Making the connection: Monami engineers solutions to bridge gap between Muslim millennials and banks

Since setting up two and a half years ago, the duo grew its team to eight members, secured funding, built its app, forged a partnership with an Islamic financial institution, expanded its user base manifolds and launched its pilot phase.

“When we first set up, there wasn’t really the support for start-ups as there is now – it was diffcult and daunting as there were no support on starting a business effciently and cheaply. But now, there’s a big push from all the major cities of the world for innovation and entrepreneurship – the ecosystem is much better now,” reflects Dillon.

"For the founders, it was important that the core business was Shariah compliant, hence the decision to partner with a UAE Islamic bank through which all the payments will be made to other financial participants in the ecosystem such as exchange houses"

Shariah at the core

For the founders, it was important that the core business was Shariah compliant, hence the decision to partner with a UAE Islamic bank through which all the payments will be made to other  nancial participants in the ecosystem such as exchange houses; Dillon could not reveal the partner bank. Aligning with a licensed bank allows the start-up to facilitate banking services; it holds a payment service provider license.

“The fact that we open ourselves up to the entire Muslim population and at the same time does not take away any of our services from other religious population means that it is a really obvious thing for us to do,” Dillon explains.

A majority of the firm’s current users and target market are Muslims hailing from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Tunisia and other parts of Africa; as foreign workers are not allowed to open a banking account unless they have a certain earning power (AED5,000 (US$1,360.97) according to Dillon), low-income migrant workers access NowMoney through their corporate employers. The firm now has signed corporate clients giving it a total user base of approximately 4,000.

In its current form, users would have direct access to a current account, debit card and remittance services as well as be able to make bill payments and purchase mobile phone credit. The vision for the future is to be a full banking service provider offering credit and insurance.

“At the point when we offer credit, securing Shariah recognition would be a very important step for us to go through,” Dillon shares.

Expansion mode

Now trialling its app with its current base, Dillon shares that apart from focusing on increasing the number of users, the company is also working on rolling out the service in Saudi Arabia (the largest remittance market in the GCC at about US$45 billion annually) and Bahrain (the third-largest market) over the next six months.

“The GCC is the second-largest remittance market globally after the US, with over US$100 billion sent annually – so we are pretty much in the largest market we can be. Our focus will remain the GCC but once we’re established and grown across the GCC, then there is the possibility of going into other areas,” Dillon notes.

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