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THE STORY OF INCEPTION

Text : Margarit Mirzoyan    Photo : IDBank 

 

Not leather but an online wallet 

Today, in the third decade of the 21st century, we can truly leverage the advantages of online transactions, express loans, and overall cashless daily life. But back in the beginning of the 2000s, the world was just starting to discover these possibilities and inventing solutions to nourish the coming trends and innovations. 

In the same period, namely in 2004, a group of enthusiasts came up with the idea to create an online payment platform in Armenia. Edram.am, which came to be the result of this risky but visionary initiative, provided its users with online wallets, which they could use to make utility payments and for online shopping. 

Within the next couple of years, Edram has paved its way from a startup project to a full-fledged online resource. In 2008, Idram LLC was registered in the State Register, where the relevant line defined the company’s activity area as “payment system operator”.

“A year later, the Central Bank gave the company a money transfer license, but Idram also needed authorization for issuing electronic money to operate at full capacity,” recalls Arsen Kdenyan, “At that period, the platform had around 30-40,000 registered users, but only 3-4 thousand of them were active. To balance the ratio of these numbers, the company needed a swift advancement.” The good news came in 2012. Matching all the technical requirements, the company finally received a license to issue electronic money, thus becoming the first such company in Armenia.

 

The breakthrough 

In the coming years, the breakthrough in technological solutions turned smartphones into an essential part of daily life, and the time was right for Idram to launch its mobile application. It did not take long, and already in the same year, the company has introduced its app both for iOS and Android operating systems. In a couple of months, the Idram application gained 3000 active users.

The application did not only make payments more “mobile” but expanded the list of services. For example, Idram would enable its users to pay utility and state fees and make money transfers abroad. In addition, realizing the need to regularly top up the online wallet, the bank created the option of attaching a bank card to the account. 

Soon Idram started opening branches around the city, reaching a total number of 55 by 2019. “The demand was there because if people wanted to transfer, receive or cash out the money, they would need a place to go and do it,” says Mr. Kdenyan, “These branches were also of great use for the elderly people who were not very keen on using mobile applications.”

Today, most of those branches no longer exist as the need for physical presence to make transactions gradually decreased. As a result, the company, which once was just an infatuating idea in the minds of a handful of people, turned into a leader in the field, continuously introducing innovative solutions to the market. 

 

When fintech meets the banking 

Idram from the 2000s and Idram that we know today are entirely different companies in scale and functionality. A lot of it results from the strategic partnership between the application and IDBank. 
“The idea of banking and fintech cooperation is very popular worldwide,” indicates Karen Nalbandyan, “The most successful fintech solutions are those that either receive banking license or those who start cooperating with a bank.”

The formality of the bank system offers a certain level of sophistication to innovative solutions that add up their flexibility and accessibility. At the beginning of 2017, this was the core scheme of the new shareholders who acquired Anelik bank and rebranded it into IDBank. The former epitome of traditional and solid banking preserved its values and put new objectives before its team, namely, to become modern, gain the attention of the youth, and uncover the comfortable side of dealing with financial matters. 

Karen Nalbandyan, Business Development Director at IDBank

 

No need to reinvent the wheel 

The partnership with Idram became a critical component of the bank’s larger plan of rebranding and aspirations for complete digitalization. IDBank wished to move the interaction with the consumers to an online platform, and noticed the presence of Idram in the local market, which had already accomplished what the bank had envisioned for itself.

“The cooperation started, and a joint digital platform was established that would include the already existing toolkit of Idram and the new capacities brought by the bank,” says Mr. Kdenyan, “First, the platform offered only basic options like ordering cards and applying for loans. But the number of users was growing, and we decided to pursue our innovative efforts even further. On Idram&IDBank digital platform each of the partners provides its own solutions and products via single mobile application and web interface, as well as third-party services via API integrations are provided’. “In fact, in cooperation with Idram, we have created a complete digital financial ecosystem around the needs of customers,” adds Mr. Nalbandyan.

Today Idram has the most extensive toolkit in the local financial market, lacking only the operations with cryptocurrency, which the team ensures will be available once the Central Bank approves it in the territory of Armenia. Idram is the only such platform requiring complete identification, ensuring the security of its user’s identity on 99%. There are over 9000 stores pay via Idram QR code and about 850 online shops with Idram web and mobile checkout. Another result of bank and payment system symbiosis is the Rocket Line digital installment, which follows the well-known “Buy now, Pay later” pattern. Idram provided the flexibility that the banks of that time would not have been able to do. “We aim to make people’s lives easier, and we believe that the future of banking is digital to a greater extent,” says Mr. Nalbandyan, “We provide a lot of innovative solutions to nurture this process, including contactless and flexible payments.”

Arsen Kdenyan, Director of Idram Payment System

 

Dance, pay, and help

Both Mr. Kdenyan and Mr. Nalbandyan underline that Idram is for everyone – both young and old – but they put a lot of emphasis on the early adopters, for whom this type of solution is not an innovation but a lifestyle. This is one of the reasons we can see the orange and grey logo of Idram at almost all popular events taking place in the country. Now people can dance and enjoy their time having purchased tickets via Idram and paying for their drinks on the spot, again via Idram. “We want you to remember us not only when you need a loan or you’ve got to pay your bills, but also when you enjoy your time,” says Mr. Nalbandyan. Moreover, this cashless solution is also beneficial for the hosts, as they do not need to deal with cash at all. 

The name of Idram is also visible when it comes to various social causes as it continuously implements support projects. One such example is “The Power of One Dram” initiative, in which Idram and IDBank transfer one AMD from their own funds from each transaction made by users, making a purchase of a single cup of coffee into a benevolent action. The amount donated by the companies has reached a total sum of 75 million AMD so far. 
The Armenian government also intends to put all financial circulation within the country on a digital track these days, striving for transparency, which in its turn will make the tax field more regulated. The infrastructure that Idram and IDBank have jointly created definitely promotes this process on the country’s level and makes financial transactions less of a burden to consumers.

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