SME story: Interview with Ghady Rayess, managing director of FOO
Now Reading
SME story: Interview with Ghady Rayess, managing director of FOO

SME story: Interview with Ghady Rayess, managing director of FOO

Financial services embedded into existing business models are no longer optional, but necessary


How do you see the growth of fintech in the Middle East region?

I see it following similar trends as seen globally, driven largely by the emergence of banking 4.0. This means customer-centricity and real-time service provision will continue to be a priority for companies operating in the fintech ecosystem.

To achieve this, financial services embedded into existing business models are no longer optional, but necessary, for both financial and non-financial companies, driving a huge demand for fintech services and solutions.

There are three main factors, however, specific to the growth of fintech in the region that are not as prominent on a global scale. Firstly, 55 per cent of the MENA population is under the age of 30. These digital natives prioritise convenience and are eager to adopt new technologies, making the Middle East a ripe and thriving fintech environment.

Secondly, the region has both banked and unbanked populations, providing opportunities for all types of fintech players. Solutions that cater to the unbanked population, such as digital wallets, and those that cater to the banked population, such as digital banking, are in high demand.

Thirdly, there has been a surge in both government-led and private initiatives supporting the fintech ecosystem. The Emerging Technologies Sandbox initiative in Saudi Arabia, for instance, aims to increase investments, foster innovation, and encourage the introduction of new technology products and services into the Saudi markets.

Additionally, regional regulatory ecosystems are increasingly driving demand for fintech solutions by enforcing digitisation. For example, digital banks in the UAE are required to utilise UAE Pass – a digital ID verification solution developed through fintech – in order to onboard customers.

What inspired you to start this business?

FOO was originally established in 2009 as a technology company specialising in digital channels, such as web and mobile apps. Back then, banks were still very traditional, and the lack of convenience meant that, for many people, tasks as simple as checking your bank balance or withdrawing cash involved visiting a physical branch.

Despite my limited experience in the financial sector at the time, my personal frustration with banking services, coupled with my passion for technology, enabled me to identify many opportunities for improvement in the financial industry. As a result, FOO became one of the first fintech solution providers in the region, dedicated to helping banks streamline their services and enhance customer satisfaction.

What are some of the challenges you faced when starting off?

Breaking into the market was the biggest challenge we faced as a startup. Banks are understandably strict when it comes to choosing collaboration partners due to security concerns. To win projects, we needed to provide references demonstrating our previous experience and prove our ability to deliver.

However, the catch was that we were unable to obtain this experience without first winning the projects. Despite this, being one of the few fintech companies in the region at the time gave us an advantage, and eventually, we were able to break out of this cycle and establish our presence in the market.

Tell us about your offering, it’s USP and business model.

FOO offers a range of services, including out-of-the-box solutions and software-as-a-service (SaaS), as well as implementation and customer service solutions. More recently, we have also added design and security consultancy services.

Having worked on numerous projects and use cases over the years, we have developed a modular platform of solutions that can be seamlessly integrated to build a personalised, packaged product.

What are some of the expansion plans you have in your pipeline?

We have already established our presence across the GCC and are now focused on expanding vertically. In addition to our headquarters in Dubai, we have recently opened an office in Riyadh.

Currently, we are in the process of opening an office in Egypt, which we consider to be the gateway to Africa. A base there will help us achieve our goal to promote financial inclusion in the region through our solutions for the unbanked population.

Read: FOO, Network International partner to enhance digital experiences in the Middle East and Africa

You might also like


Scroll To Top