Zenda, a UAE-based startup seeking to change the way parents pay school bills and the way educational institutions handle fee collection, sees Africa as its next frontier for growth.
Zenda (formerly nexopay) told TechCrunch that it plans to enter the continent via Egypt – its third-largest market after India – in the coming months as it embarks on accelerated growth by a $9.4 million seed funding he raised.
Through its app, Zenda allows parents to pay fees directly to schools, while streamlining collections by allowing schools to accept and manage payments online. This means that parents no longer need to provide bank deposit slips as proof of payment as all transactions on Zenda happen in real time. The startup also has a built-in financing option that extends tuition credit to parents on a flexible repayment structure.
The startup was founded last June by Raman Thiagarajan and Haseeb Ahmed, both alumni of McKinsey & Company, is the duo’s second venture.
Thiagarajan said Zenda is borrowing from his first social edtech startup dubbed nexquare — a data management and analytics system for schools, educators and regulators. Thiagarajan, who previously led McKinsey’s financial services practice in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, told TechCrunch that their first startup helped them understand the education market at a granular level, allowing them to create a fintech solution that solves the challenges faced. by parents and schools around the payment and management of fees.
“Fee payment in schools is mostly manual, and when it’s digital, it’s cumbersome, expensive and has a manual feel to it,” Thiagarajan said.
“With all the knowledge we have from our previous business, we understand the education sector. And so, we have an app for parents…we also integrate deeply into educational institutions to remove friction for both parents and schools,” he said.
Investors who participated in the round include STV, COTU Ventures, Global Founders Capital and VentureSouq.
STV General Partner Ihsan Jawad said, “Raman, Haseeb and the team have identified a compelling gap in the market and in supporting families on a topic close to their hearts. Seeing their strong traction over the past few months, we couldn’t be more excited about Zenda. The UAE itself represents an over $8 billion market for private tuition fees and it is already well positioned to capture leadership.
Since its launch, Thiagarajan says, Zenda users have grown 20-fold, with the app reaching more than $100 million in annual contract payment volumes at the end of last year. And the startup is eyeing greater growth this year as it accelerates its expansion beyond the UAE using the new funding, which will also support its product refinement.
“Most of the funding will be used in the area of market development and customer experience,” Thiagarajan said.
In the long term, Zenda should go beyond paying tuition to encompass other aspects of personal financial management.
“Our mission is to help families thrive. Our goal is to make it easier for families to manage their money and support their financial well-being… We see a need for products that are family-centric, simple and collaborative.