EghtesadOnline: ZPay, a payment application for foreign tourists in Iran, won Bank Pasargad Iran’s award for best financial innovation in the First Fintech Festival.
A group of 16 participating teams received technical support to develop their innovative ideas during the three-day festival.
The event, organized by BPI affiliate Fanap, concluded on Friday evening at BPI’s Khatam University where the three top teams received cash prizes.
ZPay, with Z standing for Zeitoon (the Persian word for olive), allows foreigners to shop in Iran while keeping their money outside the country, Financial Tribune reported.
“Foreigners are permitted to bring about $10,000 to Iran and several shopkeepers told us that tourists do not have enough money to purchase Iranian handicrafts like carpet due to the restrictions,” said a member of the team while pitching his idea to the audience.
Sefid Pardakht (White Payment), a payment solution for the visually impaired and illiterate, won the second prize. A high-contrast user interface and an efficient voice command system were key features of the application.
Chakad was selected as the third-best innovation. The application makes use of blockchain technology for authenticating electronic bank checks. The app has a user-friendly interface both for bankers and bank customers.
It also allows banks to set limit for checks issued by each user based on that customer’s creditworthiness.
Participants also had the chance to enter Fanap’a startup accelerator program, though none of the participants was eligible to enter the program.
Seed accelerators, also known as startup accelerators, are fixed-term, cohort-based programs, that include mentorship and educational components and culminate in a public pitch event or demo day.
Gov’t Backs Startups
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and former chancellor of Sharif University of Technology, attended the event’s opening ceremony and expressed support for Iranian startups.
“We have held talks with successful innovators ... we encourage you to move forward without any fear,” he said during the inaugural ceremony of the event on Wednesday.
“Currently, we have several flourishing startups in the country … We hope they will become the leading sector in the country’s economy,” Salehi added.
Sorena Sattari, vice president for science and technology affairs, also encouraged innovators to focus on providing services, as the fintech sector has high potentials for new players.
“Currently 50 million people are using smartphones in Iran … We also have 45 million Internet users across the country,” he said during the closing ceremony of the festival.
He also praised startups for seeking government jobs, saying the government will support them on their journey.
Mideast’s Fintech Hub
Shahab Javanmardi, chief executive of Fanap, was the other speaker at the closing ceremony. He called on innovators to stop focusing on payment services and turn their attention to finding solutions for domestic challenges.
“This would help us reach our target of becoming Middle East’s fintech hub,” he said.
Iran’s 2025 vision projects the country as the regional hub for financial and banking services. The CBI has planned the development of a strong future for the banking system in its “2021 Roadmap”.
Lenders and authorized payment companies are more optimistic about the future of fintech sector in Iran.
Referring to recent measures to authorize fintech operations, Javanmardi said, “The government should only define redlines, without taking any other measure. This would help foster the sector.”
He added that the large number of decision-making bodies has negative impacts on fintech operations.
According to CBI regulations, innovative financial services are allowed to operate as long as they are not involved in money creation, currency exchange and offering their own payment tools (like cards) and attract deposits.
The central bank has been working on a major project for organizing fintech firms, which includes launching a unique body for watching fintech operations.
Telecoms Ministry, Center for E-Commerce Development and the Vice Presidency for Science and Technology have also announced programs for regulating fintech firms.