JEVITHA MUTHUSAMY shines the spotlight on Cashew Financial Services, who is paving the way for Shariah compliant digital lending entities in Pakistan by rolling out its brand Muawin.
Fintech start-up Cashew Financial Services (Cashew), which recently launched its wide range of ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ solutions in Saudi Arabia and the UAE through Cashew Payments Technology, has unveiled its latest brand in Pakistan called Muawin.
Muawin, which means helper, is co-founded by Hashim Ali and Moeed Qamar who aspires to bridge the financing gap in unbanked and underbanked micro retailers in Pakistan through Shariah compliant value chain working capital.
“Cashew recently obtained a no-objection certificate (NOC) for our non-banking financial license from the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, so through that license we are looking to provide lending services to customers under the Muawin brand,” Hashim tells IFN.
Structured under the Musawwamah guidelines, Muawin’s primary offering value will always be quick, easy and affordable access to credit for micro retailers. Loans offered under the brand are designed to be non-cash-based and are disbursed through its own loan book, thus giving retailers more flexibility in deploying their own limited capital.
“Since getting our NOC from the regulator, we have done a couple of 100 pilot loans to test out our products and our technology platform. We will be doing our full launch in January 2021 onwards where our new customized app will be launched as well,” Moeed says.
Cashew has its own internal Shariah advisor that ensures the product itself follows the Shariah compliant guidelines. It is important for Muawin to be Shariah compliant in order to cater to the needs of all micro retailers and Cashew believes that with the Shariah compliance in place, it has a more inclusive strategy toward the market and the products that are designed.
Some of the largest hurdles Cashew faced were choosing the right license to operate and putting together a team that truly believed in Muawin. It was important for Cashew to ensure that its management team structure was solid enough to justify the massive vision it is trying to achieve.
The company is targeting 800,000 micro retailers nationwide and roughly around 1.5 million gig economy workers which include ride-hailing drivers and freelancers.
In a bid to help micro retailers grow, Muawin is working on distinguishing itself from competitors through its unique and completely digital and mobile-only services.
“Muawin is different particularly in our digital-first philosophy and our loan-lending methods. We will not be using other banks for their credit funds but rather we will be using our own loan book to lend directly. So the funds that we use for the loans are disbursed from our own loan book. Our design is everything in-house,” Moeed shares.
From Monami to Muawin
Moeed was previously head of strategy and finance at Monami Tech, a Dubai-based fintech start-up. IFN Fintech had previously reported that in 2017, Monami Tech was working on Wahed, a Shariah compliant mobile app with features such as Zakat calculations, spending analysis, bill payments and more.
It is understood that from 2017 to 2018, Monami Tech entered the business-to-business (B2B) market and developed a 360-degree loan management platform with onboarding and grade scoring systems which were offered to financial institutions and banks in the UAE. Moving forward, in 2019, the company realized that the B2B marketplace was not picking up momentum in the region.
“We saw an appetite for digital lending in the market and figured why not use the existing technology to launch our own brands. We targeted Saudi Arabia first which led to the transformation of our platform in 2019 and more recently we launched cashew for the GCC market.
“When I left Monami Tech a year ago, together with Hashim we co-founded Muawin with the mission to offer digital lending in Pakistan. So Monami Tech is just a technology company; other than using the technology to launch these two brands, it will remain developing technological products in the future. But, the ultimate spin-off from Monami Tech is with Cashew and Muamin,” explains Moeed.