The company provides innovative solutions, built entirely in-house, that optimise digital capabilities
FOO is an award-winning, business-to-business (B2B) software as a service (SaaS) solutions provider headquartered in the UAE and serving clients across the MENA region. The company specialises in empowering businesses through digital transformation. FOO provides innovative solutions, built entirely in-house, that optimise digital capabilities for clients across diverse industries.
Ghady Rayess, co-founder and Managing Director (MD) of FOO, explained how he came up with the big idea in 2009.
“True innovation is born as a solution to a problem. The key to making a great idea work is identifying your challenge, finding your niche, and focusing on creating an attractive value proposition that makes you unique. We started FOO with this approach in mind. My partner and I began coding from my grandmother’s house even before the startup ecosystem really existed, creating an application that provided digital solutions on the Nokia platform. This was long before app downloads were monetised, pre-existing the creation of Apple or Android app stores,” he said.
The technology industry began to boom in the new millennium. The mass market penetration of smartphones and the integration of technology into financial services opened new opportunities for growth. Existing technology companies began to evolve to meet this growing demand.
“Eventually, we pivoted to focus more heavily on fintech related projects. As we delved deeper into this digital space, however, we noticed that many fintech companies focus on functionality, rather than offering a holistic, end-to-end experience. With this valuable insight, we established our edge. We became dedicated to ensuring that we could deliver the utmost quality on both functionality and design, all in one place,” he added.
He said, “clients no longer needed to seek out multiple providers to build a single solution; we could do it all in-house.
What does the name FOO stand for?
“I’m a coder at heart. The name FOO was inspired by the coding term FOO_. This term is used by programmers as a placeholder for a value that can change, depending on its conditions and placement — like the variable x in algebra,”Ghady said.
Much like the name, FOO, Ghady said, is constantly evolving, “a product of our environment”.
He wants to create an impact at a national level to deliver new customer experiences that focus on financial inclusion and creating new opportunities for both businesses and individuals.
He cited a paradigm shift among consumers which are encouraging companies to innovate and deliver fintech solutions across sectors such as banking, telecommunications, retail, and insurance.
“We want to use our expertise in software design and functionality to deliver an enhanced digital experience through diverse channels. Our aim is to add value to businesses by creating innovative digital products that ultimately improve end user experiences,” he added.
Does the UAE and wider region in the Arabian Gulf have a big market for SaaS?
Globally, the SaaS market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28 per cent between 2021 and 2028. With a thriving SaaS market in the region, the Middle East is well placed to support this global demand.
There are a few key factors driving the growth of SaaS in the region. Rising government initiatives for digital transformation across countries such as UAE, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Kuwait, both in the private and public sectors, have boosted demand for SaaS in the last few years.
Ghady said, “With SaaS, companies don’t have to invest in large amounts of hardware, increased security, or overheads. This allows the organisation to reduce total ownership costs, while increasing return on investment, improving security, and offering continuous accessibility to users. As the adoption of cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) accelerates in the region, we are witnessing a transition towards the SaaS model.
In the UAE, for example, the SaaS supports the use of widespread digital programmes such as eInvoice, UAE pass app, Smart Abu Dhabi, Smart Dubai, and Smart Sharjah. In KSA, a key part of the Vision 2030 is driving digital transformation across all industries. SaaS can be integrated across diverse sectors from government services to telecoms, opening new doors for the growth of its market share in terms of revenue. There is a tremendous market potential for SaaS in the region, which is increasingly adopted to support digitisation across diverse sectors.
FOO diversified into fintech and banking in 2015.
“With strong expertise in software design and integration, we saw a great opportunity when it came to tokenisation. As near field communication (NFC) payments grew in popularity worldwide, we were confident that our digital products could accelerate adoption in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
We became one of the first companies to deliver tokenisation in the region, strategically partnering with Visa to offer NFC payments. This marked our entry into the banking industry,” he added.
Ghady saw a massive business opportunity in the rise of e-commerce, the boom of cryptocurrency and the emergence of neo-banks. He realised that banks and financial services had to quickly pivot and adapt to deliver increased digitisation.
“We possessed the know-how and experience to meet these needs, leveraging our expertise to break into banking and provide digital solutions. These include products and services such as digital banking platforms, digital onboarding including e- know your customer (KYC) and virtual card issuance, cross border remittance and micro lending.
FOO can deliver personalised digital products within 12 weeks. The company is focusing on the UAE, the KSA and Egypt.
Plans are afoot to develop key products this year. The products include digital bank in a box, white label digital wallet, virtual card for corporate entities, merchant platforms and tokenisation. There is a concerted bid to expand strategic partnerships to include technology, card processing, and consultancy partners, and round off with Series B funding to support the growth initiatives.
FOO rapidly expanded its client portfolio, forging strategic partnerships with Visa and Mastercard, and creating solutions for clients across industries such as Zain Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Majid Al Futtaim (MAF).
The key products include solutions for digital banking, virtual card issuance, digital onboarding, tokenisation, central bank digital currency and stable coin offering on blockchain.