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Technological inclusion for emerging markets 

Technological inclusion for emerging markets 

Banking & FinanceC-SuiteTop Stories

RedCloud is on a mission to help small businesses by creating infrastructure for digital marketplaces in emerging economies, such as Peru, Argentina and Nigeria. This helps address the significant technological challenges start-ups face and ultimately improves their financial inclusion and economic development. Soumaya Hamzaoui, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at RedCloud Technology, provides further insight, telling us about the clients and market RedCloud serves, as well as her management philosophy and career journey so far.  

What has your career looked like so far? 

I have a 10-year background in software and telecommunications and oversee the operations and product strategy for RedCloud, as well as heading the design and business development and customer engagement teams. My main expertise lies in product management for highly evolved digital financial services. Previous to RedCloud, I worked on the development of Orange Money in Africa and supported multiple industries including transport, banking and telecommunications in their transformation towards new technologies. 

Tell us a bit more about your business and how it started. 

RedCloud is an open commerce platform that aims to grow global access to the world’s consumer products and improve the efficiency of supply chains by connecting and enabling brand manufacturers, distributors and merchants to trade digitally. Among the services we provide is access to digitised payments, which eliminates the risks associated with cash handling, while offering real-time data about inventory management. We also enable the mass, low-cost distribution of consumer goods through a single app, anywhere in the world. The app, called Red101, is designed specifically for use by small, local merchants.  

We founded the company when we recognised that, around the world, there are currently over 1 billion micro-businesses that are unbanked and are therefore excluded financially through no fault of their own. Our open commerce platform is built to empower and enrich these businesses, which are projected to serve over 5 billion customers by 2025. 

How has the business grown since it started and how did you ensure growth? 

We originally started the business in Argentina where we launched our first pilot. We worked very closely with retailers and spent time in the market to understand their pain points, their expectations from a technology point of view and service point to make sure that we built the right product and processes. From there we have expanded the market to five countries in Africa and Latin America. 

We have also diversified the type of retailers we were targeting, we started initially with only small kiosks, now we are working with small shops, restaurants and barber shops. 

What is your company’s vision and goal? 

RedCloud is on a mission to digitise and empower an economy of one billion micro-businesses on a global basis, giving them the freedom to trade anywhere through an open commerce platform with the world’s largest local payment network.  

Our ultimate goal is to allow this to happen anywhere – regardless of country, size of business, background – and give brands, distributors and merchants a single, trusted, decentralised platform on which to trade.  

What kind of clients and markets do you serve? 

We’re focused on the B2B buying relationship between manufacturers, distributors and their local merchants and retailers. Many consumer products are sold this way, with less than 4% of this commerce being carried out online. 

We’re currently live across five markets: Argentina, Peru, Brazil, South Africa and Nigeria. We have half a million merchants registered to use our products and a further 1 million currently being onboarded. We have over 250 brands already live on our platform, and we’re backed by one of the world’s largest payment networks, meaning we can cover circa 500-600 million merchants.  

What’s the business’ approach to management

We try to keep the entrepreneurship culture in the company. Even though we employ more than 80 people today, we try to maintain the start-up culture, especially in the local markets where we operate. We try to attract talent who are ambitious and resourceful and make sure we give them space to contribute through their local understanding of the market to shape the global strategy of the company. 

We are also very proud to have a multicultural team who collaborate to create transcontinental partnerships for our clients and partners. 

Basically, we get the right people with the right ambition and create the environment for them to grow and be impactful. 

How do you equip your staff with skills and knowledge? 

We have open forums where we share information not only about our technology and strategy but also about the market we operate in, including trends and innovation and how they can impact our work going forward. We try to make sure that everyone in the business, regardless of their department, fully understands the space we operate in and what it takes to stay competitive. 

This is from a company perspective, but we also try to identify what specific skills individuals in the team need to learn for their own personal evolution and try to support them in acquiring those skills by funding specific courses for example or allowing them to allocate time to learn outside of the company.  

How do you ensure different teams in your organisation work together?  

It is the hardest thing to do when you are scaling up, as departments evolve very quickly. So, internal communications become critical and making sure roles and responsibilities are clearly identified in each department and communicated widely in the company. 

Also, making sure that management teams channels the information through to the right people.  

How do you work with other executives within the C-suite to make sure your voice is heard? 

As COO, I have daily interactions with different departments. From my point of view, the most important thing is to make sure that all C-suite executives agree on the objectives of the company and what it takes to achieve them. If we set objectives right at the beginning, the rest follows. If there is a disagreement then you just go back to the drawing board and analyse how that could impact the business and make informed decisions.  

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