The SME Story: Ibtissam Ouassif, co-founder of Cashew Payments
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The SME Story: Ibtissam Ouassif, co-founder of Cashew Payments

The SME Story: Ibtissam Ouassif, co-founder of Cashew Payments

The buy now pay later platform has already received $13.5m of funding in its pre-series A round

What prompted you to start Cashew Payments?
Buy now pay later (BNPL) has been a proven model in other regions. I felt there was no reason why consumers should not be offered quick, easy and transparent access to credit. Using Cashew is free to consumers, there is no sign-up fee and no interest fee, the merchants pay a commission but benefit from having alternative payment options.

Give us a business overview of Cashew’s current operations.
We currently have 42 employees who work either across our two offices in DIFC or remotely, with Cashew being active in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Cashew is also expanding to other GCC markets. So far we have received $13.5m of funding in our pre-series A which primarily has gone into investing in technology and building our team. We have a real advantage that all our investment goes back into our business, unlike other BNPLs who also have to use this to balance their loan book. In the last year, we have built strong technology and product teams who are the drivers of our business.

What is the size and scale of the BNPL market in the Middle East and what are some of the innovations that you aim to bring to the space?
The size and scale of the BNPL market in the Middle East is yet to catch up with other regions, but the trajectory for growth is impressive and highlights a huge opportunity. The UAE and Saudi are the earliest adopters, but expanding across the Middle East is a key plan for Cashew in 2022. Purchases such as travel, health, insurance and education are all high-ticket size purchases that can be a pain point in people’s lives, and we built a product that can support paying for these in installments. We are moving into the space to offer instant, longer-term credit.

When it comes to regulations, what are those that you are in favour of and those that you think should not be applied to the BNPL/fintech space?
From our perspective, regulators should be providing a framework to share information regarding transactions that do not show in traditional financial reports. As the number of BNPLs in the region grows, the availability for consumers to have multiple repayments due grows, and we want to work with regulators to provide regulations to limit debt burdens for consumers. In terms of regulations that aren’t appropriate for fintech, the key thing to consider is whether those regulations could limit time to market and innovation.

What are your expansion plans for the business?
We are currently expanding in the UAE and Saudi Arabia markets and are looking forward to starting operations in Egypt in 2022, as well as Kuwait and Oman at the end of 2022.

What are your predictions for how the BNPL space will evolve going forward?
Currently, BNPL providers in this region and others are all following a relatively similar path. We see the likes of Affirm, Klarna and now other Middle Eastern providers adopting cards and moving towards being marketplaces. I believe the majority of BNPLs will follow this trajectory, whereas at Cashew, we see there is a huge opportunity to focus on making different sectors and purchases more financially manageable as opposed to becoming a platform for improved shopping experiences in the retail space.

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