Branded payments firm Recharge enters GCC

The company launched its services in the UAE and Saudi Arabia and its offerings include Netflix and Spotify vouchers to digital coupons for brands and entities such as Google, Xbox, PlayStation

Branded payments firm Recharge started operating in the GCC market after raising €10 million ($12.2m) in a debt funding round in March, the company said on Thursday.

Recharge launched its services in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, rolling out an Arabic website and customer support service. The company plans to expand to Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman in the coming months, Günther Vogelpoel, chief executive of the company, said.

Founded in 2010, the Amsterdam-headquartered company offers digital gift and prepaid cards that include Netflix and Spotify vouchers and digital coupons for brands and entities such as Google, Xbox, PlayStation. It has a portfolio of over 1,000 telecoms operators and merchants.

Entering the Gulf market "will serve as our stepping stone to enter Asia and Africa markets next year," Mr Vogelpoel told The National.

"We will offer a broader assortment of products … combining both global and local suppliers. There are many players in the GCC offering similar digital products. But we do not have any one dominant name … our aim is to become that dominant name in the region," he added.

Recharge offers a one-stop-shop marketplace for various categories of branded payments, including call credit, data bundles, shopping, entertainment, gaming and prepaid money.

The rising popularity of digital gift cards and top-ups is driven by many factors including high smartphone penetration, the rise of e-wallets and other alternative payment methods.

Digital payments are also thriving as users increasingly moved away from using cash during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Globally, digital payments are set to grow to $8.3 trillion in 2024, from $4.4tn last year, according to Statista. In the UAE, they have more than doubled over the last two years to $18.5 billion in 2020, according to digital payments company Stripe.

Recharge considers the Gulf market as one of the most potential markets and expects it to contribute significantly to its sales in the coming years. Today, more than 2.5 million people use Recharge to process over €450m of payments every year.

"This is a big bet for us … we want to be big in the GCC so we are putting in serious investments ... in terms of local partnerships, acquisitions, establishing new payment channels, localising the marketplace and expanding the product portfolio," said Mr Vogelpoel.

"Once we start getting good traction, we will invest … there is no dearth of funds," he said. The company plans to have a local office in either Saudi Arabia or the UAE that will serve as a hub to control its operations in Asia and Africa.

Recharge operates in over 150 markets around the world and processes millions of online transactions annually connecting customers with global brands.

Thus far, it has raised over €30m in primary, secondary and debt transactions from investors such as Prime Ventures, Kreos Capital and Rabobank. It plans to raise money from GCC investors in the future, Mr Vogelpoel said.

"We are a growing company. Looking at our plans and growth ambitions in 2022, we definitely want to raise more funding. We talk to a wide variety of investors in Europe, the UK and the US. We have also started discussion with investors in the GCC but they are at very initial stages," said Mr Vogelpoel.

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