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Payza forward: Lessons in overseas growth

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We at Payza have always been passionate about providing access to online payment and financial solutions to developing and under-serviced marketplaces. The growth of our secure e-wallet platform overseas has been featured in Business without Borders, an online news source reporting on international business development. Business without Borders has taken notice of Payza’s rapid development in emerging overseas marketplaces and has spoken with CEO Alastair Graham about our current and future plans for international expansion and our role as a “bridge between developed and undeveloped markets.”

How a Canadian online payments processing company sets up overseas operations

Susan Mohammad, Business without Borders,  Jan. 10, 2013 – View Original Article

Payza’s e-commerce platform is used in more than 190 countries, yet Alastair Graham has been focused on further expansion into emerging South American and Asian markets since joining the firm as CEO five months ago.

It has always been Payza’s ambition to supply online payment processing to emerging markets and help to open up new ones, says Graham, but he is keen on bringing its e-wallet-type services (such as corporate disbursement and the ability for consumers to purchase goods or send money online) to Brazil and Sri Lanka in particular.

“We view our role as providing the online payment bridge between developed and undeveloped markets,” says Graham. The company’s journey began in Montreal as AlertPay in 2004 when it was founded by six entrepreneurs (including the two main founding brothers Firoz and Ferhan Patel) who wanted to bring e-commerce to as many markets and under-banked populations as possible.

In order to take advantage of the tremendous regional market potential the company chose Mumbai as the site for a new office in 2010. Payza acquired AlertPay last June—shortly before Graham joined the company.

The online payment firm now employs more than 200 people and counts 75,000 businesses as clients from several industries including advertising, web hosting and design, government and entertainment. While the company’s operations and IT department are still based in Montreal, Payza’s head office is now located in London, England.

Graham says good customer service and ease of use are integral to the brand’s offerings. In the past year Payza has seen dramatic growth, he adds, due in large part to supplying its services to developing countries such as Bangladesh and India (the United States remains Payza’s largest market).

“Within three years of starting the company they had managed to get a million customers,” says Graham. “Last year we broke the nine million-customer barrier and transacted one billion U.S. dollars. This year we are on target to double that.”

Graham says the company doesn’t have to “reinvent the wheel” each time it enters a new market because tweaks to the software platform can easily be made to fall in line with local financial regulations. However, extensive due diligence is required to examine a potential market’s regulatory environment before deciding whether working within the existing financial infrastructure of that market is viable.

“You may not notice it but certain things are different on our site depending on what country you are in regarding the amount of money you can move, where to and how often because of local regulations,” says Graham. “Sometimes we get to a point where we would have to change so many things that we believe the end result wouldn’t be a [seamless] Payza experience for customers. That’s when we go back to the drawing board and say we still like this market but until we can work out doing this a different way we have to pause and revisit it later.”

Despite only having joined the company last summer Graham has paid attention to the recruiting obstacles Payza faced when it first expanded into Mumbai in order to learn from the experience. As a startup in the Indian market he says cost was the primary factor in deciding where in Mumbai the company would set up. After some searching, a site located close to a major road and train station was chosen yet recruiting became very difficult.

“What we didn’t realize was that to get to our office from the train station, employees had to walk through a less than reputable neighbourhood which caused great concern,” says Graham, adding many female employees in particular didn’t want to travel the area (especially at night). After a few months the company moved into an office in a safer location at the newly built Sigma IT Business Park and the issue was resolved. When choosing a location, says Graham, along with the rental cost and access to transportation one needs to consider “crucial” details such as exactly how employees will get there.

Another piece of advice for entrepreneurs in the financial industry especially, says Graham, is to be certain of local partners and the advice they give regarding financial regulations and the political environment before an investment is made.

“We have a system that is very adaptable. That’s one of the reasons that we’ve been so successful in different countries so for us it’s very important that we work with local partners to really get a grip on how a country sees its financial services,” says Graham. “At the end of the day you are handling many people’s money and there’s a huge amount of responsibility in that.”

About Payza

Payza is one of the world’s leading global online payment platforms specializing in e-commerce processing, corporate disbursements and remittances. Payza’s highly secure e-wallet platform provides businesses and consumers with convenient and flexible solutions for sending and receiving payments worldwide. The company offers access to payment services in both traditional and emerging markets, as well as a host of tools and services including fraud screening, dispute resolution, currency exchange, global payouts and disbursement services. With over 9 million members, Payza offers its services around the world in 21 currencies, and is proud to provide its merchants around the globe with a complete solution for accepting payments and managing their businesses.