Doing business on Instagram? You could be in for a pleasant surprise. Fatema Ebrahim explains how Valopay simplifies payments to give you unprecedented peace of mind.
Could you please tell our readers who you are and what you do?
My name is Fatema Ebrahim. I’m originally from Bahrain. I’m 26 years old, and the founder of Valopay.
I had been out of the country for about seven years, and decided to come back at a time when our economy is pushing its community to abandon their comfort zones and start contributing. I thought Bahrain would be perfect. It’s a small market, and a thirsty community for ideas and entrepreneurism overall. After nine months of research and hard work, we created the concept of Valopay.
What is Valopay? What are the main ideas behind it?
Valopay is an online platform that simplifies communication and facilitates payments between sellers and buyers within the Instagram marketplace. Valopay allows sellers to accept online payments, and offers them a simpler experience when placing an order.
Valopay has features that any small business owner with a base of buyers can use. The features are user-friendly and convenient. To help process quick, secure transactions, we became certified partners with Paytabs, a Middle Eastern company that has been processing payments in the GCC. Check out our website at valopay.com.
We have a number of sellers currently using Valopay and receiving fast, easy payments. Buyers use Valopay links on various social media platforms to make their purchases.
THE PAYMENTS INFRASTRUCTURE IS DEVELOPING, AND THE PAYMENT SPACE IS DEFINITELY PROGRESSING IN THE GCC AT A FAST PACE.
How does Valopay work for buyers and sellers?
Valopay allows sellers to create a simple order link for each product, and that link can be shared with buyers anywhere, via email, social media, or Whatsapp. The order link takes less than a minute to complete, and asks for the buyer’s basic information, address, and whether they would like to pay online via Paytabs or with cash on delivery. Because sellers are registered with Valopay and under Paytabs for security, all online payments are transferred to the seller’s bank account when a transaction is made.
How was Valopay conceived?
Valopay was an idea that sparked after realizing how huge the Instagram marketplace is in the GCC—it has become an important platform for launching a business. After research and observation into this area, we saw some gaps we could fill. Instagram wasn’t built to run a business, so we wanted to come up with a tool that fit the needs of this specific community to make buying and selling easier.
Is the payments space tough? What have you learned so far about it?
It’s a new dawn in Middle East payments. The payments infrastructure is developing, and the payment space is definitely progressing in the GCC at a fast pace. There are several applications out there that are tackling the issues of marketplaces, SMEs, and online payments in general.
The main things we’ve learned is that cash is the predominant tool used in the exchange of goods and services in GCC countries (85% of retail transactions use cash on delivery), but there’s high growth in mobile payment users and non-cash transactions.
WE HAD TO KNOW WHAT EXACTLY TO ASK. OUR QUESTIONS BROUGHT BACK THE ANSWERS WE NEEDED.
What challenges did you face while creating Valopay? What challenges are you facing now?
Our idea transformed multiple times until it was well-defined. I can’t promise it won’t change again in the future, but the foundation and purpose are solid. It was tough to get the right feedback from the market. We had to know what exactly to ask. Our questions brought back the answers we needed.
What do you hope to achieve with Valopay?
We hope that Valopay will become the predominant online sales solution used by small business owners in Bahrain to expand their businesses. We are not trying to change the way business owners in the Instagram marketplace do business—we are simply giving them tools to sell online easily, with no complexity involved.
In addition to Valopay, we created a marketplace called shopvalo.com that showcases local sellers and their products. We facilitate easier communication and payments, and also help buyers discover local products so that sellers can increase their online sales.
Did you get any financial support from organizations like Tamkeen, BDB, or others? If so, how was your experience?
We haven’t reached out to these organizations yet, since we are still in the beginning. In the future, we will definitely need support in order to increase our scale. We are pleased to know that there are various platforms in Bahrain that support entrepreneurs and their initiatives.
This is also available in Arabic if you'd like.