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Navigation through Covid-19

These are unprecedented times. The world we live in today is very different from the world of a few weeks or months back. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the fundamentals of how we live, play, shop, learn, socialize and operate businesses. This is true for Pakistan as much as it is true for the rest of the world.

Since the report of the first virus outbreak in our country, the government and key institutions have taken drastic and powerful measures in curtailing the spread and in “flattening the curve” to buy more time to prepare and pace the eventual outbreak. Curfew-like situations, smart lockdowns, social distancing, work and operate-from-home orders etc. have forced businesses, suppliers, vendors, partners and customers to figure ‘digital’ means overnight to operate and interact with each other to keep the lights on and in some cases even take advantage of the new paradigm to grow aggressively in these strange times. On the other hand, analogue and physical businesses are unable to operate digitally; some due to their business model limitations and others, due to lack of foresight, planning and investments in the digital arena are now closing down in large numbers or are witnessing massive reductions in operations and sales.

Digital has become the ‘new normal’ overnight. Businesses cannot operate without digitizing their core operations and in being able to serve and operate digitally. A lot of this involves cash flow management, digital payments, digital disbursements, e-invoicing and digital collections to various stakeholders and parts of the ecosystem in which these businesses operate.

The good news is that our key products and services are designed to do exactly this. Finja platform already houses thousands of businesses, their employees, partners and customers that have moved billions of rupees digitally and have taken out and repaid digital loans well over half a billion rupees. These are the businesses that continue to run their operations largely unaffected during the pandemic while other, more analogue businesses feverishly look for digital shelter to remain operational.

We are happy to report that Finja, by quickly leveraging the two regulatory licenses - one of which is the NBFC (Non-Banking Financial Company) by SECP which allows Finja Lending Services Ltd. to lend and the other, an EMI (Electronic Money Institution) approval by SBP that allows Finja (Pvt.) Ltd. to take deposits under the Finja brand banner. We are able to offer digital onboarding services to new businesses that come on board Finja platform now. What does this mean? Previously, businesses had to sign up for Finja services by meeting face-to-face, filling out forms or by opening mobile wallets and bank accounts. All of this is changed now. How?

Finja has quickly re-tooled our key onboarding processes to be completely digital and remote. Businesses now onboard onto our platform digitally without any paperwork, physical meetings or opening new accounts, etc. This move on one side has enabled Finja to capitalize on the “pull” that we are experiencing in businesses wanting to go digital in order to simply keep the lights on but on the other side it has also forced us to restructure the organization to reflect the changing realities on ground. Most enterprise sales, including but not limited to financial services, in our view and especially the ones that will scale will now have to be sold, on boarded, consumed and serviced digitally. What does that do for folks at Finja that were involved in B2B sales, and operations in the real, physical world? We are afraid, and there is no better way to say this, but their skills and roles will have to evolve to reflect the reality on ground.

We found 31 folks out of the 179 at Finja involved with tasks that could not be performed or delivered on a sustained basis anymore due to the changed reality on ground. After much deliberation, we decided to take these 31 people across various disciplines off the Finja fixed salary package from April 14th onwards. This was a painful decision that we had to take to ensure that the re-designed Finja comes out a fighter, a survivor and a winner from the crisis that we face today.

Our goal with this proactive alignment to ground reality is to be able to come out a more resilient and stronger company as a consequence of the hard decisions that we take today. And in also one day being able to bring back some of the people that we have to part ways with today in new roles that are more suited to their skills and to the brave new world as it unfolds.

For the interim, following are the moves that we have put in place to soften the blow that unfortunately 31 of our fellow FINJAs have to undergo:

  1. FINJAs which have been let go are being offered a variable-pay-package where they get paid (Rs. 5,000 or Rs. 10,000 depending upon the size of the company) when they score a sale which they now solicit and close digitally. This program is currently only available for ex-FINJAs.
  2. Sales led jobs gone redundant will get paid one month salary in addition to the variable-pay-package. Salary was paid on May 1st and will again be paid on May 30th.
  3. Provident fund payments for the eligible will be cleared on May 30th.
  4. Health insurance for each of these 31 FINJAs will remain intact and functional till December 2020.
  5. For all non-sales staff without experience in selling and who are unable to find a new role, will be paid two months’ salary instead of one month.
  6. For select non-sales staff, freelance projects on select basis have been constructed.
  7. Staff loans have been re-engineered (and will continue to do the same) for outstanding loans around laptops, mobile phones, salary advances and other marketplace purchases to interest-free, equal monthly installment packages on a case to case basis suited to their specific situations.
  8. Lucky for all involved, Finja happens to be a premier Fintech brand in Pakistan; therefore, FINJAs are always in high demand. 26% of the affected FINJAs have already found new roles in banks and other similar blue-chip entities as we write this note. Remaining interested in new roles are now being actively recommended by the Finja Management Team (through its respective networks) in the hope that they are gainfully employed soon.

Finja Pledge is to always be fully transparent, truthful and honest with our people, clients, partners, regulators and other stakeholders. The above note is nothing but a testament of our Finja ethos.

As we move forward, we remain resilient in our mission to help digitize MSMEs (Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises), the backbone of the Pakistani economy and more than ever, we believe that the future is ‘digital’ and the businesses and enterprises that survive the down-cycle caused by the pandemic, are destined to have their time in the sun in a digital-led post COVID-19 world.

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Finja Management Team
May 6th, 2020

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