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The need for better financial literacy and personal finance knowledge has long been a topic that has circulated among the UAE’s residents. It is, after all, a discourse worth having in a country where 23% of the population is saving nothing out of its annual income, as per a joint study done by HSBC and UAE-based home services booking app ServiceMarket. The same study also shows that only 27% of UAE’s residents save more than 20% of their annual income. “The GCC is a consumptive market- over 70% of young households in the GCC today feel the pinch of rising debt burdens and miniscule personal savings,” explains Purvi Munot, co-founder and CEO of UAE-based fintech startup Sav. “The increasing avenues of lifestyle spending are causing young earners to spend beyond their means, and to borrow more than they can ever pay back. This behavior is becoming common across age and income bands. The common denominators here have been the lack of financial awareness and access to relevant money management products that keep such young earners from being in complete control of their savings and spending.”
Swooping in to save the day -or at least aiming to- is Sav. Registered at the Dubai International Financial Centre and launched in October 2022, Sav is a hyper-personalized money management app that enables users to achieve goals-based savings. “Sav helps young earners in the GCC to understand, save, and organize their money effortlessly,” Munot adds. “By using the power of automation and rewards, Sav is building products that will help customers stress less about day-to-day money management, while also laying a sustainable foundation for their financial future. Sav thus aims to be a customer-first company where we offer hyper-personalized, sustainable financial and lifestyle ecosystems around customers’ needs. This involves relevant financial products interwoven for geographies and merchants.”
Using Sav, an individual or household can set personal goals -from buying a dream car to sending money back home to even preparing for emergencies- for their savings. Users can have one or multiple such goals. The actual savings part then happens automatically, for every purchase or other expenses, using Sav’s free prepaid debit card. Then, every time a particular goal is achieved, the Sav platform offers rewards such as free movie-nights or free dinner. “Sav rewards good money habits and sustainable consumption,” Munot explains. “We are the first savings-focused fintech in the region with exclusive gamified and automated savings functionalities, that take away the efforts required for savings towards goals. Users also earn Sav coins for every dirham saved, which can be redeemed for lifestyle benefits on 200+ merchants. The ‘save now, buy later’ functionalities curated with leading merchants in the region are a win-win for both brands and consumers, and lays foundation to sustainable affordability solutions.”
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But how does Sav itself make a buck while helping others save theirs? “Our revenue is majorly generated from financial product aggregation, commissions from merchants, and interchange income on Sav prepaid debit card,” Munot replies. As someone who moved to Dubai in 2020 and very quickly fell in love with what the city had to offer, Munot prides herself on Sav’s “UAE-grown” status. But kickstarting her entrepreneurial journey in a new city came with its own set of unique challenges, she notes. “I discov#ered the huge white gap in the savings-led financial ecosystem, and after pre-work of over four months, I decided to pursue it full time in November 2021,” Munot recalls. “It’s always a difficult decision to leave a cushy corporate role, and start a 0-to-1 journey, especially being a first-time female founder. However, I’ve been constantly blessed with a star team, banking partnerships and investors, which accelerated our journey multifold.”
The team Munot alludes to is a 11-members group comprising fintech founders, consumer bankers, as well as tech developers. “With the help of an all-in-house tech team, we turned around a complete neo-banking infrastructure in less than five months and saw one of the fastest go-to-market rates,” she adds. “We have seen incredible traction from the very start. Within the first four weeks of launch we had 1000+ saving goals created, and US$50,000 in balances built. We are now after a $5 billion opportunity in savings. With the new capital infusion into the business, we are all set to onboard more users, strategic partners, and team members.”
Munot notes here that part of the reason Sav was able to so quickly go from a concept to a fully-launched app was due to the MBRIF program, and she also believes it will serve as the perfect launchpad for all the future plans she and her team are working on. “In the coming months, we intend to refine the product and expansion strategy and learn the successful hacks of scaling an early-stage business,” Munot reveals. “MBRIF’s ecosystem of mentors, peers, and network has remained unchallenged for years– early introduction to experiences, perspectives and approaches can groom us to be much more confident founders. Besides, Sav shares MBRIF’s vision of building sustainable businesses from the UAE, for the world.”
Looking towards Sav’s journey in 2023 and beyond, Munot remains upbeat, particularly as the UAE’s fintech sector continues to grow. But in the midst of highlighting the need to keep innovating, Munot also makes an important observation: financial savings are deeply rooted in human behavior. And it is the latter that will continue to dictate the future of Sav. “We must be nimble in our approach and have flexibility in our infrastructure,” Munot declares. “At Sav, we are constantly on the lookout for innovative solutions both internally and externally to provide better customer experience, reduce operational bottlenecks and of course to offer unique solutions to our users. But more importantly, Sav is using technology to build tools rooted in behavioral psychology that helps our users spend confidently on things they love, while still achieving their financial goals!”