Oleksiy Avramenko is a CEO and founder of EasyPay, the largest Ukrainian group of fintech companies. As an adherent of proximity marketing, he was the first in Ukraine to develop and implement its concept on a national scale. Oleksiy shared his ideas with LDaily readers on how to manage work, first of all, paying attention to smart planning that helps avoid working overtime and prevent burnout.
LDaily: What is the current situation in the Ukrainian payment systems market? What is the share of your company in this segment?
O. Avramenko: It’s safe to say that EasyPay created a market for payment systems in Ukraine. We registered one of the first non-banking payment systems “Finansoviy Svit”, and initiated the development of a legal model for the non-banking payment systems market. I was a member of the NBU working group. Our work back in 2007 allowed the market of non-banking payment systems to develop legally. At present, we are one of the three leaders in the fintech industry. We provide services in several areas: accepting payments through payment terminals (we have more than 14 thousand terminals in Ukraine), Internet acquiring services, and financial applications development.
LDaily: How has the demand for payment systems changed during quarantine? Have you studied how the coronavirus has affected your business?
O. Avramenko: When the quarantine was introduced, Ukrainians were asked to stay at home whenever possible. Therefore, people had to change their usual payment habits. For example, if before the quarantine a lot of citizens have paid for utilities at the bank or post office, now they are increasingly using online payment facilities.
Thus, the number of online transactions for the Utility Payments category through our site has increased by 41% for the last two months. Television and the Internet have also become more frequently paid online. The use of such categories as Budget Payments (by 131%) and Payment of Fines (by 120%) has also increased − thanks to the ability to pay online, people do not have to go to the bank and put their health at risk.
However, the number of transactions and turnovers in some other categories has decreased. These are the areas related to travel and entertainment, for example, the use of Transportation Tickets has decreased by 82%, while the Online Coupons category has fallen by 80%.
As for payment terminals, Ukrainians are still pretty much interested in cash payments. This is a convenient payment channel primarily because of the wide coverage network. As I mentioned above, there are more than 14,000 payment terminals across the country in our network. Everyone can find one close to their home, for instance, in a grocery store, at the nearest metro station, or just in the street.
After the introduction of quarantine, the number of people who pay for utilities through terminals increased by 54%, whereas 77% more people began to pay fines using payment terminals. The average receipt increased by 101% in the Insurance category.
I believe that modern fintech should make financial transactions as convenient as possible for users to conduct. The mission of EasyPay is to make every transaction simple and clear to the entire Ukrainian population.
LDaily: You work both in B2B and B2C segments. How many clients and partners do you have?
O. Avramenko: We work with almost 4,000 partners in B2B. There are major category leaders (for example, Alfa Bank, Yasno, Kyivstar, Vodafon, Viasat), as well as very small companies (for example, kindergarten №5 in Znamianka).
However, each partner is unique and valuable for us. Together we help Ukrainians pay for more than 3,500 services on the website and through payment terminals. In addition to partners, we have a franchise network. It includes more than 500 franchisees.
As for our clients, every third Ukrainian at least once in their life replenished their bank account using cash, paid for utilities, tickets on public transport, and government services with the help of our payment terminals, website or applications. Moreover, they can do the online shopping as we are partners of several hundred online stores and provide them with acquiring services.
LDaily: Most likely, the number of B2B transactions decreased during quarantine. How has this affected your company?
O. Avramenko: Unfortunately, the B2B segment dropped in the first two weeks of the quarantine. However, it was predictable for the full-scale Ukrainian lockdown − our partners are responsible businesses that strictly adhered to all the regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers. Being granted a permission to gradually start working with delivery services, taxis, and other partners, the B2B segment we work with began reviving gradually.
Frankly speaking, pre-quarantine figures are still unattainable. Let’s take a taxi service as an example. This is a pure B2B service: using our payment terminals, website and application, taxi drivers pay to get access to the database of taxi services, car rental, and so on. After the introduction of quarantine, the number of transactions in this category decreased significantly. Thus, the number of online payments decreased by 25%, while the number of payments through terminals decreased by 34%. At the same time, the average receipt amount of taxi drivers’ payments remains unchanged. Online payments in a taxi service have decreased by 3%, and offline payments through terminals remain at the previous level.
This is also applicable to other B2B categories. Both the number of transactions and turnover has decreased. The decline in B2B was offset by a significant increase in B2C services: the number of payments for utilities, mobile communications, Internet, TV and other services increased. In general, the company’s turnover was almost unaffected by quarantine. We had to work even harder for this, as well as motivate users with cashback, no-fee payments with our virtual EasyPay card, and offer partners new interesting solutions.
LDaily: How did you manage the remote access work mode of employees? Was it effective? Are you considering the possibility of giving up offices in the future and switching your employees to remote work?
O. Avramenko: We switched to remote work without any difficulties. During the last working days in the office, employees prepared their computers and adapters, set up everything for remote access to corporate systems.
The main disadvantage of remote work is communication. We use Telegram and Viber to communicate with employees within departments, as well as Skype, Zoom and Teams for video meetings. Nevertheless, if before our colleagues could solve an issue at a meeting in just a couple of minutes, now to organize an online meeting, you have to spend more time to agree on the schedules of all participants. So, the process often gets inevitably delayed. We are currently considering a full transition to Teams, and thereby less time will be spent to arrange meetings.
Many employees take working remotely while maintaining KPI performance as a challenge. We set real and reasonable goals to our employees; control all tasks in the CRM system. Smart planning helps avoid working overtime and prevent burnout.
EasyPay is a business for and about people. Live communication is crucial to us. New products are born during brainstorming with flipchart and markers when employees come together and generate ideas. Unfortunately, video conferencing cannot accurately recreate this creative atmosphere. When all the quarantine restrictions are lifted, we will probably stick to a semi-remote work mode so that our employees can work from home most of the working time, and come to the office only for addressing current business issues, brainstorming and synergy.
LDaily: What are the company’s plans for this year? What KPIs do you set yourself?
O. Avramenko: Nowadays we focus on three areas of business. First of all, our main source of income is the development and modernization of payment terminals. The company is planning to double its turnover and deploy the payment terminal network all over the Ukrainian settlements without exceptions. We want any person from each city or settlement in our country to be able to use our services to pay for utilities, top-up a mobile, or do the online shopping. I know that sometimes our terminals are the only way to make the necessary payment as there may not be a bank branch in a small village or town, and Ukrposhta works only a few days a week.
Another area we are actively developing is Internet acquiring. Today, in addition to commercial projects, we support the Country in a Smartphone project. EasyPay is an acquiring partner of the eMaliatko public service for Ukrainian parents. We also provide free acquiring services for the Tabletochki Charitable Foundation. This direction will develop in 2020 as well. We are actively joining new partners, commercial and state-owned companies.
Of course, we are actively investing in the development, launch and implementation of innovative payment technologies. We are effectively developing proximity marketing in Ukraine. In fact, we are one of the first to promote the system of push payments with a smartphone. We have launched the EasyWallet and EasyPay applications allowing you to pay for any affiliate service by simply clicking on a message on the phone. The applications are especially popular in Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk thanks to a ticket service for public transport, possibility of paying for the services of regional CDASs and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the partnership with the Lviv Rukavychka supermarket chain. We even developed an additional option for Rukavychka during the quarantine. We created an application to order and deliver goods.
At the end of December 2019, we created a virtual EasyPay card. It does not have the usual number, expiration date, and CVV2/CVC2 codes. The card is identified by a person’s phone number. The card was released jointly with Space national payment system. We are planning to turn the EasyPay virtual card into a full-fledged payment tool by the end of 2020. This will allow anyone to pay for purchases and services online without a commission fee and get cashback from us and our partners.