We talked to AbdelRahman El-Sergani of BlaBla Connect about the retail voice provider, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
AbdelRahman El-Sergani: We are doing fine and safe.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded BlaBla Connect.
AbdelRahman El-Sergani: I used to work at our sister company, SygmaTel, a wholesale voice carrier when we decided to create BlaBla Connect as a retail voice provider that would target consumers directly and offer them our 200+ network of voice suppliers, serving ex-pats around the globe and helping them stay connected with their friends and families around the globe. The idea then evolved to include financial services. We set our path to include international money transfers as a starting point, but will soon evolve to a global digital bank for ex-pats.
How does BlaBla Connect innovate?
AbdelRahman El-Sergani: Our company uses the latest technology to ensure our customers have the best customer experience and can use our services from their smartphones directly. A call is just a few taps away. Money can be sent instantly from download to money receipt halfway around the globe in under 120 seconds. Impressive!
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
AbdelRahman El-Sergani: The Pandemic has changed how we perform our daily tasks and do our work. However, the Pandemic has also increased the market size since our services are all performed online; customers could no longer go anywhere to fulfil their needs. The Pandemic has accelerated the move to an all-digital world. We had very good outcomes from the Pandemic in general; larger market size, cost reduction due to office closures and travel savings, time managed more efficiently as all business deals are now done from home and no need to for face-to-face meetings, etc. We even had to hire a full team of customer care agents without even meeting a single person. All agents were hired through video interviews and are working from home ever since being hired. The down-side is probably the appetite for investors to push cash into startups and businesses to boost their growth. This is something we have to deal with anyway.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
AbdelRahman El-Sergani: Yes. For the sake of the business and the people involved. Lessons learned; difficult choices are mostly due to wrong decisions made in the past. Focus on making the right decisions now, so you don’t have to make the difficult ones in the future.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
AbdelRahman El-Sergani: It’s good to take some time off from time to time and enjoy a few days with the family. Otherwise, being a co-founder is all about managing stress.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
AbdelRahman El-Sergani: Our competitors are the likes of Transferwise, Remilt, Azimo, World Remit, etc. We distinguish ourselves from the competition by bridging the gap between the financial and telecom sectors, introducing communities, chatting, calling, etc. in the business’s financial side. We are introducing new and different features, strengthening our compliance procedures and elevating the customer experience.
Your final thoughts?
AbdelRahman El-Sergani: A brief about our company; BlaBla Connect Limited was established in the UK and is focused on financial services. With a vision to build a bridge between financial and telecom industries. The company is fully regulated by FCA in the UK (Financial Conduct Authorities) and holding one of the most prestigious and important licenses in Europe – EMI (Electronic Money Institution) which paves the path for what is known as “Digital Banking” in the FinTech industry.
BlaBla is uniquely positioned to offer a wide range of associated financial services to its growing and engaged user base. Marketing directly to consumers, focusing on low acquisition costs, and using predominantly digital methods, the company provides users with a social mobile wallet.
BlaBla launched its own platform mobile wallet (PassTo) with a broad range of functionalities including peer-to-peer, remittances, wallet to wallet, and Air-Time Top-up. Other features to follow, e.g. merchant payments, multi-currency services, shared wallets, split payments, gift transfer (group payment), and issuing cards.
Building on its previous iterations, BlaBla’s wallet (PassTo) integrates social and e-commerce functionality on top of its existing and expanding features. Among other things, the social flavor of the wallet makes it stand out from the competition.