Pakistan’s Safepay was announced as one of the winners in the Visa Everywhere Initiative – a global innovation program and competition for startups and fintech companies – held for Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) on June 9.
With the most votes from the audience, Safepay from Pakistan won the Audience Favorite award for CEMEA and received $10,000 in prize money. Karachi-based fintech Safepay was founded in 2019 by Ziyad Parekh and Raza Naqvi with a vision to accelerate the adoption of digital payments in Pakistan by attracting a wave of entrepreneurs who want to accept online payments from their customers. Safepay specializes in secure payment processing for eCommerce stores and helps merchants increase checkout conversions, expedite receivables and streamline sales by allowing their customers to pay online.
Safepay was launched as a beta product in 2019 and the two co-founders were able to quickly scale to offer online payment services to merchants across the country. The services were taken offline in 2020 as the company embarked on its expansion, which required collaboration with other financial partners and the country’s central bank.
Commenting on the win, Iman Urooj, Head of Business Development at Safepay, said, “Everyday at Safepay, we are inspired by the incredible stories we hear from entrepreneurs across Pakistan, we’re just getting started and are so excited for what is to come. Winning the ‘Audience Favorite’ is a big validation of what we’re trying to achieve. We are extremely grateful to be a part of the Visa Everywhere Initiative and we hope we can work closely with the Visa organization to achieve our mission.”
Mohanish Agni, Visa’s General Manager for Pakistan and Levant, commented, “At Visa, we believe that a cashless society equals speed, security and convenience. We are therefore thrilled that Safepay from Pakistan has won the Audience Favorite award in the CEMEA regional competition. Iman Urooj, Head of Business Development at Safepay, did a stellar job explaining the secure and compliant solutions they can offer small businesses in just two weeks through Safepay. As a female finalist and winner, her success shows that women are making great strides in the fintech world. We are delighted to congratulate Safepay on their win and hope that this victory will further drive their vision to accelerate the adoption of digital payments in Pakistan.”
The Visa Everywhere Initiative helps fintech innovators in two ways: as a program, it plugs them into the network of startups that our product teams from all over the world access when searching for solutions; and as a competition, it gives them a forum in which to make a pitch to a panel of payments experts, win prizes and gain wider attention.
The competition is tailored to startups and fintechs with great products already in market and gaining traction – and looking for an extra push from a global, trusted brand like Visa to gain scale.
“The quality of entrants from the region illustrates the strength of entrepreneurship and innovation across CEMEA,” said Andrew Torre, Regional President for CEMEA, Visa. “A new generation of fintechs is developing innovations that can help advance financial inclusion for currently underserved consumers and small and micro-businesses. With 680 million people who are unbanked and 60 million untapped merchants in CEMEA, this new generation of fintechs will play a critical role in bringing the benefits of digital payments to consumers, merchants, and all society.”
First place for CEMEA and $15,000 in prize money went to PAYZE of Georgia. PAYZE now advances to the global finals being held on September 14 with $100,000 in prizes available including $50,000 for the overall winner. PAYZE is an eCommerce-oriented innovator of financial transactions, helping businesses to accept payments from around the world through a single integration. In the global finals, which will be live-streamed on TechCrunch, PAYZE will compete against regional winners from Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America.
In all, five companies advanced to the CEMEA regional finals. Besides PAYZE and Safepay, the other three finalists were: ArifPay of Ethiopia, which is an electronic payment platform that allows users to transfer, store, request, accept money using ArifPay mobile application; Corp. Bank of Russia, which is a system for direct integration of corporate treasury with banks using open banking API; and VPD Money of Nigeria, which is a financial service app.
The focus of this year’s competition is on products that deliver innovative payment and commerce solutions to consumers and businesses. These encompass the market areas of Enablers of digital services and digital issuers; Digital issuance; Value-add for merchants and/or consumers in regard to finance; and Small to medium-sized business recovery.