Our new Disruption by Blockchain series aims to highlight companies that are leveraging the incredible potential of blockchain technology to disrupt and revolutionize their industry. Through one on one interviews, we'll speak directly with industry leaders to cut beyond the hype and get directly to the heart of practical use cases and examples of how it will change the world, one industry at a time.
The following is an interview we recently had with Sankalp Shangari, CEO of Lala World.
1. What’s the history of LaLa World? How and where did you begin?
SS: LALA means being happy and that is truly what we want to achieve – financial freedom, financial happiness, and financial accessibility to over 2 billion unbanked and underserved.
Coming from a migrant family, I witnessed the migrant woes first hand and while working and travelling to various countries in Europe and Asia. That is how LALA started in April 2016, and have been on the drawing board ever since, building and re-building the entire project plan.
LALA World is a holistic ecosystem for the unbanked, starting with the migrants and their families back home. The ecosystem not only revolves around financial inclusion, but also bringing together communities at grassroots level, solving real-life issues faced by this population and using the most advanced technology to bring everyone together.
To accomplish this herculean task, we need partners. We are aware of our migrant and network strength, but also at the same time, aware of our weaknesses. We cannot build everything alone. Therefore, LALA has struck various partnerships across Asia, Africa, Middle East and CIS. That means real customers, real people and use cases. In a short span of time, the sort of partnerships we have built across the countries and companies is nothing short of amazing. The social reason for eradicating migrant woes is something all our partners have been able to connect with.
A fiat prototype is being tested across users in Malaysia and India. This will provide us with valuable feedback and make the system more robust. An Ethereum and Stellar based domestic and cross-border financial system (LALA Transfer) Proof of Concept (PoC), as well as a peer to peer lending platform (LALA Lends), is being developed by our highly qualified blockchain developers.
LALA World is that team and without each one of my team members, it would have been impossible. Thank you.
2. Who are the founders and key team members?
Sankalp Shangari, Founder & CEO (The Vision)
An Ex-Banker from Deutsche Bank & JP Morgan, he has worked in US, London and Singapore.
An entrepreneur at heart, He’s an author, an investor and a prolific speaker on Blockchain and cryptocurrencies. His experience in dealing with Governments, Banks and Financial Corporations has been significant in bringing talent from around the globe to this project.
Ranjit Kumar. Chief Revenue Officer (Moneypenny)
Humble beginnings have led Ranjit to achieve the unthinkable. An entrepreneur at heart, he takes every job very passionately and with full ownership.
A rising star in Finance who understands well the Project management industry, he shuttles between Singapore and India to manage LALA World global revenues and operations. Previously Ranjit has worked for JCB, Polyplex, Syscom (Moroho Group) & Samsung Electronics.
The Chairman of Learning Largest Wings Remittance Network, Ajay has been instrumental in setting up remittance businesses across Asia and Middle East.
With massive network of migrant labor communities and being The Chairman of Cambridge schools in India, we consider ourselves blessed to have him on our advisory board.
Vivek Kumar, AVP Technology
Vivek has 10+ years of experience in Managing variety of Android and IOS Application, web applications, e-commerce, System application and creating realistic and achievable project plans along with developing Ecommerce framework and different payment gateway Integrations. He is the building the core architecture of our LALA Wallet.
3. What problem are you solving? Who are you solving it for?
SS: Over one third of the world is suffering at the hands of capitalists. About 2.4 billion poor people worldwide are often excluded from free movement, basic rights which often leads them to corruption, crime, including slavery, human trafficking and in extreme cases, death. The migrant and their unbanked families in emerging and frontier markets have been suppressed for the longest time without any access to basic services, financial or otherwise.
Migrants continue to suffer the same plight over decades; it’s disheartening to acknowledge that even after 10 years of migrant lives, they end up where they started mostly. It’s almost unbearable at times how they suffer at the hands of brokers, intermediaries, operators when all they have in their heart is to make their lives better and look after their families.
The basic question that always bothers us: Why does one Human Being have to suffer so much when they work so hard? Why can't their lives get better? Why their children have to go through that circle again? Having seen the plights of migrants first hand, it was always my dream to do something about financial happiness.
Banks, financial institutions and even local financiers do not participate in these markets because they are not able to adequately assess price risks. Lack of reliable identification systems, financial data, unreliable intermediaries, zero credit history available for financial inclusion at grassroots. This uncertainty and severely limited access to financing and other financial products cripple’ individuals, micro-entrepreneurs, small businesses, stymies growth and entrenches poverty.
LALA World is all set to change that. For decades, the current financial system has been controlled and centralised. Numerous attempts to create a central clearing system like SWIFT, CHIPS, various clearing houses, for domestic and international payments systems etc. are largely contractual arrangements between two parties with greater influence by geopolitical factors.
4. What is your solution to this problem?
SS: With over 2 billion people suffering for so long, financial inclusion is the top agenda everywhere today: financial institutions, governments, central banks, NGOs, large corporations, and technology companies. So far, various solutions have been tried and tested, with or without the involvement of banks, attaining some levels of success.
A resolve to do something for them while the tools available to help were simply lying in plain sight — technology, willingness, government support, resources was all available. Someone just had to stand up and put this all together.
Blockchain comes as a blessing in disguise to truly create a decentralised, peer to peer network, distributed among the value holders. From humble beginnings in 2008, Blockchain and cryptocurrencies are becoming mainstream today. Further, developments in the blockchain space continue to take place at a faster pace than ever before. Several corporate, governments and developers are working on different aspects to improve this technology but there are three major aspects of Blockchain being implemented over the next few months which we believe will work wonders for LALA World and the unbanked:
1. True and immune decentralization: Most people on the planet do not have the capability to own large computers, servers or any of the existing sophisticated machinery to operate a node in the system, but they do have smartphones. With decentralised projects and beginnings of Atomic Swaps, this could truly create a decentralised world in the coming years and decades.
2. Scalability and efficiency on-Chain: These two go hand in hand. Scalability needs to have a throughput of millions of transactions per second, on-chain. And the efficiency must be increased by a factor of 80 to 90 in order to be considered disruptive while run secure by design. Many solutions are being proposed which will further help our cause.
3. Privacy, open and unrestricted access: People work for their money and must have full, uncensored and unrestricted access to their own money. Banks, capital markets and the centralised controls continue to suppress the unbanked. LALA is creating that ecosystem to truly revolutionise the way peer to peer markets works for this population.
BLOCKCHAIN + FINANCIAL INCLUSION = LALA WORLD ECOSYSTEM
1. LALA WALLET: LALA Wallet is your single point access to all financial services in the LALA World ecosystem. You have multiple top up and cash out options, hold fiat or multiple cryptocurrencies, with a host of financial services like money transfer, lending, bill payments, cards and other normal banking products at your fingertips.
2. LALA ID: One Global ID, on Blockchain and under your control Premise of your LALA Wallet starts by creating a single digital identity that you can carry globally – LALA ID. The team at LALA had a vision – to provide a digital identity to every person on the planet, starting with migrants and their unbanked families. We are also certain that if we have to create a truly global ecosystem, then we need a base identification system that is far superior to any existing ID systems. That should be global in nature, but yet secure, private and available on demand.
3. LALA TRANSFER: LALA’s management team and its partners are one of the most experienced crew having run payment wallets, money exchanges, remittance and lending businesses for over 10 years in over 15 different counties. On top of solid experience and a great network, we have also built a great crypto offering – “LALA Transfer”, for efficient, cheaper and faster remittance services globally.
4. LALA LENDS: Peer to peer and micro-lending has been on a steep rise over the last five years. But if one looks around, it’s primarily the developed nations and companies who have blossomed into unicorns while the industry has promised to eliminate poverty, offering low-barrier loans to those historically unbanked financially.
5. Why is your industry ripe for disruption?
SS: According to the World Bank, 700 million of the previously unbanked became account holders from 2011 to 2014. However, 2 billion adults globally still remain without an account with a bank or even with an authorized non-bank service provider. Remittance in Q4 2017 has a Global Average of 7.09 percent in prices, with Banks remaining the most expensive type of service provider at 10.44 percent in prices. This is of extreme concern as we question why as we jump into 2018, are remitters still paying between 5 to 10% just to send money back home to their families in developing countries? With Blockchain technology in place, even as the Global Average has been in decline, we can reduce the prices and fees to below 1 or 2%, way below the G20 objective of 5%. The best part? The solution is available now and is already being tested and implemented.
6. What’s the future of your industry?
SS: With the Industry ready for New and Disruptive Solutions, We expect following things to happen:
Prediction #1: Digitization of the Processes. The Remittance and International ID services are going to get Digital at an exponential rate. Gone are the times of walking into stores for Money transfers when all these financial services are going to get totally secure with ease of operability on your fingertips. Hence technology is pivotal to the disruption of the industry with innovation being the key to stay ahead of the curve.
Prediction #2: Increase in market Entrants. Looking at the size of the market and at the rate which it is expanding, we expect a lot of players entering the market offering a varied range of services. These entrants can come with different models of operation and with numerous partnerships hence the first mover advantage will be crucial.
Prediction #3: Glocal Solutions. Financial institutions, Governments , nd Non-Profit agencies; Financial inclusion is the top agenda everywhere today. Glocal presence: Global Solutions with Local partnerships is going to be the key in Reaching out to the Remotest of the locations as they are the ones which need this the most.