When the founder of Zatiq, Sultan Moni, came to Bangladesh, he faced a problem all of us face routinely but seldom think much about. He had to pay for almost everything in cash. Being a non-resident Bangladeshi, he couldn't open a mobile financial service (MFS) account, nor could he use his card in most places. Even carrying cash had its own problems.
Growing up in the UAE and Canada, Sultan Moni had hardly encountered this problem before. Nevertheless, he was determined to find a solution. A serial entrepreneur with a passion for problem-solving, he already had two successful startups under his belt. With a seasoned core team consisting of cofounders Fahim Al Mahmud and Mumtahina Anika, VP of Engineering Mahmudul Islam, and Brand Manager Sk Md Rahmatullah, who had operated together in projects spanning Canada, Nigeria, and Pakistan, and a passionate idea, they set to work.
The result was Zatiq, a financial intermediary startup with a host of POS innovations. With their products targeted at different segments of the market, the team boasts a solution for everyone, like independent entrepreneurs, retail merchants, in-person shopping, delivery, and logistics. When asked about the design philosophy of their products, founder Sultan Moni said that his team's mindset could be reflected in one quote. He followed, "Build something so easy, that it doesn't require a tutorial even for a kid to operate. If you have to train your customer on your product, your product is broken."
Sitting with them, and getting the opportunity to use their products, the writer understood what they meant. What became immediately noticeable to me was how they made each product easily recognisable and uncomplicated. Zatiq's current products are focused on assisting merchants and sellers in conducting their businesses. With interconnected software, users can operate Zatiq's products for facilitating transactions through cash, card, or MFS. Furthermore, transparent accounting, inventory management, due management and loan application are some of the other functionalities they have built into their product.
"One of the biggest problems with initial adaptability is the aversion to technology for many merchants. Having limited exposure, they are scared of technology and are reluctant to use it," said Mumtahina Anika, chief operations officer of Zatiq. "The merchants are losing a lot of money each day due to manual accounting faults. Even though the loss seems insignificant at first, when pointed out broadly, they realise the severity of it. Through our business calculator, they can keep tabs on every single transaction. Even dues are stored, which are calculated and totaled after each new entry."
The founder, Sultan Moni, further emphasised, "Adaptability and adoption are really the key metrics for us to judge our impact. Through our initial tests, we are noticing how much time our users are spending on our products, it seems that they are highly enthusiastic about them and are getting used to them very easily. The merchants in our country are quite adept at using calculators. Given our familiar design, it doesn't take them much longer to get used to the few extra buttons, and we are seeing prolonged usage from their end."
Their latest product, Zatiq EasyBill, simplifies transactions and accounting with the help of image recognition. The team said they are getting a positive response to their latest product.
"Writing a cash memo used to take more than five minutes, and customers would get frustrated by waiting; now we only have to take a picture of the item, and the memo is printed in seconds," said Mr Iqbal, a stationary shop owner from New Market, Dhaka.
"Our first product, Pocketpay, aimed at delivery and logistics businesses, enabled buyers to pay with their card as well. Now we are waiting for our financial institutional partners to complete testing and POC and facilitate transactions,'' said the founder. Currently, Zatiq is mass testing two of their flagship products, the Zatiq business calculator and Zatiq EasyBill across different types of businesses.
Zatiq led a very successful pre-seed round, raising $1.6 million in funding. The team plans for a further seed round in the coming months. The team said they are planning to expand in Khulna, Sylhet, and Chattogram soon. The total addressable market, as stated by the team, is 4.5 million merchants across Bangladesh. SMEs, which are their target group, employ 36 per cent of workers in Bangladesh while constituting 51 per cent of the micro-economic sector, according to a study by CIPE and CGS. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the SME sector contributes up to 24.5 per cent to our GDP. Adapting to technology is a major barrier to the digitisation of economies in developing countries, and Zatiq has been testing its products in other economies simultaneously with a goal to export Bangladeshi-made solutions across emerging markets.
The team reaches out to its intended demographic offline to build trust and get feedback. They said that they are still improving their products before a push to the broader market, using feedback to enhance further iterations.
Zatiq's main upcoming challenge, according to the team, is the supply chain. The availability of hardware production facilities in Bangladesh is limited but growing. The team believes that in the coming months, they will be able to simplify and establish their supply chain, making disruptions scarce.
In an ambitious endeavour, Zatiq envisions a future where carrying cash is redundant. "When we first launched our products, we got approached by different stakeholders with varying use cases we didn't even consider initially. This really helped us understand the universality of the problem. And since we make our own software and hardware, we have the freedom to customise it," added the team.
When asked about the future of the industry, Sultan said "It's a natural process for every emerging market to go cashless at some point. Our goal has never been to replace existing payment structures, but to simply make it easier for merchants to avail existing digital services and process seamless transactions, ultimately helping individuals."
Sabit Ibtisam Anan is a high schooler passionate about Startups and Climate Stewardship. He can be reached at [email protected]