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  • Writer's pictureAffy Bhatti

Investing in the bank of mum and dad

This article was published by BusinessNews on 27 May 2024. Click here to read the article.

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South Perth-based Bless Payments is a new global money transfer app that’s making it cheaper, faster and easier for migrants to send money to their friends and family overseas.

Since it was launched last December, the Bless Payments app has been downloaded more than 1,500 times across Australia, with over $200,000 sent to 23 countries.

Affy Bhatti
Affy Bhatti says Bless Payments’ app is designed for those whose home country is underserved. Photo: David Chong

The company is tapping into a growing industry, with more than $US647 billion sent to low- and middle-income countries worldwide in 2022, up by 8 per cent since 2021, according to the World Bank.

On average, migrants send home between $US200 and $US300 every one or two months, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, with 200 million migrant workers sending money home every year.

And with one in three Western Australians having been born overseas, the team at Bless Payments believes there’s a growing local need for its offering.

Supporting that belief are concerns among those who send money to non-Western countries about gaps in the service provided by the sector’s big players, Western Union and MoneyGram.

Currently, sending money to countries such as Pakistan or Egypt is more expensive, takes longer, and can be much more of a hassle than sending money to the UK or Canada, for example.

An opportunity to level the playing field for migrant workers was the impetus for Bless co-founder Affy Bhatti, a former principal at Deloitte, who moved to Australia more than 20 years ago from the UK as the child of Pakistani parents.

Similarly, Egypt-born co-founder and software engineer Mo Zaatar brings not only technical prowess but lived experience.

Put simply, Bless Payments is a solution created by people who understand the needs of the customers it serves.

For example, they understand sending money home is about much more than financial support.

No matter how much you make, there’s a cultural and moral obligation in many non-Western cultures to send money home to family.

“Whether you’re a student or a taxi driver, or a nurse or a professional, it doesn’t matter,” Mr Bhatti told Business News.

“What matters is that you respect your parents and you look after them.”

This is why even the design of Bless looks different to other money sending apps.

“All of the other apps look the same; it’s all about the currency pair [amount sent and its exchange rate],” Mr Bhatti said.

“[O]ur customers don’t think about money; they think about their family member.”

He said the Bless team understood these nuances by undertaking extensive testing in-house and in the market, including “walking into kebab shops and cafes and restaurants where migrants work”.

As a result, the app is available in 12 languages and the process to send money is designed to take into account cultural nuances currently overlooked by the big players.

For example, Mr Bhatti said, if you were Indian you may not have a middle or a surname.

Or if you’re Egyptian and you have five names but when you arrived in Australia you shortened your name so now your IDs don’t match across countries.

Or you’re a strict Muslim woman who can’t provide a photo without a hijab.

Not only can these nuances make remittance take longer, they often restrict an individual’s ability to send money at all.

The other area that Mr Bhatti and his team are working to address is the disparity in costs for customers sending to underserved and unserved countries.

For example, sending $500 to the UK with one of Bless Payments’ competitors will cost you about $2.93.

However, sending the same amount to Pakistan will cost $4.22. To Egypt it’s $7.13 and, at the high end, $12.75 to Botswana.

Similarly, some countries only have one option for remittance.

For example, despite representing a significant percentage of remittances, Australians can only send money to Lebanon via Western Union and MoneyGram.

Bless is also working to reduce the time it takes to send money to underserved countries, with its current average of two hours and 39 minutes, although many payments are made within minutes or even seconds.

Bless Payments is on track to hire a new head of growth in Australia and is aiming to have the app operating in six ‘send’ countries: Australia UAE, UK, Saudi Arabia, Canada and the US.

And while the business is currently a peer-to-peer service, it plans to expand to business-to-business, and later person-to-business, including assisting charities wanting to send money overseas.



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