Introducing | Kenya’s Latest Online Payments Firm

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Laurent Alonzo 1 Bardo Group, which recently launched its Kenyan operations enables its clients to process debit and credit card in Non-Present environment (Internet, MOTO, etc.). This is done under the highest level of security possible in our industry.
The firm was founded by Laurent Alonzo with three other partners who have since retired but still on Board of Directors of the Group.
TechMoran talked to him and here is what you need to know.
Tell us more about yourself
I am French for those who do not know. I created my first internet based company back in France in 1996, at the beginning on Internet. In 1999 we started online payments with the same business model as PayPal on its origin (Trusted Third Party). This business model didn’t work and Paypal was acquired by ebay and as for me I moved to the IPSP industry and created Bardo in 2001.

Otherwise, I am a self-made man; I created my first company at 18, a role-playing game editor. I am now 47 and still have the willpower to advance and to develop my company and myself.


What else have you done that is successful?

The willpower was the most important according to us, the will to succeed. Since the beginning in 1996, we have always search the excellence and to provide the best services possible to our clients and to stay aware of the technology development. Online payments do help each other in its daily life to make things easier.


bardoWhat inspired you to launch it at first?

In France an auction website called ibazar (same model like ebay) had been facing difficulties as buyers and sellers were not trusting each other. Therefore we were acting as the trusted third party (like Paypal in its origin).

After the economic model of the trusted third party became inefficient, ebay acquired Paypal. In the same time the French auction site ibazar has also been acquired by ebay and they simply replaced our payment solution by their own payment solution, which was Paypal.

We were turned naturally in an IPSP, to provide payment solution to web merchants. And because of the willpower of the founders we never stop to strive and we still go ahead and continue to move forward. Now we are an international company.


What moved you to launch in Africa?

I think you can answer to this question better than me. All the articles on your website talk about the future of Africa and that one part of the development of Africa is through by Internet. So that was normal for our company to move in Africa.

We started in 2008 with the move to Mauritius so as to feel the market, and to be able to build the right solution for Africa market.

After 6 years, we had a good idea of the market and we were ready to start.


Why Kenya?

Because you are the leader of East Africa and many economists think in the near future Kenya will be in front of South Africa and the leader on the continent.


Are you afraid of all the terrorism and poverty?

The terrorism is unfortunately present everywhere in the world and no place is 100% safe. I was personally touched by the Westgate attack, my wife is Kenyan and she was in Nairobi for shopping the day of the attack, fortunately for me, thank God, she was not at the Westgate mall.

And my COO and myself we came the week after the attack in Nairobi and we are touched by the talk and the spirit of all the people we met. Not to leave terrorism decides about our life but to continue to go ahead.

The poverty is important in Kenya, that is right, but also the middle class is growing up and very quickly. Let me give you an example; in Europe in 1980, Portugal was close to Kenya, now they have become a developed nation like Spain, France or Italy. This took them around in 10 years.

So I think the development of Africa and especially Kenya will be growing very fast and for sure less than 10 years.


Do you have any affiliations or partnerships?

We are an independent company and since the beginning we develop our own software and applications to propose the best services to our clients.

About partnership it is important because of market itself, meaning in terms of education of the different stakeholders in the industry.

Therefore we have partnerships with Kenyan companies like the bank KCB and with Card Associations (Visa and MasterCard) to develop the e- commerce on safety way for all the users; customers, merchants and banks.

We are open for partnership/collaboration with anyone who wants to help the African E-Commerce market to grow safely.


Do you have any clients here already?

Yes, we started operations only 2 weeks back and our first Kenyan merchants will be plug on our gateway next week. We are getting very positive feedback from Kenyan based merchants.


Is there anything new you are going to offer the existing online payments firms don’t?

First and foremost, we offer security! We are the only company on the African continent to offer such a high level of security. I’m saying this based on our experience and expertise, the PCIDSS compliance and our secured gateway.

We became PCIDSS complaint only after different controls of quality and security (online and offline) had been successfully completed by the assessor, such as online penetration test which are done frequently to ensure that the gateway is secure. Also the assessor came to Mauritius to verify physically our offices and data centre to make sure that required security systems are in place, only authorized personnel have access to our server room.

We had also built specific software, which is known as Bardo Risk Control to avoid fraud. We build this software especially for the African market to provide to our merchants and customers a first class service. Based on our expertise and experience, for me 18 years now in the online payment industry and fraud management, this allows us to provide a 99.99% safe processing solution.


Where do you expect your business to be in 2 years?

As per economist talk, the African Internet market is growing more quickly than anywhere in the world and in India the Internet market grew by 80% from 2012 to 2013… So  think of Kenya and for Africa.


Any plans to expand into the entire continent?

There is 6 years ago we started in Mauritius and according to us it was the front door of Africa; Kenya today is the first step. But we are already in contact with major companies based in different African Countries who want to advertise and distribute our services and I think the first partnership will be signed next month. I believe in the next two years we will be able to provide our services in many African countries if not all.

How is doing business in Mauritius compared to Nairobi, with your few weeks experience?

The business is more mature in Mauritius this is a fact. But also Mauritius is a small island (approx 1.5M habitants) and Internet business has less potential compared to Kenya. You know… the country size of Mauritius and the traffic jam is very less compared to Nairobi, so Mauritians will walk in shops rather than online payment for local purchase. Most of internet sale in Mauritius is mainly from foreign based websites.

In Kenya this is not the same, local websites and companies have big potential from both the international and local customers.


What would you tell up coming entrepreneurs, especially the youth?

Never think that you won’t be able to make it and be ready to change your mind if the market is not responding. If you have a good idea the market will recognize it.

In our high tech industry, a good idea has more strength than money. And if it does not work out the first time, try again in another way. We are a good example, we started 18 years ago with a business model that didn’t work out, we changed our mind and we became an IPSP. This model has been accepted by the market and now we are an international company and a leader in security.


What could you be doing had you not founded Bardo?

This is the question for every one; what if is…? lol, really I’ve no idea… this company occupied my mind and me this last 18 years and hope for the next 18 years. To try to answer, maybe on video game industry, because I am an old gamer.

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