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JEDDAH: Fintech startup Thimsa aims to streamline business payments with direct bank transfers by launching a beta platform in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, targeting the growth of open banking in the region.

Co-founded by two Saudi entrepreneurs together with a financial expert, the startup seeks to facilitate instant B2B payments and payments, while also offering e-invoicing and subscription features.

The predicted growth of open banking in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries motivated Rayan Azab and Salah Khashoggi to partner with Dubai-based fintech entrepreneur Ash Kalra to lead this venture after four years of market research.

This comes as open banking is expected to account for more than $124 billion in transactions in the GCC region alone by 2031, up from $14 billion in 2020, with an annual growth rate of 22%, according to a report by Allied Market Research.

Sharing the story behind Thimsa with Arab News, Azab said: “The journey took about three or four years, but realistically, we started this year with the different experience we have.”

He added that they have studied the market and know that fintech usage in the region is one of the highest in the world thanks to a young and vibrant generation across the GCC.

“We advised and collaborated with a couple of other fintech companies, and then decided (to found the company) as open banking regulation was implemented in the last few years,” Azab said.

Rayan Azab. Provided.

The entrepreneur added that the process has become easier over time, highlighting the decision to now enter open banking as the reason behind founding Thimsa. He noted that the partners have different experiences that he believes will contribute to their success.

“We are three partners. Kalra has had fintech experience in Canada and the US for over 12 years, while I have been working in business for over 14 years. Also, I have a consultancy firm apart from Thimsa. Salah Khashoggi, founder of Tamra Capital, is also part of our team and brings his experience from Saudi Arabia,” he added.

Through open banking, the company says its platform can access shared financial data via 350 integrated APIs, allowing businesses to streamline processes, create personalized financial services and adapt to evolving customer needs.

Furthermore, the fintech company highlighted that its solution can accept payments in over 60 currencies from more than 150 countries.

Explaining their decision to launch the payments management platform in the UAE and Bahrain first, Azab told Arab News that they wanted to test it in smaller markets before entering larger ones such as Saudi Arabia.

He added that they are aligning their efforts and developments with regulatory changes and expansions made by the local regulator as it improves its framework.

“Saudi Arabia has recently advanced its open banking initiatives and is poised to become a regional leader in the sector,” he explained.

Highlighting the potential impact of the growth of open banking in the GCC on their trajectory, Azab said that the segment is already established in the region and that they are not introducing something completely new.

“We’re just renovating it. Thimsa will come and help small businesses that can’t afford to just go and do the huge bookkeeping or whatever,” she said, adding that they will add value to these businesses.

Speaking about their platform, he explained that the technology offers instant payment management, business management and, most importantly, business-to-business and customer-to-business functionality.

Azab concluded by saying that they have faced many challenges, but have gained significant experience in understanding the market and its growth trajectory. Furthermore, he said they are working closely with regulators.

It’s all Khashoggi’s fault. Provided

Envisioning that the platform could change the financial services landscape for GCC businesses, Khashoggi told Arab News that the region, especially Saudi Arabia, is undergoing a massive transformation in fintech and financial inclusion.

“We want to focus on enabling SMEs (small and medium enterprises). So, the idea behind Thimsa is how to help all these SMEs by making financing available to them as well as facilitating their operations. All this is the result of open banking,” Khashoggi said.

The co-founder added that without the regulation of open banking in Saudi Arabia, they could not have or even come up with something like Thimsa.

Speaking about their future expansion plans, Khashoggi highlighted that their main focus is product development. He explained that once they demonstrate success in Saudi Arabia and the GCC region, they will aim to expand their product offerings to the global market.

He highlighted that the beauty of fintech lies in its integration with the digital economy, making it one of the most easily exportable products globally. However, he noted that it is crucial to remain attentive to market demands.

“So if you want to expand into any other market, you have to localize the product to meet their needs,” he said.

He emphasized that their strategy involves perfecting the product here in Saudi Arabia before confidently venturing into international markets.

Asked how Thimsa can ensure the security and privacy of its users’ information, given its extensive use of financial data, it said this is entirely within the control of the regulator.

“The regulator sets a very high bar when it comes to sharing any data. Our customers trust us with their data for their benefit. We will not take it and use it, or sell it, or do anything with it. All this is not permitted by law. We will only use it for the benefit of the customer,” she said.

For his part, Kalra described Thimsa as a cutting-edge financial management platform, highlighting that it is based on the fundamental principles of open banking and finance.

“Open banking aligns very well with Vision 2030 in Saudi Arabia and works on real-time payment rails. This means it drives innovation, growth and inclusiveness across the market,” she said.

Highlighting the open banking landscape in the GCC market, particularly in Saudi Arabia, and discussing whether they will compete with banks, Kalra commented: “Open banking is a technology that allows banks to share their data with third parties like us, which drives innovation and growth in the market.

“For the Saudi market this is a big problem. So, one of the pillars of Vision 2030 is to diversify the economy, and open banking does just that,” he said.

Ash Kalra. Provided

Kalra added that this allows existing banks to work with third parties like them, and said: “So we’re not competing against the banks, we’re actually working with them.”

Describing the technology and how their platform would make managing payments easier, he said Thimsa uses a microservices architecture and API-based technology.

“We collect a lot of data from the bank about businesses and consumers and innovate around it. So, this is a key technology used by Thimsa,” she concluded.

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