Fintech company OneLoad announces $11m raise from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, others

With an EMI license on the cards, OneLoad aims to become a bank without physical branches

LAHORE: Pakistan’s fintech company OneLoad has announced raising $11 million in new funds as it focuses on the next phase of growth.

OneLoad’s round was led by Pakistan’s Sarmayacar and Abu Dhabhi-based Shorooq Partners, with participation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s strategic investment fund. The fintech company also has International Finance Corporation (IFC) as its prior funder.

OneLoad, owned by System’s Ltd subsidiary EP Systems, is digitising micro retailers for banking functions.  The Lahore-based fintech company is also an aspirant for the Electronic Money Institute (EMI) license and received the in-principle approval from the State Bank in January 2020. 

Muhammad Yar Hiraj, the founder and CEO of OneLoad, tells Profit that they have fulfilled the central bank’s requirements and are expecting approval for the pilot operations in a few weeks. 

Founded in mid-2014, OneLoad acquired retailers by enabling them to sell airtime of telecom operators digitally. With its retailer base now intact, it has moved on to enable them to accept payments and plans further to equip them for cash-in and cash-out services.

OneLoad plans to use the EMI license to convert OneLoad accounts into bank accounts and issue debit cards.

“OneLoad trained retailers to keep money with the company as a store of value. With EMI, that store of value is going to become a bank account on which OneLoad will be able to issue a debit card,” Hiraj told Profit

“Since it will become a bank account, retailers will be able to accept payments from other digital wallets as well as through QR codes.” 

Hiraj further says that the most important function that they plan to enable retailers for is that instead of doing it through physical ATMs, customers cash-in and cash-out services through OneLoad’s retailer network.

Retailers are further being offered digital loans to address their working capital requirements. OneLoad does the lending through the NBFI license of partner companies and its EP Systems, is also in the process of acquiring an NBFI license.  

Hiraj says that the entire suite of OneLoad offerings is essentially aimed at fulfilling financial needs of retailers, as well as enabling them to provide banking services without physical bank branches.

OneLoad will use the fresh funds to expand its suite of products and services, targeted at the large unbanked population in Pakistan, estimated at 100 million adults. “We are a grassroots company for the grassroots,” Hiraj said in a press statement.

“We are excited to bring new partners to the company like Sarmayacar and Shorooq Partners. Our vision is to fully digitise the financial needs of the unbanked and the financially excluded masses in Pakistan,” Hiraj says.

“We cannot have financial inclusion without a solid infrastructure that integrates into people’s daily lives; if the products we build don’t seamlessly integrate with people every day, we will not achieve that,” said Tamer Azer, a partner at Shorooq Partners.

“This is what we learned in Egypt and this is what we see as a tremendous opportunity in Pakistan as well.” 

 

 

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Taimoor Hassan
The author is a staff member and can be reached at [email protected]

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