We talked to Ali Alhabshi, Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Upayments, a leading digital payments provider in Kuwait and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ali Alhabshi: Thank God. We found ourselves obliged to practice positive survival coping mechanisms to manage life during this pandemic. It has not been easy, but good begets good, and bad begets bad. I always pray for protection and safety for all.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Upayments.
Ali Alhabshi: I started my career in 2008 at Zain, a leading telecommunications company based in Kuwait, where I served in a newly formed cybersecurity department. Back then, security was a second thought and was not taken seriously in big corporations. With hard work and commitment, I became the Cybersecurity Manager at Zain Group, where I helped 8 Zain operations in 8 different countries maintain a secure business.
I have developed a special interest in Financial Technology during my career and decided to start my own company in this space in 2016. The company suffered multiple obstacles, and I quickly realized that I should change a lot of aspects of the business to get it to work. The business name was not so attractive, the branding was not nicely done, and I needed a cofounder to cover my weaknesses. The only one thing I believed in is the product we have created. I knew it was a breakthrough, and it should work.
I rebranded the company, and UPayments was born. I used the existing innovative technology that we have built to create other payment products that will later help us grow, and finally, and most importantly, Nasser AlHumaidi, my cofounder and the company’s CEO, has joined the journey. He believed in what my team and I were doing and quickly helped us become a leading digital payments provider in Kuwait.
The journey was not easy, and I believe all readers know how hard the life of an entrepreneur is. It’s a truly tough yet sweet journey. Eventually, nothing worth having comes easy.
How does UPayments innovate?
Ali Alhabshi: First and foremost, it does with the help of the UPayments team. I consider them my joker card. We are certain that empowered employees will provide value in new ways. Another key factor that helps us innovate is listening to our customers and getting insights into what they want and what gaps exist in their lives that our products and services could fill then only innovate to serve them better.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ali Alhabshi: As a FinTech company, we were positively impacted by the pandemic. We have seen a great demand to adapt digital payment services in the market and have enabled more businesses to go effortlessly online during the pandemic. We also launched an initiative to help local businesses operate during several lockdowns.
Despite the fact that the pandemic negatively impacted many businesses, I usually like to see the positive side of things. To me, the pandemic also has positive impacts on workplaces and operations. I believe it has changed the nature of workplaces forever. It made us realize that we can work remotely but still perform just as good and, in many cases, better.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ali Alhabshi: The hardest matter was to keep our team members safe and healthy. We tried our best to secure them by applying WHO instructions and implementing work from home policy smoothly in a timely manner. We learned that every adversity carries with it the seed of an equivalent or a greater benefit. It’s not allowed here to lose hope!
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Ali Alhabshi: I think COVID-19 caused the future of work to arrive early. Although the technology to facilitate remote work has been around for over a decade, the pandemic has only forced us to engage in a sudden, massive, real-time experiment with remote work arrangements. Our team works remotely from anywhere, thanks to software like Slack and Jira for project management and Google meet, Skype & WhatsApp for instant communications and virtual meetings. I personally think that effective and clear communication is the most needed management skill during a crisis. I still remember giving a fun presentation to all employees to encourage them to use the pandemic to spend more time with the family, exercise, and learn new things. Despite all the uncertainty and stress we were going through, we have maintained an optimistic look to the future and effectively communicated it.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ali Alhabshi: UPayments yesterday! We strive to be better every day. This is our motto in the company. Every business has the right to compete fairly, and the FinTech market is open to all. However, embracing sustainability and leading the way is the key, and that’s exactly why we work hard to develop a competitive advantage from day one to stay in the game. We have hired the best talents and will continue to do so as we believe that our employees are the company’s biggest asset. We will also continue to invest in research and innovation as they’re core to our business.
Your final thoughts?
Ali Alhabshi: Thank you for having UPayments on your platform, and thanks to all your readers for stopping by. We invite you to conduct another interview with us when we expand soon to highlight new features and aspects of the company.
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