First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Sergey Markov Kononova: We are OK. We spent the worst times of the pandemic in Spain. The country was hit very hard. My wife and I probably had COVID19, too, in mild form. We were lucky to be self-quarantined in our home with enough space, a garden and a swimming pool. If we were caught by the pandemic in a small city apartment, it would have been more difficult. Thank God the worst seems to be over for Spain, UK and Europe
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined RemitRadar
Sergey Markov Kononova: I did many things in the past – was in the diplomatic service, in local politics, founded start-ups and even got a Grammy Award as executive producer of a musical album for children. The idea of RemitRadar got me excited because it’s about the financial inclusion of a billion people. Just think about it! – a billion people, working families… they have income, but very little access to credit. And they pay too much when they send money home. We are solving this problem, and this is a great way to do good and make money at the same time. Therefore I am now a shareholder and CEO of RemitRadar, everything else has been put behind
How does RemitRadar innovate?
Sergey Markov Kononova: We use proprietary technology, API connections, artificial intelligence to aggregate data from over a hundred remittance companies, dozens of thousands of corridors and over a million agent locations – all this in order to provide real-time objective and unbiased comparison service for remittance clients. More importantly, we are going to transform the remittance industry in the same way that Expedia transformed the travel industry.
Currently, remittance clients always send money directly from one country to another – like 30 years ago travelers almost always used direct flights from A to B. But now you people often take connecting flights because they are cheaper even when a direct flight is available. We are creating a unified settlement space for smaller remittance companies and making connecting routes available to send money. They will often be cheaper than the direct routes. We are at the beginning of the customer journey, therefore we can suggest the optimal routing and make money when our clients save money
Besides,in order to improve access to credit for the families of migrant workers, we use the data regarding their remittances, and with their permission, we can share it with financial institutions so they can include it in their scoring models. As a result, people who were not eligible for credit before, become eligible. Next is to communicate to the migrant workers that a credit limit has been pre-approved to them, and walk them through the documentation process. After this, the worker’s family can buy goods in installments in partner retail chains. We are proud that our innovations can help so many people save money and spread our big ticket purchases
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Sergey Markov Kononova: We have a website, remitradar.com, which provides aggregation and comparison service for senders and receivers of remittances – mostly migrant workers and their families. They use our service to find the best deals and save on commissions and exchange rates. Obviously, they were affected by the pandemic, their earnings fell, and they had to save every dollar. Therefore they were using our service more, and our traffic went up about 25%.
Our business benefited from COVID19 (I know this sounds awful… but thanks to this we can do more for our users)..In fact, this prompted us to include a crowdfunding element in our fundraising campaign this month. We do it on RemitRadar.Seedrs.com. For us, this campaign is not just about money, but also about loyalty from those people who use our service
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Sergey Markov Kononova: The choices we have to make are not related to COVID19 – they are about managing growth and balancing between the two innovative business models – both of them are great but we also need focus – or alternatively, we can spin off the lending business into a JV with a partner financial institution, but we need to find the right one. Yes, business often requires difficult choices, we are not an exception
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and RemitRadar in the future ?
Sergey Markov Kononova: I think stress and anxiety are a problem when you are doing something that you are not really interested in. When it’s your own venture, your own idea, your own baby – then every situation is fun, even if it’s challenging. I remember moments of fun and excitement much more than moments of stress and anxiety. When I have a particularly busy day, I go for a swim in the sea – this always brings me back to life. I am Aquarius and am lucky to live not far from the beach when I am in Spain
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Sergey Markov Kononova: Monito.com is our competitor. It is good to have a competitor. There is room in the industry for more than one company. We will stay in the game, no worries. Our proprietary open API is widely used in the industry. Our business models go beyond simple lead generation and targeted marketing where there is a lot of competition. More complex business strategies require strong partnerships in the industry. We have been around long enough and feel confident that we can bring value to our users and partners. We will stay in the game and in fact we hope we will lead in the game
Your final thoughts
Sergey Markov Kononova: It’s amazing when you create something in the internet – and millions of people start coming from dozens of countries, and they start using your service, saving a bit of their hard-earned money… And you feel how huge and at the same time how small our world is. But then you think: we have only started scratching the surface, our market penetration is just 4%, there is a billion people out there who have yet to see the benefits of financial inclusion! This number – a billion people – is awe-inspiring. It’s hard to imagine, but it is happening!