Making payments faster and cheaper


By JOY LEE

Optimistic: Having built a good foundation for the business, (from left) Arzumy, Nazroof and Aiman are now looking at hockey-stick growth for Billplz.

THE push to go cashless will be a boon for payment platform Billplz. With merchants having to offer more digital payment options to their customers, chief executive officer Nazroof Hakim says the company is barely scratching the surface of the payments market.Billplz currently processes about RM2mil to RM3mil a day on its platform and the amount is expected to increase as the market grows.

“The market is massive. Cumulatively, we haven’t even hit 10% of Malaysia’s GDP. And every year, you see half a million new market participants entering the marketplace. So we have many individuals coming to us for our services. That’s how hungry the market is. There is a lot of room to grow, ” he says.

Unlike most other players in the payment space, Billplz’s product is differentiated, giving it a bigger advantage to grab market share.

Billplz is not a payment gateway, he emphasises.

“It is a payment platform to integrate competing payment gateways for the merchant so that they can get the best deals.

“The merchants decide which payment gateways or methods they want to integrate into the platform. So, PayPal and Boost, for example, are not our competitors. We integrate them for merchants based on their request, ” he explains.

He adds that its business model is built on the mantra of ensuring its merchants are able to pay and get paid faster on its platform at the lowest cost possible. That motto has helped Billplz grow quickly, albeit quietly, over the last nine years.

Apart from its solution, what the company also had going for it was its perfect timing. Back in 2010, the convergence of online and offline retail made online payments an absolute necessity.

Thanks to that, Billplz currently has a base of 1,900 active merchants and revenue has been growing three-fold every year over the last four years.

But now that it has established what he thinks is a sizeable payments operation, the company is planning to expand its offerings for small businesses.

“One problem we see is micro and small businesses have a problem with compliance. Some don’t even know the difference between cashflow and revenue. And that makes it hard for them to meet the compliance standards in terms of payroll, for example.

“So what we want to do is integrate our payment with compliance. From handling payments, we want to handle where payments go in terms of payroll, paying vendors, audit and so on, and help them with compliance along that value chain.“Essentially, we want to offer a back-office solution coupled with our payment platform. So a small business won’t need to have their own back office, ” Nazroof shares.

Being able to comply with standards will help SMEs have better documentation, which will come in handy for loan and grant applications. This will inevitably open up more doors for the companies.

While there is a perception that SMEs are trying to remain under the radar, Billplz chief financial officer Muhammad Aiman Bin Ezanee says this is not always the case.

“Take taxes, for example. It’s not that they don’t want to be in compliance. But there are different timeframes required for different types of submission for businesses, which can be confusing for SMEs. So it’s not that they want to avoid paying taxes. Sometimes they don’t understand the requirements and so they don’t make the right payments.

“But with our new product proposition, we want to tell the business community and entrepreneurs to focus on their core activities and leave you non-core activities, like your compliance work, to us, ” says Aiman.

They are expecting good take-up for its compliance component as it can leverage its existing customer base and feedback has been encouraging so far.

Nazroof is optimistic of Billplz’s progress and is eyeing regional markets in the near horizon.

“In payment, there is no sorry. You do it right or not at all. If you do it wrong the first time, there is no next time. So the last five years, we’ve been focusing on making sure all our settlements and technology are in place. Finally, we are confident with what we have and we are ready to go above ground.”

Billplz is currently raising its series-A round and hopes to close in a total of RM24mil by next year. The company is drawing in a lot of interest from high-networth individuals and family offices.

It had previously only raised RM700,000 over the last five years.

Nazroof says the funds will be used for product development as well as for acquisitions as the company aims to maintain its growth rate.

“We are already sustainable. We’ve been growing 3-fold every year. Last year, our revenue was RM2.2mil and this year will be about RM6mil. Next year will be tough for us to grow 3-fold because of the higher base.

“Obviously, from now on, we’ll have to start looking at hockey-stick growth, and the only way to do that is via acquisitions, ” he says.

It is eyeing smaller payment gateways and accounting firms or any other finance-related companies that will help grow its payment and compliance business.

They hope to keep up growth to hit the RM550mil-revenue mark by 2024 to prepare the company for an initial public offering.

The company currently has close to 20 employees. With growth expected to continue tripling, the challenge will be to ensure that it has the right team to keep up with its expansion plans.

“The size of our team has to be based on priority and not just grow for growth’s sake. We have good engineers in Malaysia. What we are lacking is the experience. That’s why we also focus on building up our ecosystem of engineers, and the developers community.

“But growth is not just about hiring a lot of people. We also look at how well we can optimise our talents and automate things, ” says chief technology officer Arzumy MD.

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