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MENA’s first FinTech app for school fees, zenda raises $9.4m

By Leandra Monteiro

April 25, 2022

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zendazenda, MENA’s first FinTech app for families has announced it has secured a $9.4m oversubscribed seed round. zenda currently addresses pain points around the payment of school fees – in particular, the lack of convenience and flexibility in payment options for parents and the poor collection of payments for schools.

zenda was founded in June 2021 by Raman Thiagarajan and Haseeb Ahmed, alumni of McKinsey & Company, where Raman led the Firm’s Financial Services Practice in the MENA region. zenda is the founders’ second start-up and leverages deep insights and knowledge from their successful previous ed-tech venture.

With approximately US$37B processed annually in fee payments to private educational institutions in the GCC, US$34B in the rest of Middle East and Africa, and US$70B annually in India, the market is sizable yet largely untapped. Fee payments in schools (nurseries – K12 – tertiary) are mostly non-digital, and even where digital, are cumbersome, manual and expensive. Also, the majority of families earn monthly but fee payments are usually termly or bi-annual, resulting in cash flow stress for parents and collection delays for schools.

Using zenda, families can track dues and make payments through a multitude of pay-now and pay-later options, and unlock rewards for paying on time. zenda integrates with schools through its proprietary data model and APIs (much like zapier) and eliminates last-mile reconciliation challenges and delays.

CEO and founder of zenda, Raman Thiagarajan said, “In today’s digital world, we seek low friction and immediacy – why should that not be the case for fee payments? Part of the ecosystem still runs on cash or cheque with no convenient option to pay later. Since our launch, feedback from the market and especially from our users has been terrific – we are grateful & pumped with the response from parents and seeing how they have embraced our service. zenda schools are witnessing a systematic increase in their collections. We have a truly outstanding team and I feel privileged that such a passionate group is with us on this journey. We are excited and hopeful for the possibilities ahead – in providing customer-centric digital financial services to solve some of the simple yet important problems for families in our regions”

zenda has witnessed strong market traction with schools and with families. Its user base grew 20X since June 2021 and crossed $100M+ in annual contracted TPV volume by Q4 2021, across UAE and India. zenda’s success is also attributable to the team’s expertise and deep insights into how educational institutions operate, from their earlier venture.

Commenting on the announcement, Ihsan Jawad, General Partner at STV said, “Raman, Haseeb and the team have identified a compelling gap in the market and in supporting families on a topic that is very important to them. Seeing their strong traction over the past several months, we couldn’t be more excited about zenda. The UAE itself is a USD 8+ billion market for private education fees and they are already well poised to capture leadership. They have built an outstanding team and we look forward to working with them in helping zenda achieve its mission.”

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