor the customer experience to local preferences is also a must to drive acquisition and consumer loyalty.

“We’ve been focused on ensuring we have the right local payment methods, like Mada in Saudi Arabia and KNET in Kuwait,” says Ahussain. “It’s really about making sure your payments offering is relevant to the customer.”

Seera Group also worked with Checkout.com to implement Apple Pay, which has since gained major traction in the region due to companies going cashless to combat Covid-19. Ahussain further highlights Checkout.com’s high-profile base of clients, including in travel, as another benefit. “Many of these merchants have the same challenges as us,” he says. “So, when Checkout.com solves something for them, we benefit as well.”

Like many fast-expanding companies, Seera Group looks to the fintech playbook of experimentation and innovation.

“It’s understanding that ultimately your customer is going to need to pay you to make this transaction successful — how can you provide additional financial and payment solutions to either increase your wallet share, increase customer retention, or a combination of both? More importantly, this process typically has been very manual and offline. So, our view of fintech is thinking about how we digitally enable more than just traditional payment methods to provide additional services to the consumer,” notes Ahussain.

As Seera Group continues to advance, Ahussain is staying focused on the potential of payments to power growth for the group.

That opportunity is a large one, indeed. The e-commerce and digital payment sectors in the Middle East & North Africa, Pakistan (MENAP) region are set for major growth in 2021, with nearly half of consumers likely to increase their online shopping over the next year, according to a recent report by Checkout.com.

Sebastian Reis, EVP of global e-commerce at Checkout.com, adds: “While there has been a sudden surge in e-commerce and digital payments due to the impact of Covid-19, our research suggests what we are seeing today is more than a temporary change in consumer behaviour.

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