When Padmini Gupta and her Xare co-founders launched the platform in January 2021 under the umbrella of their original FinTech Rise, little did they know just how much they would disrupt the sharing economy with their innovative idea to transform smart money management and financial inclusion around the world.
The Dubai-based start-up began as a platform that allowed foreign workers to eliminate the cost of remittance fees by sharing real-time access to their bank accounts and credit cards with family and friends.
The multi-use Xare (pronounced share) app enables users to set daily or monthly limits for recipients, provide short-term loans through credit cards, set up expense accounts for colleagues or send pocket money to their children without them seeing the details of the account.
“This idea of moving money to give your family the ability to spend has actually not evolved in the digital era,” says Ms Gupta, who is also chief executive of the company, which she founded with chief product officer Milind Singh and chief technology officer Mandeep Singh.
“So, we're actually disrupting remittances. By removing this need to move money and essentially just sharing spending capacity, we've created this global disrupter to remittances — we're instant, you don't need to actually keep checking back to see if the money reached and you can do micro [payments].”
Since its launch, Xare has been spun off from Rise and expanded to include other services such as XareAnywhere, which allows users to shop from websites worldwide by using a credit or debit card that has been shared by a family member or friend who can set a spending limit without revealing the card details.
It has also introduced “card-pooling” app XareClub, in which users invite friends and family to “club together” their cards to collectively take advantage of bank offers and discounts they would not normally be able to have access to.
So far, more than 15,000 “clubs” have been created on the XareClub app.
In only two years, Xare has grown to more than 2 million users in 180-plus countries, with about $2 billion shared on the platform to date, says Ms Gupta.
“I had a gut feel we had the numbers [to make Xare succeed] but we didn't expect it to be this much, this fast,” the former banker says.
“We've worked a lot towards making it happen and that sort of exponential growth is hard to get.”
The global acceleration of FinTech and digital payment solutions since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic has unlocked new financial opportunities for millions of people who previously did not have access to bank accounts.
Annually, the global mobile money industry processes more than $1 trillion of transactions, according to the State of the Industry 2022 report by the GSM Association, the industry body that represents mobile network operators.
“Mobile money continues to grow rapidly, bringing a suite of financial products to the fingertips of hundreds of millions of users and disrupting traditional financial services,” the GSM Association says in the report.
Meanwhile, about 22 per cent of the GCC's population is unbanked, compared with 60 per cent in North Africa, according to a report by consultancy Strategy&.
Seventy-nine per cent of young adults in the Mena region are unbanked and 72 per cent of the poorest citizens can benefit from financial inclusion, according to the Arab Monetary Fund.
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Most financial services have been set up for income earners despite two thirds of the world relying on someone else’s salary, which represents about $25 trillion spent in this way, according to Ms Gupta.
“Those income earners are trying to figure out ‘how am I going to get that money across to the people that depend on me’,” she says.
“One of the reasons why we feel Xare is really great is the connections between the person that earns the income and the people that want to spend it.”
Ms Gupta and her co-founders bootstrapped Xare for the first year but have since raised $10 million through investors such as MS&AD Ventures, Middle East Venture Partners, Astra Amco and the Dubai International Financial Centre.
Aside from adding new features to Xare, the founders set up an office in Silicon Valley in December, in an effort to expand its North American market.
It also acquired Bengaluru start-up Rive for an undisclosed amount in January to use India’s unified payments interface (UPI), which the Indian government opened up to non-resident Indians, foreign tourists and business travellers in January, Ms Gupta says.
Rive allows credit card users to scan and pay in real time for items using more than 60 million QR codes around the country with zero charges to merchants.
“The expansion is going to be around building more on Rive [and] building more on XareClub, building more on Xare in general to fill the needs for that two thirds of the world that need more financial services catered to them,” Ms Gupta says.
Q&A with Padmini Gupta, chief executive and co-founder of Xare
What other successful start-up do you wish you had started?
There are so many inspiring start-ups out there. From ambitious, audacious, industry-transforming ideas like Airbnb to SpaceX that came out of the blue and disrupted space technology in unimaginable ways. I have also always admired CashApp for how it has made a place for itself in a cluttered, competitive US market purely by word of mouth and by always putting the customer first.
Who is your role model?
I have closely followed the career of the American politician, Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to serve as Speaker of the US House of Representatives. She is such a strong personality and a powerful voice for women’s rights, and it is amazing how she leads from the front.
My biggest inspiration has been my parents, who were among the first Indian residents in Dubai and then went on to build a successful manufacturing business here. I admire them for how they found their ground in a new country and have given back so much to the community ever since.
What new skills have you learnt since launching your business?
Building an enterprise is a labour of love — I have built Xare brick by brick in a very dynamic payments industry by innovating and making use of our strong tech capabilities. By understanding what customers need and making data-driven decisions, I have learnt to keep Xare ahead of the curve.
Where do you want to be in five years?
Over the next five years, I want to lead Xare as it enables greater inclusion into the financial system through shared access. I want to see Xare empowering the two thirds of the world who do not earn an income and are financially dependent on the one third of the world that does. We have set out to change the way people can have access to and use financial resources the world over. And we will continue working relentlessly towards our goal.
If you could do it all differently, what would you change?
Nothing at all. I am proud of how Xare has shaped up and gone beyond all expectations in every way. Xare disrupted the payments scene at a very crucial time — in the post-Covid era when people simply wanted greater control of their money. They moved away from cash which is difficult to manage. They spent with strict discretion and began to rely more on shared resources. We are happy we could offer them an elegant solution and find our way to success.