Dr. Narisa Chauvidul-Aw is CEO and founder of KogoPAY Group, a socially conscious UK fintech company that has offices in London, Bangkok, Vilnius and Dubai. Narisa received her Ph.D. in 2003 from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Narisa has many years’ experience working both in academia and business. She is a qualified auditor (ex PwC) and spent more than 20 years as a senior lecturer and Finance Director. Narisa won the Women in Tech Start up award in 2019 and in 2021 won the WinTrade Global Award for Women in Banking and Finance.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I’m a serial entrepreneur and the Chief Executive of KogoPAY, an innovative payment app. I have a PhD in compliance and information systems from the London School of Economics (LSE) and started in auditing at Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC).
My work took me into both academia and business: I was a Lecturer at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, LSE and King’s College in London, before assuming a full-time role as Finance Director and later advisor in Internal Audit and compliance for global companies. I retain entrepreneurial involvement in various industries including media, retail and payments.
In founding KogoPAY, I am working to realise a vision to see anyone in the world, wherever they are and no matter how wealthy, able to send money across the world as easily as sending an email. We’re in the process of shipping an instant payment system for individuals and small businesses to make international transfers between Europe and Asia.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
I’ve always been interested in new technology and keeping up with new trends. In 1999 during the dotcom boom, while I was a student in the UK, I created my first website about Thailand which was eventually bought by The Tourism Authority of Thailand.
So, imagine my curiosity when blockchain technology started to make waves. In the past six years, it’s certainly proved a rapidly growing trend with massive potential. And we’ve seen great innovations in mobile payments and digital banks also. Combining all of these aspects of the new digital-first world, while conceptualising a way to provide banking and financial services to the roughly 1.7 billion unbanked adults of the world, led me to start KogoPAY.
In the near-term, I believe we can be the first fintech company to promote wallet and QR code payments in the west, because this is very common in Asia but barely exists in Europe. Meanwhile, cheap international remittance is made possible using blockchain.
How did you achieve awareness?
I leveraged existing industry networks and also worked to forge new connections, such as with the Gulf Cooperation Council. To this end, we’ve hosted three editions of our TechKogo Forum in Dubai with business leaders, academics and diplomatic representatives attending and speaking. Not only is this a fantastic exercise in exploring new ideas, but we’ve found it’s been hugely valuable in bringing together like minded people who can help us fulfil our mission.
I’ve attended various events around the world to speak, including in my native country Thailand where we’ve partnered with a leading hospital, Bumrungrad International Hospital, to provide payment processing services and allow people to pay for their treatment using the KogoPAY app. We’re also partnering with MQDC and its subsidiary the Estate, both huge players in the Thai real estate industry.
I’ve found that our socially conscious ethos is easy to understand, as is our company model built upon my background in compliance and auditing. Given enough time, we tend to be able to communicate our vision in a way that gets investors and prospective users excited.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
Covid 19 certainly proved to be challenging. Just before the pandemic started we had a series of meetings planned to engage with potential investors. We couldn’t do much. I had to use all my savings and take loans from banks, friends and family. But I persisted and prayed and we successfully raised funds in our pre series A last year. We paid off all our debts and we have been using the liquidity injection to build our new backend system while redesigning a new front end with an exciting mobile app version 2.0.
What are your plans now/for the future?
Expand our operations and look to build partnerships with companies that share the same vision as us. Working with The Estate, part of the MQDC group, as their sole payment partner in the UK, Europe and in future countries under the Gulf Cooperation Council is evidence we can make inroads to various industries, in this case real estate.
We will also launch our Merchant App in Q3 of this year, to onboard vendors and allow their customers to use QR code payments. Our aim is to establish QR code usage in the UK and Europe and make it as commonplace as it is in Asia.
Hopefully we can connect with the Bank of Thailand QR code system — this would be huge. Paying by scanning QR is everywhere in Thailand, and if we get this partnership then holidaymakers will be able to use it. Currently non-Thai bank or credit cards are charged 220 baht, around £5, every time they withdraw cash. As Thailand is a world leading holiday destination this would be a major boost for KogoPAY.
We’re also promoting KogoPAY in Germany now and plan to soon expand to other European countries, as well as the Middle East, because it’s a huge adopter of novel and innovative technologies. That’s why we created our UAE-based offshoot company, Kogo Global Technology, to establish ourselves in the region.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
As a female ethnic minority founder, I am no stranger to adversity and facing closed doors when trying to progress in your career, or with your business. My view is that you need to find a mission and set of principles to keep you going when times are tough. While we can continue to vocalise our feelings on systemic bias, and further campaign for change, we also often have to deal with the world as it is if we are to thrive and get into the position to make a difference.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes in your first business ventures, but always remain goal oriented because you must remember, there may be a thousand viable paths to achieving this goal. There is no need to commit to a sunken cost just because you’ve spent time and money trying things one way.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
I know it’s not one person, but there are too many great figureheads for the suffragettes to name and I think they were incredible. They epitomised the act of knowing what’s true and fair and worked tirelessly to deliver change to women up and down the nation.
Perhaps my biggest role model was Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She lived her life selflessly and the photo of her shaking hands with the new prime minister two days before she passed away was so profound it brought me to tears. The late Queen was a woman of God, as am I, and never strayed from the Christian values that helped make her such a tolerant, kind and dutiful monarch.
Another huge inspiration is Tim Berners-Lee. He created the world wide web but decided not to patent it or charge any royalties whatsoever. Sir Tim could’ve been a very wealthy man indeed, and imagine if we had to pay a subscription fee for browsing. He’s definitely someone worth modelling my own ethos on.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“It’s worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change.” – Queen Elizabeth II
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Act 20:35)
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