Antonov: Businesses in Nigeria Need World-class Payment Solutions

TheChief Product Officer, Unlimint and Information Technology (IT) expert,  Mr. Alex Antonov, speaks about the need to sustain the growth of e-commerce business in Nigeria with world-class payment solutions and expanded payment system from Unlimint. Emma Okonji presents the excerpts:

How will you describe the kind of services offered by Unlimint across the globe and Nigeria in particular, and what has been the impact of your service offerings on Nigeria’s payment industry and the economy?

Unlimint offers a variety of financial services from payment processing to banking as a service to companies all over the globe. We have a vast portfolio of more than 1000 alternative payment methods and hold local acquiring licenses in most regions of presence. Unlimint’s expansion to the Nigerian market will allow local companies and entrepreneurs to receive world-class payment service that will help them actively develop their businesses, both locally and internationally. We are looking to providing more payment choices for African merchants and customers, with more competitive pricing and additional payment methods, enabling them to focus on the expansion and growth of their businesses. Our solution removes the middle-man cost, allowing us to pass the cost savings onto our merchants, and gives them access to unprecedented data analytics and insights into their business. Furthermore, in terms of global expansion, the single integration with Unlimint will allow local merchants to receive payments anywhere globally in their customers’ preferred payment method.

As a global payment system provider with expansion plans into African markets, how will Unlimint address hiccups in the Nigerian payment industry?

We have been on the global market for more than 13 years now and have launched our solutions worldwide, including regions like Latin America and Asia Pacific. We know what is required for a business to succeed and carry years of financial and payment expertise. On top of that, we have an excellent management, product and tech team in our Lagos office who provide us with local insights and who are true experts in their field.

What is the correlation between SMS messaging, Business Messaging and Instant Messaging and how are these messaging services driving growth and development in the payment industry?

Business Messaging is a form of communication in which a business and a (potential) customer have a two-way exchange of messages (as opposed to advertising, where the business simply reaches out to the customer without the ability to get instant feedback). SMS messaging and Instant Messaging are Business Messaging’s typical communication channels, with Instant Messaging slowly killing off SMS Messaging as the Internet’s penetration increases. In recent years, many companies have felt the need to make deals and trade during the process of Business Messaging. This has led various Instant Messaging providers like WhatsApp and Telegram to add in-app payments to their offering and essentially created a new target audience for payment solution providers, motivating them to actively integrate and partner up with them.

What is Unlimint doing in the area of integration of instant messaging services with payment providers for in-app purchases?

Unlimint already powers direct in-app purchases for Telegram and is planning on integrating with other popular Instant Messaging providers as soon as they start providing integration capabilities (API)

How will such integration enhance payment services across different payment platforms?

It will allow us to take a step further toward the creation of a truly omnichannel payment experience. The end goal is to allow the end customer to pay however they like, from where ever they like, with zero limitations.

What is the impact of emerging technologies on instant messaging services and how is Unlimint leveraging on such technologies to enhance customers’ experience?

There are many ways in which emerging technologies could potentially impact instant messaging: by increasing privacy due to cryptography technologies, increased speed and quality of messaging due to 5G/6G/7G. Additionally, there is a possibility to build sales bots/consultants/assistants based on AI. As a company that focuses on innovation and prides itself as ‘being ready for tomorrow’, we are constantly monitoring such trends to make sure that we implement the most relevant ones into our offerings and perfect the experience for our clients.

How can small businesses in Nigeria leverage your service offerings to enhance growth and business continuity?

We offer small businesses a simple and quick onboarding process, with all the relevant payment methods they require in Nigeria, to allow them to reach new markets and retail channels.Further, we can enhance small businesses’ growth by giving them access to a global market, all through their single integration into Unlimint Nigeria.We also have a highly sophisticated and customizable merchant dashboard – meaning that small businesses can get data-driven right into their online purchases.

What is your view about poor infrastructure development in Africa and how is it affecting the payment industry across Africa?

The poor infrastructure is an unfortunate feature of the African landscape. This meant that traditional business tools like landlines or access to banking facilities was not readily available. The advent of mobile technology has allowed for these infrastructure challenges to be addressed: Mobile payments, Mobile Calls, Mobile banking. In certain respects, it has allowed Africa to lead in certain payments categories. Think of Kenya and Mobile Money, where mPesa is the global standard and benchmark for anything mobile momoney-related.

The Central Bank of Nigeria has identified so much liquidity in the informal sector, despite efforts to make Nigeria a cashless nation. How will Unlimint assist CBN in mopping up cash from the informal sector?

Unlimint has a suite of online payment methods all geared to cashless banking. It will help the CBN in its quest to move to a cashless Nigeria by providing simple and viable payment alternatives for the informal sector. Unlimint is fairly innovative in its product offering and has built an excellent R&D team. In time there will be products that it can launch that will help drive this adoption from cash to cashless.

There has been a global rise in online theft and hacking, which is preventing several people from adopting electronic payment systems. How can this be addressed?

Awareness is the main factor here. It’s important to raise financial literacy among populations to ensure they are knowledgeable about the principles of operation of information systems and resources, since the main source of abuse is the use of the human factor (ex. phishing). Also, guaranteeing that the implemented financial solutions are following global security and anti-fraud standards.

The expansion of e-commerce in Nigeria has increased customers’ demand for better payment service offerings. How will payment service providers like Unlimint address the growing needs of consumers?

Unlimint is a global fintech company with 16 offices all over the world and a customer base consisting of thousands of merchants. We already work with various e-commerce clients and are able to implement our best practices and experience into the Nigerian market. Our boutique approach to each customer allows us to address their financial needs and put together an offering that would uniquely solve their main payment concerns, thus making us easily adaptable to change and our merchants’ requirements.

The globe has gone digital, with the gradual emergence of digital banking. How has Unlimint positioned itself to address the needs of digital banking platforms?

Unlimint actually offers a banking solution of its own, allowing customers to open corporate accounts and issue corporate cards. We have also just recently launched our own Banking as a Service (“Baas”) product as well, called UBC. UBC is the ultimate, configurable BaaS API platform that allows companies globally to launch and embed digital payment products for their customers based.

What is your business market share in Nigeria and how do you intend to grow it amid market competition?

We setup in Nigeria two years ago and are in the final stages of launching our services here. We intend to grow our market share thanks to our excellent customer service, competitive pricing, sophisticated and secure payments technology (all developed in-house over the past 13 years) and clear understanding of the customers’ requirements and needs.

What is your greatest interest in the Nigerian payment market and what are your plans to further grow the market?

Further plans to grow the market include investing in more innovative products, suitable for the Nigerian market. Our Director for Africa and India, Trevor Goott, has been doing business in Nigeria for over 22 years and has seen first-hand the growth in the Nigerian economy and the creativity of the people and the product and services Nigeria produces. The interest in Nigeria stems from Trevor’s passion for the country and his desire to leverage the payment technologies of Unlimint Group for the benefit of Nigeria.

Can you tell us about yourself and your role at Unlimint?

As the Chief Product Officer at Unlimint, I am responsible for the management and strategic development of all the products in Unlimint’s product portfolio. I create and implement the products’ strategy, define goals and objectives for our development teams. I am an established expert in the IT industry with more than 15 years of experience. During these years, I held senior and executive positions in multiple leading tech companies, including Rambler and Yandex.

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