Dubai-based FinTech Sav aims to address innovation gap in savings

Generation Start-up: Company is in the process of closing its latest funding round, with participation from a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund

Purvi Munot, chief executive of Sav, a Dubai-based platform that aims to streamline the process of saving money. Photo: Sav
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Saving money can prove to be a challenging task, particularly when one lacks clear financial goals. However, by developing a strategic plan and allocating funds towards specific objectives, there can be tremendous benefits.

While there are countless platforms available for investing in stocks and indexes, there are fewer apps dedicated to supporting personal financial management.

One of them is Sav, a Dubai-based platform that aims to streamline the process of saving money. This app enables users to easily monitor their savings progress and also offers rewards when they hit their goals.

“A lot of consumer spending is today fuelled by credit, which in the long term is not sustainable,” says Sav chief executive Purvi Munot.

Ms Munot highlights the significant advancements in credit-related services such as buy now, pay later (BNPL) platforms, mortgages, flexible payment plans and easy monthly instalments on credit cards.

On the other hand, she notes that innovation in savings has been restricted as it mainly revolves around debit cards linked to a bank account and traditional savings or current accounts that may not cater to one's lifestyle needs.

To address this, her app offers automated tools that enable customers to allocate funds on a daily or weekly basis with a single instruction.

“You can arrange for your salary to be sorted as soon as you receive it; for example, by setting a rule that 20 per cent goes towards your children's education, 10 per cent towards rent, [and] 25 per cent towards retirement,” she says.

“We made [the platform] more gamified, so every time you hit a milestone, you're rewarded.”

Ms Munot, who has about a decade of experience in the consumer banking and payments sector, founded Sav in 2021 after moving to the UAE.

She began her career with Citibank's Asia-Pacific unit, focusing on the introduction of new products and assisting banks in enhancing their digital capabilities for existing services.

In 2020, she moved to the Mastercard Advisors consulting team in the Emirates, collaborating closely with clients in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

“I got to have a hold of the market and to understand how the overall financial fabric in the region looks,” Ms Munot says. “I got deeper insights in terms of how banks have been offering financial products to users and where the gaps truly exist.”

However, what really inspired the creation of Sav was Ms Munot’s own financial temptations and challenges she encountered after moving to the UAE.

“Amid the glitz and glam of the place, it is so easy to lose control of your finances. Everyone wants a Prada or Rado, and a great car and a good mortgage to begin with,” she says.

“I was in that phase as well … it's not that expensive because you're now earning more, and when I looked around, I think a lot of my friends [and] colleagues were in the same boat.”

Savings is a core tenet of financial resilience and security, especially an easily accessible emergency fund that holds three to six months' cover to protect against job loss and other unexpected expenses, according to personal finance experts.

More than eight in 10 savers in the UAE believe it is important to have a rainy-day fund to survive difficult times, thanks to the financial lessons learnt during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a 2023 study by Sharia-compliant savings and investment company National Bonds.

A 2022 YouGov poll found that a third of consumers from the UAE had credit card debt, the most across six Asian markets.

Sav, primarily a money management platform, will soon offer services that include stock investments and credit score management.

The company, based at the Dubai International Financial Centre, has applied for a specialised licence from the Dubai Financial Services Authority that will allow it to provide investment opportunities in stock markets and offer credit scoring services to its users, Ms Munot says.

Sav is designed to provide users with a guided format for investing to differentiate itself from typical do-it-yourself investment apps, which enable users to independently manage their finances without an adviser or broker.

“These apps require you to learn a lot daily before you are able to act. As customers we've got a life to live. It's not possible to do all this kind of research and become a trader, and then become a very diligent investor,” she adds.

The FinTech platform generates revenue by charging various commissions and fees from its users and partners.

Users who are saving money for specific purposes have the option to save with select travel brands such as Rehlat and MakeMyTrip, as well as other listed partners.

Sav earns commissions from these brands, similar to the revenue generated by BNPL platforms when they enable purchases and take a percentage of retailers' sales, Ms Munot says.

The BNPL business model, which allows consumers to make online purchases instantly and spread their payments out over interest-free instalments, has boomed following the onset of coronavirus pandemic, driven by millennials and Generation Z.

Additionally, Sav earns a commission from transactions made with their issued debit cards in the form of an interchange fee, as well as from subscription fees paid by users who choose advanced features under a premium model.

The company, which aims to reach $50 million in transactions in the next 12 months to 15 months, raised $750,000 in a pre-seed funding round last year.

Currently, the start-up is in the final stages of securing a larger round of funding, with Sanabil Investments, which is owned by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, participating in the deal, Ms Munot says.

“That gives us a lot of acceleration when it comes to building the team, investing on the marketing side of it and building a brand,” says Ms Munot, without disclosing the value of the deal.

Sav was “absolutely bootstrapped” until it reached the 100-customer mark in July 2022, Ms Munot says, adding it currently has 50,000 monthly active users.

The app has a 10-member technology team and is building up other functions “slowly and steadily”, she says.

Ms Munot describes the UAE's regulatory environment as “very aggressive” in its push to create a more favourable ecosystem for FinTech companies to operate in.

“They are very focused on how customer data is protected … but at the same time, they are bringing in things like regulations around BNPL so that there is no reckless lending,” she says. “They're also bringing in infrastructure for open banking.”

In December, the UAE Central Bank issued a newly amended Finance Companies Regulation to monitor companies that offer short-term credit and BNPL services in the Emirates.

Under the new framework, entities operating as agents of licensed banks or finance companies can provide short-term credit following approval by the banking regulator, it said at the time.

Q&A with Purvi Munot, chief executive of Sav

Is there a start-up out there that you wish you had founded?

TransferWise is one company that I feel makes the movement of money simple. It keeps people connected through money and the overall focus when it comes to technology and partnerships has been crazy. I think I would have loved to do that.

If you had the chance to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I wish we could focus more on understanding customers' attitudes and behaviours towards money. When we started, I think we were too preachy about how people should behave with their money, compared with where customers are in their mindset.

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Sav
Started: 2021
Founder: Purvi Munot
Based: Dubai
Industry: FinTech
Funding: $750,000 as of March 2023
Investors: Angel investors

Where do you see your business in five years?

For Sav to be something that is valuable to the customers. It is going to be a “one lifestyle money ecosystem” which users really care about.

Who is your role model?

On a couple of fronts, I really look up to Elon Musk for how fearless he is in saying what he feels and then also executing where he sees the future. It is very important for a founder to be able to see what is going to happen in the future and execute that even if people around do not believe in it.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to enter your sector?

Understand the true customer needs and do not get swayed by where you think there is an opportunity. So, just really work deeper with respect to identifying those things.

Secondly, build a very strong support ecosystem because this is a long journey, and you need the cheerleaders and mentors as you move forward.

Updated: June 10, 2024, 4:00 AM
COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Sav
Started: 2021
Founder: Purvi Munot
Based: Dubai
Industry: FinTech
Funding: $750,000 as of March 2023
Investors: Angel investors