Online payment gateway AamarPay, a sister concern of Soft Tech Innovation, announced that it has received a Payment System Operator (PSO) license from Bangladesh Bank under the Bangladesh Payment and Settlement Systems Regulation 2014 (BPSSR-2014). Operating with a no-objection certificate from Bangladesh Bank until now, AamarPay has been working on the compliance and requirements for the license. The license will allow the company greater customer trust, room for operational and strategic maneuver, and introduce new products and services. It should change the competitive landscape for the company.
Launched in 2015, AamarPay provides a range of payment solutions including payment gateway, QR Payment, Invoice via App, Payment Links, Social Commerce, etc. The company says it currently serves over 1000 registered customers. The company accepts both local and international payments.
To date, there are some six companies that have PSO license including Soft Tech Innovation Limited, which is the parent company of AmarPay, IT Consultants Ltd (PSO), SSL Commerz Ltd (PSO), ShurjoMukhi Ltd (PSO), Portonics Limited (PSO), Walletmix Limited (PSO), and Soft Tech Innovation Limited(PSO).
Aamarpay has enjoyed consistent growth over the past years. The company, however, has greater ambition and has been looking to accelerate its growth. It has recently raised new investments, launched new features, improved its offerings, and introduced strategic products such as the Aamarpay app. However, not having the PSO license from the Bangladesh Bank was a challenge for the company. It was limiting its ability to expand.
While a no-objection certificate from the Bangladesh Bank does the job from a regulatory perspective, it creates perception challenges. Finance is a highly regulated industry. Consumer trust depends a lot on compliance. If customers perceive you as less than compliant, it is not a good thing for a financial services provider.
Moreover, competition has been intensifying in the vertical. And not having a full PSO certificate limits your ability to pursue many opportunities. Not to mention the always perceived regulatory risks.
Now that AamarPay has the PSO license, it will create greater opportunities for the company. The timing could not have been better for the company. It has just raised undisclosed investment, been looking into new avenues for growth, competitive moats, and strategic upsides. AamarPay founder Ishtiaque Sarwar explains in AamarPay’s Ambition and The Art of Entrepreneurship:
“We started working on the aamarPay app towards the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019. We eventually did a soft launch of the app in August 2020. You can now use the aamarPay app for mobile top-ups, pay bills for different services, book bus tickets, make donations to select organizations, book hotels, shopping, etc. The app has engagement features such as games that you can use for free. aamarPay app is the first super-app from a payment gateway. We are taking advantage of our payment gateway technology and using that as a backend to power the app. The app is not a wallet. We don’t hold money or save your information. It does two things. It aggregates essential services — we want to increase this number of services — and it makes it easy for our users to purchase and make payments for all these services.”
Aamarpay app will not only help the company get into a new market, it will also accelerate growth of its B2B merchant services businesses. Importantly, it creates even more reasons for its B2B clients to use AamarPay if the AamarPay app can help attract new users for these services. Payment is increasingly becoming a hyper competitive space. Without investment in strategic priorities and innovation, it will be hard to compete for any players. To that end, AamarPay along with the consumer facing app, has been trying several other initiatives. From AamarPay’s Ambition and The Art of Entrepreneurship:
“The market will grow super competitive. Innovation will be critical. Unless you innovate as a company, you will not survive. Instead of confining yourself within the traditional payment gateway services, it would be useful to introduce new services and features such as vendor payment, mass payment, etc. The Indian market could offer an interesting case study for us in terms of innovating in the payment gateway space.”
The company has been putting the words into action. From the same interview:
“Amid the pandemic, we launched a QR payment system called AamarPay QR with an ambition to get into retail offline payment. You can use the aamarPay app and QR to make the payment offline. Simply download the aamarPay app, you can make offline payments by scanning QR codes through our app. It is simple: you scan the AamarPay QR code with the aamarPay app, it takes you to a link and you get an OTP in your mobile number, you enter the OTP, and payment is done.
We launched our super app on 19 August 2020. We are the first payment gateway to launch a super app despite our various limitations. Our app users can pay bills for various services such as cable TV operators, Dhaka WASA, Titash Gas, etc. And we are working to add more services. The app is the front end while the aamarPay payment gateway works as the backend. We are not a wallet. We don’t store money in the app. When you transact through the aamarPay app, AamarPay Payment Gateway facilitates these transactions.
aamarPay is working on three segments: B2B payment gateway, which empowers ecommerce merchants and retailers, AamarPay QR, where we work with offline merchants, and aamarPay super-app.
We have added grocery shopping in the app. aamarPay app users can shop groceries in nine districts of Bangladesh, a result of our partnership with Khaidai Today, a grocery delivery platform that is available on the aamarPay app.
Facebook merchants can get their payments through the aamarPay app. Payments can be made through both mobile banking services and ATM cards. We’ve added games to our app to improve user engagement. We have added on-demand repairing services to the app such as AC installation and servicing, you can book these services from our app. You can currently donate to the Save the People Foundation, Ahar, and Bidyanado Foundation through the aamarPay app.”
Bangladesh’s fintech market is just getting started. As the market and policy environment mature, fintech players will likely get greater opportunities to expand and maneuver. AamarPay will need all the leverage it can extract to play in a fast-changing market.