Zaki Farooq from PayFuture Technologies Comments on Role of Technology Innovation in Supporting Growth in Emerging Markets

We spoke to co-founder of PayFuture Technologies Dubai, Zaki Farooq on why businesses should overcome their reluctance to enter emerging markets to tap into a world of opportunity.

Emerging markets are one of the fastest developing sectors of the global economy and many new businesses are establishing operations in these areas in a sustainable manner. Firms looking to expand their business operations in the long and short-term could benefit from the ecosystem provided by emerging markets.

Zaki Farooq from PayFuture Technologies shares his perspective on these developments.

Our conversation with Zaki Farooq is shared below.

Crowdfund Insider: Can you tell us a bit more about PayFuture Technologies?

Zaki Farooq: There are actually multiple businesses under the PayFuture name, one of which is based in Dubai, where I serve as the Chief Technology Officer, Co-Founder, and a shareholder. This business was founded in 2021 to help online merchants expand into emerging markets by providing the means to accept the most popular payment methods in those areas.

Our mission is to open up emerging markets to the world of international ecommerce. This is no small task. Emerging markets account for 85% of the world’s population, where people are traditionally underbanked, and a multitude of different technologies exist for payments. But this size also means there is massive potential – and by harnessing it, we can enhance economies.

We do this by bridging the gap between local payment methods and ecommerce merchants from around the globe. As a local payments platform for often overlooked geographies, PayFuture Technologies knows what it takes to make it in emerging markets; a strong vision, and the determination to overcome some undeniable challenges.

Crowdfund Insider: What are the challenges companies typically face when operating in emerging markets, and what advice do you have for overcoming them?

Zaki Farooq: There are several challenges companies should be aware of, not least the regulations in emerging markets, which can be complex and difficult to navigate. Similarly, the legal systems in many emerging market economies can make it difficult to protect intellectual property, enforce contracts, and resolve disputes.
Challenges can also arise because of the political instability which characterises many emerging economies, with changes in government and political unrest sometimes making it difficult to do business.

And let’s not forget that many emerging market economies have underdeveloped financial systems, which can make it difficult to access financing for business operations and expansion. Even when financing can be arranged, there are often volatile currencies to contend with.

Despite these challenges, emerging markets are brimming with opportunity, and make good investments thanks to their propensity for rapid gross domestic product (GDP) growth compared to more mature markets.

There are so many emerging countries around the world; India, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, Peru, Japan, Thailand, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Bangladesh, Pakistan, to name a few. Imagine the untapped potential. As these economies grow, so does the purchasing power of their populations, presenting a wealth of opportunities.

But success means taking a nuanced approach and gaining an understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities these markets present.

It’s vital to learn about the preferences, needs, and purchasing power of the local population, as well as local laws, regulations, and bureaucratic hurdles. I also recommend developing a localised strategy and consider partnering with local firms that have market knowledge, distribution networks, and established credibility.

With this as a foundation you can start to build a strong local presence; consider hiring and training local talent with market understanding who can build trust with consumers, then build brand awareness and loyalty by actively participating in the community.

And remember, as with any business in any geography, it’s often not what you know, but who you know. Building good relationships with customers as well as negotiating complex government regulations can facilitate smoother operations.

Even if you tick all these boxes, expanding into emerging markets is not without risk, and you should be prepared to pivot your strategy in response to market changes, consumer trends, or new regulations.

Crowdfund Insider: How important is cultural understanding in conducting business in emerging markets, and how do you ensure cultural sensitivity in your approach?

Zaki Farooq: There’s no doubt that understanding the unique values, communication styles, and business practices in a country can help build trust with local partners, employees, and customers, as well as help businesses adapt their strategies to align with local preferences and market dynamics.

But it can also be key to overcoming some of the challenges that we previously talked about. Because emerging markets often present unique challenges, such as bureaucratic hurdles or infrastructure limitations, a strong cultural understanding can help navigate the landscape more effectively by understanding the underlying cultural context.

My advice would be to invest time in researching the culture within a target emerging market, including understanding the local language, religion, history, and social customs, and prioritize building strong relationships with local partners and stakeholders.

It’s also important to remain open to adapting business practices and strategies based on feedback and cultural insights, and to consider working with local advisors who have expertise in the target market’s culture and business environment.

Crowdfund Insider: What role does technological innovation play in driving growth and development in emerging markets?

Zaki Farooq: I believe technological innovation is a catalyst for economic development, social progress, and inclusive growth in emerging markets, unlocking new opportunities and transforming traditional industries. It’s something we’ve seen first-hand at PayFuture Technologies.

Not only can innovations in technology lead to increased productivity and efficiency in emerging markets, but it also fosters entrepreneurship by providing tools and platforms for individuals to create and scale innovative solutions.

New technologies contribute to infrastructure development in emerging markets, and we know how important investment in telecommunications and transportation infrastructure is in encouraging new entrants into these markets.

Crowdfund Insider: Given the challenges of entering emerging markets, what are the tangible benefits for businesses entering these areas?

Zaki Farooq: I honestly think the main benefit is how operating in emerging markets forces a business to be innovative, leading to a culture of creativity and the development of new products, services, and business models. But naturally there needs to be a financial incentive too.

As I previously mentioned, around 85% of the world’s population lives in an emerging market country, and this accounts for 50.1% of global GDP in 2023 – and 66% of global GDP growth in the past 10 years. Given these numbers it’s not hard to imagine the potential return on investment in these markets.

Not only do emerging markets typically experience faster economic growth compared to developed markets, expanding into emerging markets also allows businesses to diversify their revenue streams and reduce dependency on mature markets. This can be particularly beneficial during economic downturns in established markets.

Yes, it can be challenging, but entering emerging markets offers significant rewards for businesses that are willing to take a leap of faith – and do so with determination and open eyes.

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