The story of Easypaisa and humility in entrepreneurship

“Keep thinking big, but execute small,” says Nadeem Hussain, founder of Planet N Group of Companies – a social impact investment firm that focuses on emerging markets. Formerly, he served as the founding President and CEO of Tameer (now Telenor) Microfinance Bank.

VCast sat down with him to understand innovation in finance, his perspective as an investor, and the state of Pakistan’s startup ecosystem.

Returning to Pakistan after a successful Citibank career, Hussain found himself at a crossroads; whether to re-enter the banking sector to lead one of the established players, or to forge a new path altogether.

He ended up securing a microfinance bank license and establishing Tameer Microfinance Bank in 2006, a venture which led to the development of Easypaisa and eventual acquisition by Telenor three years later. Tameer consequently emerged as the most profitable microfinance bank in the country with a total transaction volume surpassing Rs. 1.2 trillion as of December 2017.

“They [the local banking sector] haven’t invented a new product since the earth cooled,” says Hussain in his critique of Pakistan’s banking sector, attributing the complacency of the local banks as a catalyst for Tameer’s penetration across the market, with a banked population representative of only 1% of the country. The divide between lenders and creditors in the context of increased smartphone adoption has paved the way for microfinance institutions such as Easypaisa to emerge successfully.

Husssain is an advocate of entrepreneurship at the grassroots level, and recognizes the provision of new business opportunities as an essential channel for the economy to benefit from 55-60% of Pakistan’s population that is under the age of 25.

In addition to resilience, which Hussain considers a core entrepreneurial value, he believes in maintaining a balance between confidence and humility as a cornerstone of success for startup founders.

For more of our conversations with Pakistan’s established business leaders, visit our YouTube Channel.