Mobile services for the ‘unbanked’

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Ayannah
Ayannah CEO Miguel Perez

Ayannah is a Philippines-based startup that aims to be the leading provider of mobile commerce and payment services to the world’s “unbanked” in emerging markets. Inside Investor asked  how he thinks this vision will materialise.

Q: Can you give a brief overview of your personal professional background and that of Ayannah?

A: I am the founder and CEO of Ayannah, which provides mobile commerce and payment services to the unbanked in emerging markets and migrants in OECD countries. We aim to provide the unbanked in emerging markets greater access to financial services that will improve their quality of life and to provide migrants with better ways to stay connected and support their families in their home countries. Prior to Ayannah, I was the CFO of Chikka, a mobile instant messaging company acquired by Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company in 2009. Prior to this, I managed private equity at Next Century Partners, an emerging markets-focused investment management company. Earlier, I was an investment banker at Hambrecht & Quist (later acquired by JP Morgan Chase). I was born, raised and educated in an emerging market, the Philippines, but graduated with an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Q: How did you build up Ayannah?

A: After Chikka was sold, we began thinking of new “problems” to solve through technology and new media. Before 2009, the mobile world was dominated by SMS, and access to the web was limited to those in OECD countries. But we began to see the growth of Internet access in emerging markets, and the distinction between web and mobile started to blur. We wanted to focus on digital commerce and payments and we felt that digital advertising-based models would take greater time to mature. We noticed that people in emerging markets were increasingly online but were still uncomfortable transacting online. This is partly due to the inadequate infrastructure to support digital commerce and payments in emerging markets. We had to set up our own payment infrastructure to support our commerce businesses. And we also had to make user interfaces that engaged our customers on both the social and mobile web. We believe we read the market right. Today, 80 per cent of Internet users are outside of OECD countries. Also today, the phone is becoming the primary (and increasingly, only) “screen” for internet users. 40 per cent of our own traffic is now coming from mobile devices, up from 10 per cent in 2010.

Q: What is your target group?

A: Our primary market is Oversea Filipinos, who are contract workers in wealthy countries and support their families back home. We knew that they all started to use the Internet to stay connected with their families, and we thought of a better way for them to stay in contact and send money or buy services for them. We wanted to make sure that they have better control over their hard-earned money, and we created a system securely connected to an online account. We figured out that they may not have access to a computer or notebook or a broadband internet connection, but they increasingly have access on a smartphone or tablet through mobile data networks.

Q: How did you come up with the name “Ayannah”?

A: In the digital world, one needs to have a very good name and own a .com URL. If there is no .com URL, the company has disadvantages in ranking with search engines. Thus, we looked  for a name that was available as .com, that meant something for Filipinos and also worked globally without any negative connotations. In Filipino, “Ayan nah” means “Here it is.” We figured that this explains our business very well. We did some research if the name does mean anything negative in other countries, but this wasn’t the case. But we had to add an “h” because the name without “h” was already taken.

Q: What are your services?

A: We have the “Sendah” service, which is our primary business. It engages customers on a B2C basis, as the user is buying something and sends it to someone else, and it is aimed at “unbanked” Filipinos living overseas. Another service is “Sendah Direct,” a B2B software as a service that enables enterprises and individuals to process electronic transactions. When we launched it in 2010, we had intended it to support our “Sendah” service but we realised that a lot of retailers in the Philippines were looking for such a solution. We now have around 7,000 agents, some of them from large companies. The corporations were actually the first to adapt it. We made a virtue out of necessity, so to speak.

Q: Are you doing any advertising to promote Ayannah?

A: Not for Ayannah, but for the Sendah brand. We do a lot of digital marketing. On the B2B side we don’t need to promote the brand as it is running in the background.

Q: What partnerships do you have?

A: We have a lot of partnerships here in the Philippines – the major retailers, banks, telcos and now healthcare service providers. We are an online retailer and we sell on behalf of our partners to Filipinos overseas and domestically.

Q: What is your strategic plan for the next 5 years?

A: Five years is way too long, but our 3-year plan is that we will venture into the Indian market, launching services for Indian migrants. We will also license our platform to other markets abroad. Presently, we are working on licensing partnerships in Central America, Eastern Europe and Africa. We have a revenue target of $50-60 million over the next two years and want to get to a point where we have a liquidity event and give our investors a nice return from their invested capital.

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Ayannah CEO Miguel Perez

Ayannah is a Philippines-based startup that aims to be the leading provider of mobile commerce and payment services to the world’s “unbanked” in emerging markets. Inside Investor asked  how he thinks this vision will materialise.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Ayannah
Ayannah CEO Miguel Perez

Ayannah is a Philippines-based startup that aims to be the leading provider of mobile commerce and payment services to the world’s “unbanked” in emerging markets. Inside Investor asked  how he thinks this vision will materialise.

Q: Can you give a brief overview of your personal professional background and that of Ayannah?

A: I am the founder and CEO of Ayannah, which provides mobile commerce and payment services to the unbanked in emerging markets and migrants in OECD countries. We aim to provide the unbanked in emerging markets greater access to financial services that will improve their quality of life and to provide migrants with better ways to stay connected and support their families in their home countries. Prior to Ayannah, I was the CFO of Chikka, a mobile instant messaging company acquired by Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company in 2009. Prior to this, I managed private equity at Next Century Partners, an emerging markets-focused investment management company. Earlier, I was an investment banker at Hambrecht & Quist (later acquired by JP Morgan Chase). I was born, raised and educated in an emerging market, the Philippines, but graduated with an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Q: How did you build up Ayannah?

A: After Chikka was sold, we began thinking of new “problems” to solve through technology and new media. Before 2009, the mobile world was dominated by SMS, and access to the web was limited to those in OECD countries. But we began to see the growth of Internet access in emerging markets, and the distinction between web and mobile started to blur. We wanted to focus on digital commerce and payments and we felt that digital advertising-based models would take greater time to mature. We noticed that people in emerging markets were increasingly online but were still uncomfortable transacting online. This is partly due to the inadequate infrastructure to support digital commerce and payments in emerging markets. We had to set up our own payment infrastructure to support our commerce businesses. And we also had to make user interfaces that engaged our customers on both the social and mobile web. We believe we read the market right. Today, 80 per cent of Internet users are outside of OECD countries. Also today, the phone is becoming the primary (and increasingly, only) “screen” for internet users. 40 per cent of our own traffic is now coming from mobile devices, up from 10 per cent in 2010.

Q: What is your target group?

A: Our primary market is Oversea Filipinos, who are contract workers in wealthy countries and support their families back home. We knew that they all started to use the Internet to stay connected with their families, and we thought of a better way for them to stay in contact and send money or buy services for them. We wanted to make sure that they have better control over their hard-earned money, and we created a system securely connected to an online account. We figured out that they may not have access to a computer or notebook or a broadband internet connection, but they increasingly have access on a smartphone or tablet through mobile data networks.

Q: How did you come up with the name “Ayannah”?

A: In the digital world, one needs to have a very good name and own a .com URL. If there is no .com URL, the company has disadvantages in ranking with search engines. Thus, we looked  for a name that was available as .com, that meant something for Filipinos and also worked globally without any negative connotations. In Filipino, “Ayan nah” means “Here it is.” We figured that this explains our business very well. We did some research if the name does mean anything negative in other countries, but this wasn’t the case. But we had to add an “h” because the name without “h” was already taken.

Q: What are your services?

A: We have the “Sendah” service, which is our primary business. It engages customers on a B2C basis, as the user is buying something and sends it to someone else, and it is aimed at “unbanked” Filipinos living overseas. Another service is “Sendah Direct,” a B2B software as a service that enables enterprises and individuals to process electronic transactions. When we launched it in 2010, we had intended it to support our “Sendah” service but we realised that a lot of retailers in the Philippines were looking for such a solution. We now have around 7,000 agents, some of them from large companies. The corporations were actually the first to adapt it. We made a virtue out of necessity, so to speak.

Q: Are you doing any advertising to promote Ayannah?

A: Not for Ayannah, but for the Sendah brand. We do a lot of digital marketing. On the B2B side we don’t need to promote the brand as it is running in the background.

Q: What partnerships do you have?

A: We have a lot of partnerships here in the Philippines – the major retailers, banks, telcos and now healthcare service providers. We are an online retailer and we sell on behalf of our partners to Filipinos overseas and domestically.

Q: What is your strategic plan for the next 5 years?

A: Five years is way too long, but our 3-year plan is that we will venture into the Indian market, launching services for Indian migrants. We will also license our platform to other markets abroad. Presently, we are working on licensing partnerships in Central America, Eastern Europe and Africa. We have a revenue target of $50-60 million over the next two years and want to get to a point where we have a liquidity event and give our investors a nice return from their invested capital.

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