Building A Fintech Marketplace For Migrant Workers With Mehedi Hasan, Co-founder and CEO, MyCash Online

Building A Fintech Marketplace For Migrant Workers With Mehedi Hasan, Co-founder and CEO, MyCash Online

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MyCash Online Co-founder and CEO Mehedi Hasan talks with Future Startup about his path to entrepreneurship, how MyCash Online came into being, the state of MyCash Online’s business today and its ambition going forward, the evolution of MyCash Online over the past years, cracking the fin-tech growth code, lays out MyCash Online’s game plan for the future, how to raise money, why founders should build painkiller over vitamin if they want to succeed in the game of entrepreneurship, and much more.

Future Startup

Could you please tell us about your background and what you are working on now?

Mehedi Hasan

I came from a small village of Pirojpur in Bangladesh and grew up in a regular middle-class family. I was lucky to get a chance to study at Barisal Cadet College. I did very well academically and secured 18th position in the combined merit list in 2001.

After my HSC, I studied briefly at a private university in Bangladesh for a few semesters and eventually dropped out. Then I studied diploma at DIIT and then moved to Malaysia for further study.

During my days in DIIT, I learned programming. When I came to Malaysia, I eventually started working as a software developer on the side of my studies. I carried that on until 2015 when I finally decided it is enough for me now and that I wanted to do something on my own.

With two of my close friends, Mr. AKM Nurol Haq and Ms. Looi Yin Lin, who is now my wife, we started MyCash Online in early 2016. I am now running MyCash Online with my team. We provide financial services for mainly Non-Resident Bangladeshi (NRB) around the world.

Future Startup

Could you please elaborate your path to entrepreneurship?

Mehedi Hasan

Between 2012 to 2014 I worked as an Engineering Manager in Malaysia with a prominent Bangladeshi company SSD-TECH. We used to provide services to a few telcos in Malaysia and Myanmar. We were mainly working with SMS and VAS services. However, I had a feeling that VAS services will soon be replaced by Mobile Apps. That’s when I first realized that I should pursue something around that.

I knew how to develop an app. So I decided to leave my comfortable job and start developing apps for migrant workers in Malaysia. Eventually, I left.

In early 2015, we built a music streaming app in partnership with DiGi (a Malaysian Telco). We managed to get some seed funding from some VCs in Malaysia including their government funding agency Cradle. However, I did not take us long to realize that streaming app is not doing well. The response was slow. Traction was not there. The growth was not good enough. So we wanted to pivot and do something related to FinTech. FinTech was a hot thing at the time.

That’s how we ended up launching MyCash Online. In early 2016, we started a new venture along with my two co-founders. We named it MyCash Online. We received a better response than our music streaming app within a short time. That’s when we realized that we are onto something.

Future Startup

When and how did you get started with MyCash Online? What motivated you to start MyCash Online?

Mehedi Hasan

We established MyCash Online in November 2015. We then started to develop our systems and back-ends. We officially launched our services on 1st April 2016. It was clearly a pivot from our first venture, our music streaming app, Kokil.

The motivation came from seeing the sufferings of NRBs in Malaysia first hand. Unofficially there is more than one million of them, working in Malaysia. A significant percentage of them work illegally. As a result, they receive a very small amount of money as salary. Most of the time they receive it in cash. Since most of them don’t have any bank account, usually they rely on Hundi or other illegal means to send money home. Moreover, it is extremely difficult for them to buy something online. All of us know that AirAisa.com sales cheap ticket, but a migrant worker can’t buy that because they do not have a credit/debit card to pay. They need to ask some middle man to help them. It becomes complicated if the guy wants to cheat them. We saw these challenges of migrants first hard and deeply touched.

We wanted to change that and empower our fellow Bangladeshis and provide them an app that can help them. That’s how we came up with MyCash Online. Our app is available in Bangla language and they can register using a Bangladeshi Passport (does not require any visa or work permit).

Team MyCash Online

Team MyCash Online

Future Startup

What went into building the initial operation of MyCash Online? How did you put together initial investment and other things to get started? Please walk us through what the first few months of your journey were like and the challenges you face.

Mehedi Hasan

Initially, we financed the operations from our own pockets. Our goal was to build a revenue first venture from day one, which helped us tremendously. We had some revenue in our first month of operation.

We were a little reluctant about funding in the early days because we wanted a better valuation. We knew that if we raise money too early, it would be tough to get a better valuation.

Our first round of funding came in 2017. We raised our pre-seed funding of 500,000 Malaysia Ringgit at 8 Million Malaysia Ringgit Valuation. We are a fast-growing company. Between 2017 and 2018, our revenue grew by almost 200%. We were a cash flow positive company.

Recently we raised another one million Ringgit from 500 Startups, a US-based VC funds based at an approximately 14 Million Malaysian Ringgit post-money Valuation. We are working to raise 3-5 Million Malaysian Ringgit Series A funding from a few regional VCs by June next year.

While we have grown as a business over the years, the first few months of the operation was a real challenge. We went through all kinds of challenges. For example, we hired a few developers to build our system. One of them resigned without notice, which turned everything into a mess. We were trying to raise money and were in contact with a few VCs. Suddenly one of them stopped communication and the deal fell through. It was a frustrating time for us. However, we kept on pushing ourselves hard and worked days and nights.

I and my co-founders traveled across Malaysia tirelessly to acquire more customers. While we were growing pretty consistently, one of our marketing guys, took a huge some of our money and ran away to Bangladesh and again we were almost at the point of no return. However, we stayed solid and worked even harder and eventually managed to build a good team. Especially, when Arafat Hossain, our current COO, joined with his years of banking experience, he managed to create a robust working culture and that helped a lot to bring us to the next level.

Future Startup

Could you please give us an overview of MyCash Online in terms of services you offer, how many users you have, the size of your business?

Mehedi Hasan

We currently have more than 90,000 registered users in Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia. Malaysia remains our key market and we continue to focus a lot in Malaysia. However, we are planning to make an aggressive marketing push in Singapore and Australia next year. We are currently doing north of 70,000 transactions, worth around 12 Million Malaysia Ringgit in value, per month.

Our main service is online money transfer. We are now connected to almost 55 countries around the world and can send money almost on a real-time basis. We are even connected to bKash in Bangladesh through our partners. Our customers can send money to bKash numbers 24X7. We are also connected with thousands of mobile operators around the world and sale mobile top-ups, data packages and SIM cards. We help our customers pay utility bills locally and internationally.

In Malaysia, we offer insurance, bus and train tickets, plane tickets, and vouchers. We also do home delivery of products and services in Malaysia. We are working on a plan to offer our users a Visa Prepaid Card to make their online life more meaningful.

Future Startup

What is your business model? How have you grown your revenue?

Mehedi Hasan

I believe, the main reason behind our success is our business model. We do not charge any monthly, yearly fees or even any transaction fees on our platform. The service is completely free for our customers. In fact, they get discounts when they purchase any products from us. For example, in Malaysia, if a migrant purchase 10 RM DiGi Mobile Card, it will cost them 10 Malaysia Ringgit in any shops or even at DiGi Stores. But if they purchase from us, they can buy it for 9.60 Malaysia Ringgit and can save around 40 Sen for every purchase. We can offer our customers a better price because our business model designed accordingly.

We purchase prepaid reload in bulk from operators which allows us to get a discounted price from the Telcos, which we eventually share with our customers. For other tickets and money transfer services, we get a cut from our suppliers and that’s where our revenue comes from. We often offer a discounted price for every service that we offer on our platform.

In 2018, our annual sales was 72.9 Million Malaysia Ringgit. This year our number has already crossed 80 Million Malaysian Ringgit in sales. Our target is to do 110 Million Malaysian Ringgit in sales this year in Malaysia.

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Future Startup

How big is your team? Could you tell us about your culture at MyCash Online?

Mehedi Hasan

We have a real multicultural and multinational team. Currently, our total team size is 16 people. Our key people our based in our office in Cyberjaya, Malaysia, and our tech and support team is located in Bangladesh. We have small offices in Singapore, Brisbane, Australia, and Vilnius, Lithuania. In the next couple of months, we are expecting the expansion of our team and services outside of Malaysia.

As we have a multicultural team, English is our main mood of communication with our team. That’s actually helping all of us to learn better and effective English communication skills. Apart from that, we are also getting exposure to other cultures and foods. Our team enjoys this and everyone is becoming a global citizen.

Future Startup

On average how many customers you serve per month? How have you attracted customers and grown MyCash Online? Could you tell us about strategies and activities that you carried out to achieve the growth?

Mehedi Hasan

On average we serve around 50,000 customers per month who perform more than 70,000 transactions on our platform. To get new customers, we run both online and offline marketing campaign. For the online campaign, we mainly run paid Facebook and Youtube advertisements and also use Whatsapp Push Notifications. For offline, we do physical visit to the factories and dormitories of migrants and run regular engagement sessions with them through our on-ground teams.

To achieve growth, we always try to keep ourselves visible to the migrants. We have appointed more than 100 Mobile Sales Person (MSP) in Malaysia. This is our sales agents, located all across the country. Through our MSPs, we always keep ourselves connected with our customers.

Future Startup

What are the lessons you’ve learned in terms of growing a business? What other entrepreneurs can learn from your growth journey?

Mehedi Hasan

The main lesson I have learned is consistency. It does not matter what is happening to you and your company, you need to be always consistent and keep pushing. For us, in 2016 and 2017 our sales were poor. We had been rejected by many VCs. We had gone through many issues with our team and co-founders but we never gave up. I believed in the product and that we will succeed one day. After a year, in 2018, we achieved 652.19% (yes, it is 652.19%) growth on our yearly Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) from the year of 2017. This year, so far we have achieved 11.25% growth compared to 2018 and we expect to have more than 50% growth than last year. And we are not stopping here.

We have big plans for 2020 including starting our operations in Europe using our MyCash Online, UAB, a Pvt limited company registered in the Republic of Lithuania. Alhamdulillah, many VCs now take interest in us and want to invest.

To my fellow entrepreneurs, I would say that never lose your hope. If you have a good product, first, try to have paying customers. If you can achieve that, try to get next 100th then 1000th and eventually 1 millionth paying customers. This will help you to build a rock-solid foundation for your venture.

Future Startup

You have raised multiple rounds of investment, could you please tell us more? What are the plans now? What does it take to raise investment? What should founders, who are trying to raise investment, be mindful of?

Mehedi Hasan

Yes, we have raised funding twice. In 2017, we raised 500,000 Malaysian Ringgit at 8 Million post-money Valuation. This year we raised another 1 Million Malaysian Ringgit at approximately 14 Million Post-money Valuation.
We are planning to raise another 3-5 Million Malaysian Ringgit Series A round some time next year to expand our business to Europe and the Middle East. We are already in talks with some great VCs in Malaysia, Singapore, and the USA.

It takes many many days of dedication and tireless effort to raise investment. I have talked with many VCs in the last few years. In my experience raising money is tougher than running the business. It is difficult to make VCs happy and find the right VCs. Finding the right VC is equally difficult like find the right wife. There are many VCs with tons of money, but you need to find the right one for your venture.

Founders need to be mindful when it comes to raising money from certain VCs. There are VCs who would support you and help you grow and there are the ones who would take you down every time you talk to them. Just ignore them, and find and talk to a new one.

Finally, one thing I always follow is that when you want to start raising money, first, talk to some VCs that you do not want to get fund from. They will give you all the negative feedback and help you prepare for the next VCs that you really want to get funding from.

Team MyCash Online

Team MyCash Online

Future Startup

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced? What are the challenges now?

Mehedi Hasan

Our biggest challenges are illegal competitors. Every country we want to operate our services, there is an illegal platform that provides similar services (especially money transfer and bKash). As we run our business fully legally, we can’t beat the illegal one with the price. As a result, we are actually losing some customers for this. However, currently, government policies are helping. For example, currently user can get a 2% bonus of their remittance amount if they use our services. This actually helps customer to use our services rather than illegal services while sending money.

Future Startup

How does your sales and marketing work?

Mehedi Hasan

We have a dedicated “Go to Market” team in Malaysia. They are running regular marketing campaigns in Malaysia to get more customers. They also arrange awareness campaigns among the Bangladeshi community.

Future Startup

What are the goals for the future?

Mehedi Hasan

I have one simple goal for MyCash. There are around 20 Million Bangladeshi migrants working across the world. They combinedly sent more than 15.4 billion USD to Bangladesh in 2015 alone. We want at least 50% of them to use MyCash at least once in their lifetime.

We are already operating in Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia. In the near future, we will start our operation in Europe and hopefully by 2020 in the Middle East to serve our NRB on those countries.

Future Startup

What are some lessons you’ve learned?

Mehedi Hasan

I have learned a lot during these 4 years of my journey. It was a real roller-coaster ride. There were ups and downs almost every day. It will be hard to summarize the whole experience, but I can say that it has made me more fearless and now I am not scared to take any challenges. It has helped me to better understand the market, our competitors and product offerings, and our customers.

The best way to build a company is by speaking with your customers. Your customers are your best advisors and mentors and well-wishers. I have learned that spending more time with your customers is far better than doing almost anything else.

Future Startup

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous in the process of building MyCash Online?

Mehedi Hasan

We have lucky in many ways and have had a quite smooth journey so far. There were bumps and challenges but overall it has been a good journey. We are running a financial business in multiple countries. Dealing with the regulators and authorities is a difficult task. To solve this, we work closely with locals in every country where we operate.

One thing that has helped us in every country where we operate is the behavior of our Bangladeshi users. They loved us and supported us even when sometimes our services are expensive than the market. They always wanted to support a Bangladeshi service provider. This I should acknowledge proudly as a Bangladeshi. Every time I visited a workers dormitory or factory, our deshi brothers welcome us with respect and love. They offer us food and do many things out of kindness. My Malaysian colleagues tell me that I have become the Prince of Bangladeshi people in Malaysia.

Future Startup

How do you deal with challenges and stress that come with being a founder?

Mehedi Hasan

Challenges and stress are a never-ending game for the founders of any startup. Apart from marketing and sales, cash flow management is the key to any startups.

To manage the company well, I do not deal with everything in the company. I delegate. We maintain five people rules to keep it easy. Normally, I supervise 5 key people in my team (mostly all C Level Officers). They each supervise 5 people. It helps us to ensure an organized chain of command in the company. It helps everyone including me to keep myself out of unnecessary stress and challenges.

Future Startup

What is your advice for founders who are just starting out?

Mehedi Hasan

When you are making something, make a painkiller, not a vitamin. A painkiller is much easier to sell than a vitamin.

For example, Uber is successful because it is a painkiller. Even in Malaysia, where it was very hard to get a taxi and most of the time, they refuse to go for a short distance and try to cheat tourists, Uber changed it.

On the other hand, OBike was a vitamin because it was not a necessity. People were using it only for some time and still reluctant to pay for it. People mostly used it to enjoy their discounts and free promotions and eventually they failed after raising so much money. If you simply remember this principle, you will never fail.

Together With Flight Expert

Flight expert 2

A Message From Flight Expert!

Flight Expert, being the most prominent Online Travel Agency (OTA) in Bangladesh, is making life easier for every traveler around the globe. From booking domestic and international flights to reserving hotel rooms for your trip, Flight Expert has it all in one place, within the reach of your fingertips.

We Provide:

  • Flight Booking
  • Hotel Reservation

Enjoy:

  • Instant booking
  • Book Now Pay Later
  • Pay with EMI

Support:

  • Get 365 Days dedicated Customer Support

Contact us:

Flight Expert – all about your journey!
Please visit us here!

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