The Demographics of the Region Help the Growth of e-Commerce Sector

Sirish Kumar, the CEO and Co-Founder,

Channel Post speaks to Sirish Kumar, the CEO and Co-Founder,, about the state of e-commerce market in the region

Please tell us about the state of e-commerce market in the Middle East?
The Middle East is at a very interesting point in its e-commerce evolution, and at Telr we’re excited to be not just involved it, but in actively enabling its development. The proportion of people in the Middle East that shop online is significantly lower than in other markets like India and South East Asia, but this highlights the amazing capacity for growth that we’re seeing.

The demographics of the Middle East make this a particular fertile region for the growth of e-commerce – with its young, tech-savvy population. UAE in particular is famous for its levels of mobile phone penetration and social media use, and both these factors stand to create a unique e-commerce ecosystem, where offline merchants are able to transition to having an online presence directly through social media, without needing to create their own e-commerce site. Coupled with the UAE government’s drive to digitise, the prospects for the state of the e-commerce market in the UAE look good indeed.

Are payment gateways in the region at par with what we can see in countries such as US, UK, India, and so on?
The UAE has an evolving online payment gateway aggregator sector, and although the number of alternate payment options may not be as deep as in other markets just yet, technology happily crosses borders, so we can expect a levelling-out of the feature-set of payment gateways.

Each region has its own requirements and habits, and so at Telr we put a lot of energy into localising our gateway for the specific markets that we operate in. As per the maiden Fintech report 2017 released  by Capgemini and LinkedIn, UAE ranks third globally, behind India and China in terms of the percentage  of users (65%) that are using non-traditional firms for financial services.We believe that non-traditional firms and banks should partner and leverage each other’s strengths.

What sort of solutions does Telr offer on the market?
As the region’s leading payment gateway, Telr offers merchants complete control in accepting online payments. The gateway can be hosted by us or integrated into their own websites or apps. We have a completely proprietary antifraud platform, which facilitates improved conversion rates – and are able to offer our merchants the ability to accept payments through social media, to send out e-invoices, and to set up and collect recurring payments.

Critically for this region, we offer multi-currency processing, which enables merchants to accept online transactions in 120 local currencies and across multiple geographies. The merchants can receive money in more than 20 different currencies. And all of this is run from a fully-featured dashboard, keeping merchants up to date in real-time.

Which markets do you currently cater to?
Telr is active on the ground in the UAE, KSA and India, and has partnerships in a number of countries across the southern hemisphere such as Indonesia.

What sort of industry verticals do you currently focus upon?
At Telr we work hard to make our product as relevant as possible to specific industry verticals, by customising our proposition and integrating it with other platforms that are used in that industry. As well as our specialisation in pure e-commerce, we focus on industries where we genuinely feel we can make a difference – such as the education sector with offering online payment plus accounting software  the travel industry with our marketplace solution, or the cable and broadband industry with our ability to make the platform available to our merchants’ own B2B customers through a single managed platform.Increasingly we have to focus on customer and moments of truth

How can companies make sure their systems offer proper risk management and anti-fraud features?
It’s vital that as an industry we work together to provide a safe, secure world for our customers to transact online in. It’s only by being absolutely fixated on online safety and security that we’re going to be able to improve consumer trust in e-commerce – and that degree of trust is what will drive adoption.

Multi-currency processing is a bit rare with most payment gateways available in the region. How can payment gateway providers tackle it?
The UAE is such a strategic location for companies looking to expand across the region and beyond. For this reason, we – and our customers – see Telr’s multi-currency offering as one of its outstanding features. It’s only by offering a true multi-currency option – such as the ability to accept payments in pretty much any currency, and an interface in pretty much any language – that we’re able to support the significant numbers of UAE companies that not only look to sell in to other markets across the region, but also actively seek to expand their operations overseas. In fact, this aspect of Telr’s offering has become so vital to our merchants in the UAE, that we’re increasingly called upon to provide advice and guidance on expanding e-commerce operations beyond the UAE.

Many banks have signed up for mobile payment services such as Samsung Pay. How relevant is this feature in today’s market and how does Telr work with customers demanding such services?
Mobile payment services such as Samsung Pay are doing well, but don’t yet have critical mass – part of the problem is that devices that contain NFC chips are quite often more expensive than non-NFC enabled devices, which means that this method of payment tends to be restricted to the more well-off sections of society.

I firmly believe that mobiles will play an ever-more-significant role in facilitating online payments, particularly given their ability to act as a single platform for authentication, verification and ultimately payment. What will be important, though, will be creating an open ecosystem for payments through mobile phones, rather than the closed one that we currently see with manufacturers like Samsung and Apple. Telr doesn’t require a sign-up on the part of the consumer – and we don’t mind at all which payment method you choose. We’ll facilitate them all. For mobile payment services to succeed, they too need to follow this model.

Our mission is to remove fragmentation in e-commerce ecosystem and be the preferred financial partners to SME in emerging markets..  That’s it. And here in the UAE, more than in most other places on Earth, we see such great untapped potential in the market. I’m exhilarated by the prospect of the coming years, and myself and the team at Telr are ready to make it all happen.