A report has revealed that fraudulent activities online may cost eCommerce retailers about $20 billion in 2021. These acts could be traced back to website pharming and account infiltration, and buyers too are not left out in the loss, an example is the common case of “what I ordered vs what I got”.
However, Vahlid is rolling out new solutions to counter some of these online fraudulent activities. Imagine that two people enter into a deal for the exchange of an item of value, then one of the dealers calls a third-party to hold on to the item until the other party satisfies their end of the bargain. That is how Escrow services by Vahlid works.
Vahlid, a Nigerian-based Fintech startup has the aim of tackling online scam in virtual shopping and Africa’s eCommerce scene. Adedayo Gbede (CEO) and Olusola Agbede (COO), are both founders of this startup.
Gbede speaking on the reason for founding the startup says: “we’ve all been scammed in different aspects of our lives and work environment…so when we sat down to look closely at the problem we were trying to solve, we shared our own stories and decided that if this had happened to us, we should ask close friends and family to determine how broad the problem is”. From their research, they discovered that about 40-48% of the people they spoke to had been scammed, so that research provided a bearing to birth Vahlid.
As more Africans put aside their initial skepticism about online shopping, it is important to ensure the safety of both merchants and buyers. Gbede says it is not out of place to picture Vahlid as the scam police.
“So, in the marketplace, we offer a middleman service between buyers and sellers. Because offline and online, you find many people misrepresenting themselves and stealing other people’s money.
“Say you want to buy a bag from me, and then I promise to deliver the product to you upon payment, you pay directly into my account, and then I cut you off, I don’t call you back, I don’t deliver, and then your money is gone.
“And you find a whole lot of that happening in the marketplace, whether it’s a WhatsApp, Instagram, or Twitter store, or a big eCommerce platform. The core of our business is bringing trust into the marketplace.”
Vahlid enables buyers to pay through its platform and then holds on to the money until the seller delivers the expected product. It also protects sellers from prospective fraudulent buyers.
Vahlid comes in as an intermediary between the poles of merchandise and purchase, ensuring that both parties fulfil their obligations.
“Since the buyer pays into escrow, they don’t need to know who the seller is, just as the seller has no idea who the buyer is. The seller sees that money has been paid on their behalf and goes ahead to deliver.
Once the buyer certifies that the delivered item matches their order, they pay the seller,” Gbede explains.
He emphasises that it helps buyers and sellers avoid fraud and cases of unmet expectations.
“It cancels the need for going to the bank to cancel the transaction or reporting to the police. It puts the buyer in control, and it also puts the seller in control, ensuring the agreed parties meet all the objectives necessary.”
He further states that although the startup is focused on building trust in financial transactions for online retail and eCommerce platforms, their services also extend to milestone payments for freelance work. Right now, escrow service is at the forefront of what we’re delivering to the market. Beyond that, the trust issue is in other aspects of financial transactions.
“Say someone wants to employ you to do work for them, but they might not want to pay you all the money upfront until the job is completed; they can use Vahlid to pay in milestones. They’ll put the money per agreed milestones, and we release the money as they hit each milestone. If any tier is not hit, we refund the amount left to you.”
Currently, the service can be accessed via its web application at Vahlid.com. However, Gbede reveals that a mobile application is in the works and should launch on Android and iOS devices this month.
“Our website is up and running, so you can sign up on the web app. Our mobile app should be out, give or take, in September. Right now, we’re on track to being the first escrow service mobile app for Android and iOS devices in Nigeria.”
On affordability model for easy adoption, Gbede says “we charge buyers a transaction fee depending on the scale of the transaction. On our website, you can see our transaction fee model. We charge between 1.5% and 2.5% of the transaction. Then there’s a flat fee for the seller when they get the money and are about to check out.”
Vahlid’s trained focus on the eCommerce sector, instead of only individuals and a broad range of businesses, sets them apart from their competition. Gbede adds that Vahlid’s affordability and user interface model are important differentiators.
“We’re one of the most affordable and user-friendly escrow platforms in Nigeria. We offer a unique system whereby once you sign up with Vahlid, you can be a buyer, a seller or an organisation with the same ID. Your dashboard as a user is segmented to reflect every transaction undertaken in the different aspects.”