LuLu Financial Holdings set to enter Saudi Arabia and expand India services this year

Remittance business in the Gulf presents growth potential, managing director Adeeb Ahamed says

Adeeb Ahamed, managing director of LuLu Financial Group and Lulu Exchange, says normally there is a trend, especially among high-net-worth UAE customers, to wait for better rates to transfer funds in bulk to Britain. Courtesy: LuLu Financial Group
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Abu Dhabi’s LuLu Financial Holdings, the owner of LuLu Exchange, expects this year to be one of growth as it enters Saudi Arabia, expands in India and builds on its FinTech strategy.

Launching its remittance business in Saudi Arabia and expanding its financial services in India are the top priorities in 2023 for LuLu Financial Holdings, its managing director Adeeb Ahamed said.

“For LuLu Financial Holdings, the core two priority markets is going to be Saudi Arabia, where we intend to enter this year, and then we will also look at expanding our presence in India,” he told The National in Davos, Switzerland, during the World Economic Forum annual meeting.

“In the last couple of years, we have seen [an] enormous amount of new regulations being brought into the market [in Saudi Arabia], which brings in confidence and it also gives us opportunity … to enter the market … so that’s the first step for us, then we’ll start building on top of that,” he said.

Last year, the company received a non-banking financial licence in India and “we are currently looking at a fast-paced expansion on that particular division, where we see there is a huge potential in the market, because of the rising GDP per capita and the spend of the Indian population”, Mr Ahamed said.

The licence allows it to provide asset-backed financing services such as supply chain financing, mortgage financing and gold loans.

The remittance business is also an area for growth as the migrant population increases, he said.

Indians living abroad sent home a record $100 billion last year, the first time a country has received a 12-figure sum from citizens overseas. It was a 12 per cent increase on 2021, and represents the largest remittance received by any country globally.

Gulf countries host about 10 million Indians, with the largest portion of 3.5 million living in the UAE.

Two years ago, LuLu Financial Holdings started offering customers real-time remittances to India.

There is also remittance growth in other Asian economies, Mr Ahamed said. The rising migrant population also offers other opportunities.

“We see huge amount of potential for us to partner with traditional players, such as banks and consumer-facing businesses. Recently, we had a tie-up with Careem, which is a ride-hailing app,” he said.

“So, it is also in a new direction, where the traditional exchange house and an adaptation of the new FinTech approach have been inwardly bedded into the company’s DNA.”

The LuLu Money app, launched in 2016, recorded more than 1.2 million transactions valued in excess of $800 million last year, Mr Ahamed said.

“We look to move that by another 50 per cent this year, which we’re quite confident of hitting.”

With a rise in borrowing costs following interest rate hikes in the US and elsewhere last year, the first quarter of 2023 will be an important indicator for where rates end up, he said.

He expects the cross-border remittance business to record “healthy growth” this year, regardless.

Updated: January 22, 2023, 4:30 AM