DesPardes + PKonweb

This Startup Can Help Pakistanis in Mideast Do Freelancing Online, Get Paid

A huge community of spouses (nearly 90pct to 95pct) of expats want some type of home-based jobs. Freelancing online with PaySay in place, could be a winner for all. “For now, I take it this community of spouses yearning to do home-based work is one of our “stranded assets.””

IRSHAD SALIM — Out of nearly 10m Pakistanis overseas, a substantial number live in GCC countries– the largest community of overseas Pakistanis have been working on Aqama (Resident Work Visa) in the Saudi Kingdom. The rules do not allow a second job (moonlighting), nor business. However, many expats have the ability to do freelancing, a huge business opportunity which is based on the world wide web. But getting paid in their resident accounts may make them brush with related Saudi laws.

Here’s a perfectly legal bypass system: PaySay a fintech, headquartered in UK with an offshore office in Lahore. The startup aims to enable local freelancers and education academies receive payments from Europe by offering them a UK-based bank account.

CEO Farrukh Mian has created this business model to tap the Pakistani freelance market and at the same time fill the gap Paypal and similar payment gateways have created by their absence.

The impact on the massive local freelancing community could however extend beyond and cover Pakistani expats and their families in Saudi (as an example) who face not the same but a similar problem.

Also, a huge community of spouses (nearly 90 pct to 95pct) of these expats want some type of home-based jobs. Freelancing online with PaySay in place, could be a winner for all.

For now, I take it this community of spouses yearning to do home-based work is one of our “stranded assets”.

Dawn adds: “The process is very simple: open the website, enter the freelancers page, sign up using an email address and the system will generate UK account details for you in a matter of seconds with details like sort code, account number among others. You can then use these with your foreign clients who then wouldn’t have to pay you through an international bank transfer, saving both parties from the inconvenience.”

Once you have money in your (Pakistani) account, it’s tax free, and legitimate, transparent according to local laws.

Did these freelancers in the kingdom break any law? Probably not. Just as many buy and sell stocks online.

Additional info: You do not need a fully functioning UK-based account with bank card or an app to do your transactions. “It can only be accessed through the PaySay platform. Technically, these are sub-accounts distributed and managed through us as one can’t sign up with a British bank if they are not based in UK. This is why it’s not possible to directly use the bank’s portal,” said CEO Farrukh Mian.

At the moment, they have three digital banks (similar to SimSim in Pakistan) – Tide, Viva Wallet and Starling — on board and customers are given accounts from one of these institutions.

The startup has other co-founders beside Farrukh Mian, They are Zahid Khan and Dr Philip Mend­rzyk — veterans in payments, software and financial services — and was commercially launched early 2017.

PaySay has two revenue streams — 0.25 per cent and 0.50pc charges on both the transaction and foreign exchange rates on standard and express payments, respectively. How­ever, for Pakistan-bound payments, they have forgone the former and just restricted themselves to the forex margins.

The startup has raised some half a million pounds in two angel investment rounds in 2016 and 2018.

Since the launching of this freelancing payment service three months ago, they have floated around $2 million whereas in the remittance business, over a billion dollars have been transacted through PaySay. A back of the envelope calculation, based on their margins, gives roughly an income close to 500,000 pounds.

The problem, however, could go beyond a lack of payment solutions for freelancers. Whether PaySay will be able to fill in trust deficit remains to be seen. Other things being equal, the startup could be “special purpose vehicle” for Pakistani Diaspora in the Mideast– specially Saudi Arabia.

The author is a business consultant, analysts, and Editor-in-Chief of PKonweb.com and DesPardes.com. He’s presently based in Islamabad.