An executive business and technology leader with almost two decades of experience across industries, Kunal has specialised in digital transformation, cybersecurity, integration and building consumer products on cloud and mobile platforms. As co-founder and CTO at baraka, Kunal is responsible for outlining the company’s technological vision, implementing strategies, and ensuring its tech resources are aligned with its business needs.
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Whether you’re a multinational corporate or a brand new start-up, when you set out to build a tech platform, the first question you ask is – how do we build a product that everyone will love?
‘Everyone’ is a pretty broad term, but if you’re going to create a proposition that’s scalable, you ideally want to ensure a substantial user base. Now, if you’re in the US, India or China, with a domestic population of anywhere between 330 million to 1.4 billion, you don’t have to look too far. You’re probably going to be familiar with your target audience’s sensibilities and preferences, and have standardized parameters and regulations across the nation to work within.
Building tech in the Middle East, however, is a totally different ballgame. Instead of building our tech for one nation, we are building a platform for an entire region. Why? Well in our case – we want to create accessibility to the financial markets for everyone, not just one country.
With approximately 456 million people living across 18 countries in the Middle East, the region’s population distribution is widely varied and cultures between countries can be drastically unique. This melting pot could pose as a challenge to a startup, or could be seen as a great advantage.
We like to take a ‘glass is half full’ approach. On our mission to educate, empower and enable young investors, we began our journey by talking directly to our customers across the region to understand what features were important to them and what values they prioritize. Doing so gave us the opportunity to not only build an innovative product, but one that would also disrupt the fintech industry; and of course, one that our customers loved.
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What specifically stood out to us in our early conversations with customers was the want and need for a simple interface and design. We listened, but we also found that building a fintech product comes with its own unique set of challenges. The product needed to provide purpose for our users, it needed to fit our business objectives, and it had to provide young investors across countries access to regional and international financial markets, while helping them to meet their financial goals.
Given the level of diversity across markets, those financial goals varied, as did the reasons to start investing – for some it would be recreational, and for others it would become a new income stream. Usability had to be adapted to all, as did the content. Whether it was language, tone or complexity of topics – the product had to be relatable to everyone, from first-time investors to more savvy traders who were looking for better access to markets.
Security has also been fundamental. With my experience and background as a CISO, I was well aware of the potential risks and challenges that came with creating such a product. Throughout development, we made a point to build the most secure and robust platform available to users, as this aspect is something we couldn’t compromise on.
Similarly, we had to make sure we were working within the regulatory frameworks across every market we wanted to service and that included various aspects primarily around data security, data privacy, partnership due diligence and business continuity.
There has been no limit to the various dynamics we’ve had to think about – and that we will need to continue to adapt to as the platform and external factors around us evolve. But, at baraka, we are always up for a challenge. We’re ready, and we can’t wait to show the region what we’re made of.
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