Interview with Divisional CEO, Payments Processing, Interswitch Akeem Lawal

The SME sector in Africa is huge. In Nigeria alone we have over 41 million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). How important would you say this sector is to the growth and development of the African economy?

The SME sector is a potential game changer for economic growth, especially in Nigeria. This is why it is important for stakeholders in that sector to provide simple solutions that enhance their ability to generate economic activities that will boost community and national economy. At Interswitch, we are committed to providing simple and scalable payment solutions for small and big businesses alike. The Quickteller Business platform is a testament to our commitment to make payments one less thing to worry about for our business users and their customers.

There seems to be a lot of activities within the payment, e-commerce and fintech sectors in recent years, with many new entrants as well as FDIs. What would be your fair assessment of the sectors? What should we expect, going forward?

When accessing the various sectors, we know that the Nigerian economy has been a beneficiary of foreign direct investment inflows since the 1970’s. However, there is a need to diversify the Nigerian economy and reduce our dependence upon oil. There is no doubt that a thriving industrial sector is pivotal to mass employment, improved skills and better wages, which will lead to reduction in poverty.
Nigeria’s ICT sector has grown from less than 1 percent of GDP in 2001 to almost 10 percent of GDP today. The country is currently Africa’s biggest technology market and accounts for 23 percent of internet users in Africa with 122 million people online in December 2018. Nigeria has surpassed other countries in sub-Saharan Africa to emerge as a premier tech investment destination with 55 active tech hubs raising a total of US$94.9 million, while South Africa raised US$60.0 million with 59 active start-ups. The growth of the tech sector offers new possibilities for Nigeria’s growing labour force, in terms of employment and entrepreneurship.
Now, these sectors you have mentioned have found gaps to fill and are offering creative solutions to individuals and companies. However, despite the fact that there are so many new players in these sectors, there is still so much more to be done. Take e-commerce for instance, you will be surprised that a good number of people are still not comfortable to buy things online – putting in their card details and trusting that what they ordered is what they will get.
Same goes for other digital payment options like PoS. A lot of people would rather spend hours on ATM queues or travel long distances to get to a bank instead of walking up to a nearby money agent to withdraw or deposit money.
This means that stakeholders need to do more to gain the trust of customers. Everyone wants convenience but people also want to trust that convenience. You can’t blame someone that has had series of failed/declined transactions at a PoS terminal and is referred back to his/her bank, then spends days and even weeks going back and forth with the bank, to be confident enough to want to make use of that channel again.
In the coming years, there will definitely be more growth in these various sectors, especially fintech. There will still be immense additions to mobile consumptions as two-thirds of the global population are mobile subscribers. There will be more adoption of new technology to grow businesses and create jobs. This adoption will provide data and big data is also quite important for decision making and creating smarter innovations.
I also foresee that more organisations will begin to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to increase efficiency and enhance productivity.

Recently, Interswitch introduced Quickteller Business, which is an upgrade of Interswitch Webpay. Why was the upgrade necessary?

The upgrade was necessary because the enhanced Quickteller Business platform broadens payment management capabilities for businesses and merchants of all sizes, allowing them to access a wide range of integrated payment offerings, ranging from disbursements to value financing. Also, upgrading to the Quickteller Business platform enables small businesses, including social media entrepreneurs, take their businesses online to become completely digital without having to go through the hassles of developing digital capabilities themselves.
With the ease from the Quickteller Business, users can focus on creating economic activities for themselves and their communities. One of the values added for using the Quickteller Business platform is that users are exposed to over five million consumers already using Quickteller for a variety of retail payments in countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, and Gambia.

What are the add-ons and additional features that came with this upgrade?
We have a lot of add-ons and features, such as:

Storefronts – Quickteller Business allows business owners to create customized branded online store, display product images and videos and gives an incredible mobile experience for customers across all devices.
e-Billing and Invoicing – Quickteller Business enables businesses to automatically generate invoices, accept payments via the payment link embedded in the invoice. The invoice also helps the businesses track their sales.
Split Settlements – With Split Settlement, businesses can instruct Quickteller Business on how transactions should be settled into predefined bank accounts.
Developers (Sandbox) – Quickteller Business enables developers to try out the features of their apps on the platform before they are activated for real transactions.
Multiple Integration Plans – Quickteller Business is customizable and offers multiple integration plans for web and mobile SDKs. Explore Pop Up, Page Redirect and Inline for web developers as well as iOS and Android for Mobile integration options.
Detailed Transaction Reporting – Quickteller Business helps businesses have access to detailed reports of their transactions across all collection channels – Web, POS, QR, USSD.
Dispute Management – With Quickteller Business, businesses of all types and sizes can manage their transaction disputes and chargebacks.
Refunds – Where required, businesses can seamlessly initiate partial or full refunds from the transaction details page.

Quickteller Business was designed with SMEs in mind. What are the benefits they stand to enjoy by signing on to the platform?

There are lots of benefits for SMEs. Although the benefits are also now extended to both SMEs and large corporate business. First, they enjoy getting paid online without a website; from creating a payment link that is useful and unique for both single purchases and recurring payments. The link can be shared with their customers via WhatsApp, Instagram, email or SMS. Secondly, it is compatible with all card types – Verve, Visa, Mastercard; all payment channels, QR, USSD and for integrating payments, it is compatible with WordPress, Web and Mobile SDKs. Third, they will enjoy fast-tracked outstanding payment with digital invoices. They can generate invoices on the go and get paid from any account via any channel. The invoicing feature has a payment link embedded to help receive payment seamlessly using our multi-payment methods and they can easily track from the portal once payment has been made.

What separates Quickteller Business from the pack?

The Quickteller Business platform is intuitive, robust and secure. Quickteller Business is an innovation and improvement of an already effective platform making it a more tested platform. The platform is built using world-standard fraud management solutions that help mitigate fraudulent transactions. The Quickteller Business platform exposes its users to a ready market of over 5 million potential customers. The platform gives its users total control over its business, collection and every other thing in between.

What categories of business can sign on to Quickteller Business and how affordable is it for small businesses?

All types of businesses can sign up to the Quickteller Business platform – small businesses, large corporates and individuals. From the platform, businesses and individuals can receive payments from anyone, anywhere and everywhere. Interestingly, these offers come at no cost. Yes, everything on the Quickteller Business platform is free. And if you register your business between now and April 2021, you will also enjoy zero transaction fees.

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