[Interview] Samar Mushainesh of cashU on online payments in the Middle East and UAE

In a region where people crave to buy what they see online but hesitate to part with their credit card details, e-commerce can be quite a challenge. We have seen how many websites in the Middle East allow cash-on-delivery in the hope of overcoming their customers’ fear of paying for the goods they order, online.

Samar Mushainesh cashU

“45% of credit card holders in the UAE don’t prefer to use their credit cards online”

Samar Mushainesh
International Sales & Marketing Manager

While some banks in the region offer virtual cards which can be loaded as needed and then used in online transactions, cashU offers a simpler alternative.

It is a hassle-free payment solution established in 2002 by Maktoob (now Yahoo) making it easy for people to make online purchases without issues of age, income, nationality or banking contracts.

cashU serves more than 600,000 online users across the globe. In 2011, cashU was used by users in 169 countries and is available across 45 countries through direct retail. The UAE contributes to 15% of the total number of users.

cashU offers it services to merchants from different industries and has more than 7,000 merchants onboard. The brand has obviously tapped into a strong gap in the market as it claimed a 100% annual growth rate last year.

CopywriterJournalist interviews Samar Mushainesh, International Sales & Marketing Manager of cashU, and discusses the state of e-commerce and online transactions in the Middle East – and how payment solutions like cashU are making it easier for us to shop from home or work armed with a mouse and a pre-paid card.

Q1: What is the concept behind cashU?
cashU provides merchants with a unique reach to millions of potential online buyers in MENA. In a region with a young population, limited access to credit cards and where buying online is still not considered reliable; cashU Prepaid helps both buyers and sellers overcome these obstacles.

Q2: What are the gaps in the MENA market that cashU is filling with its offerings?
The MENA region’s online culture isn’t embracing the credit card usage for online payments as a recent survey revealed that 45% of credit card holders in the UAE don’t prefer to use their credit cards online. Online security is still the number one factor for people not using their credit cards online. Additionally, the MENA region isn’t familiar with credit cards amongst individuals due to many reason; cannot issue credit cards due to low income, don’t prefer to use credit cards as a result of interest rates and the additional cost of holding one, and as well as not reaching the legal age for opening a bank account and holding a credit card.

Q3: How is the Middle Eastern customer online different from others when it comes to shopping behavior and making payments?
Customers in the Middle East in general tend to look for the safest, easiest way to make payments online. And for non-regular online shoppers, which is the case for many in the region, holding a credit card for that particular reason isn’t practical enough. Therefore, cashU offers them a prepaid online solution that can meet their needs.

Q4: What are the toughest challenges for any e-commerce business targeting MENA consumers online?
Reaching out for customers in the region isn’t as easy as it should be, and this is directly related to the low internet penetration rates around the region (excluding UAE). In addition to providing the customers with payment options that meet their needs and as well as meeting the company’s business requirements; accessible bank transfers, reasonable fees, etc.

Q5: Tell us about your pre-paid card offering? What is the biggest customer segment for pre-paid cards?
cashU prepaid offers users the ability to pay online without commitment, as users can top up their free cashU account with the amount they need through various channels; retail shops, exchange houses, and online retailers, and use the money in their account to make purchases online. The number of users in the region is growing steadily, with the youth (16 – 25) segment being the biggest.

Q6. How secure are online transactions in the MENA? Are people hesitant to use their credit cards? How does using cashU change things in this regard?
cashU encapsulates the latest and up to date fraud prevention systems, and is AML (Anti Money Laundry) compliant, which offers both buyers and sellers a high level of security. With customers and merchants having cashU accounts and being able to check the accounts through an automated system for sufficient balances gives the merchants an additional layer of security by preventing scam attempts.

Q7: Bank debit cards vs. cashU – how do they stack up?

Banks’ merchant network for debit cards, especially in the region, isn’t as mature as cashU’s. And adding to that the accessibility of cashU cards to the youth segment who cannot have bank accounts leverages the prepaid option for users in the region.

Q8. It has usually been very difficult to ‘receive’ online payments in the UAE through PayPal, etc. Does cashU change that?
cashU offers merchants the ability to transfer their money to any bank around the globe, with the exclusion of countries that has international laws forbidding that of course. This opens the doors for any e-commerce business to utilize online prepaid payment option.

Q9: What does the future of e-commerce look like in the Middle East?
The Middle East’s internet culture and penetration is growing well. This provides more room for e-commerce businesses to develop and prosper, which is already notable in the region seeing many new e-commerce based companies launching and doing succeeding as well.

CopywriterJournalist hopes to see e-commerce payment becoming even more fluid and easy here in the UAE and the Middle East. What is your take on the matter? Do you buy things online? Do you hesitate in using your credit card for online purchases? What works for you? Your responses are welcome in the comments section…

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About Farrukh Naeem at www.copywriterjournalist.com

Farrukh Naeem is the Managing Editor of CopywriterJournalist.com. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. His blog is at FarrukhNaeem.com

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