When the founders of Purpl launched their remittance start-up in Lebanon last year, their aim was to solve an increasingly difficult — and expensive — challenge for millions of Lebanese people living abroad: sending money home to friends and family after the collapse of the country’s banking sector.
Founded by banker turned entrepreneur Karl Naim, Wissam Ghorra and Jean-Marie Khoueir in 2021, the trio are well on their way to disrupting the country’s remittance sector by focusing on financial inclusion, lower fees and allowing beneficiaries to withdraw money from ATMs owned by its banking partner Banque Libano-Francaise.
“I was based [in] Paris until October of 2021,” says Mr Naim.
“Every time I would travel to Lebanon, I had friends in Paris who were asking me to take money with me to give to their families. Obviously, the maximum you can take is €10,000 [$9,979], so people will give me thousands of euros and say, ‘Please, once you get to Beirut, distribute them to my uncle, my parents and my cousins’.
“Eventually, I was [asking myself], why is it so hard to send money to Lebanon?”
People no longer trust banks “because they’re worried that [if] you send it to their bank account, they’re not able to cash it out”, Mr Naim says.
By sending money home with a trusted friend, people were also trying to avoid the high fees charged by a few money transfer companies, which enjoy a near-monopoly status through a large network of branches, he adds.
“So that’s how we came up with the idea of building an aggregator, where we are the technology piece that integrates with new digital remittance players to open the corridor to Lebanon, which will eventually bring fees lower for the sender, and at the same time bring an app that permits the beneficiary to cash out in a much more seamless and efficient way.