Payrails' journey to date – interview with Orkhan Abdullayev

Monday 3 June 2024 08:16 CET | Editor: Estera Sava | Interview

Orkhan Abdullayev, CEO and Co-Founder of Payrails, offers insights into how Payrails came to be and how it aims to support merchants.


Could you share with us a bit about your background and the story behind Payrails?

I started my career at Rocket Internet as an early employee at one of the first food delivery marketplaces in the world, foodpanda. This was the very early days of food delivery companies, and many things were still quite primitive compared to today. We had big ambitions for foodpanda and quickly launched in over 50 markets globally, in many of which we were both the first and the largest player. My main responsibilities at this time were to manage operations and help launch new markets. One of our earliest key learnings was that collecting cash from restaurants can be a huge operational challenge and that we should take better charge of our cash flow. That’s when we decided to build a global payment system to encourage the adoption of online payments. This way, we could easily solve our cash collection problem and ensure our partners were paid on time.

In 2016, when Delivery Hero (DH) acquired foodpanda, I joined DH with my team. I was tasked by Emmanuel, the CFO of the group, to build a team that could optimise payment performance across all the markets, including foodpanda in Asia, foodora in Europe, Talabat in the Middle East, and PedidosYa in Latin America. We worked closely with hundreds of partners across various pain points such as improving checkout experiences, increasing authorisation rates, and decreasing fraud and payment costs. Eventually, it was necessary to have a deeper involvement in the payment processing value chain to unlock the next optimisation level. 

Given the scale at which we were operating (70 countries and over EUR 10 billion in annual GMV), there was a strong commercial impact to be unlocked. I spent almost a year looking into every agnostic payment infrastructure provider with a mature enough value proposition for our scale. Ultimately, none of them fit all our requirements and we decided to build it ourselves. Looking back, it was a very tough journey. It took a team of over 100 engineers and a long time to reach a strong footing. During this period, we constantly exchanged experiences with other large platforms to understand how they dealt with payment platforms. We noticed many similar problems at the DNA level, and multiple merchants were building solutions that were not very different from each other. In that sense, the concept of Payrails developed organically. I asked myself: what would a payment platform have to look like for a company like DH to give it a chance without building everything from scratch? The answer was building Payrails.

Given your experience in leading and scaling fintech teams, what aspects of your work do you find most enjoyable and what drives your passion in the field?

I find it very motivating to work on payments due to the depth of complexity and the rate of innovation in this field. There are multiple specifics related to dealing with payments as a merchant, especially if you look at it globally across many markets. At the same time, if we dig into the conversations in fintech today, the bulk of the discussions centre around B2C fintech, while much of the value creation has been B2B. Many companies still have suboptimal checkout experiences and are losing millions in potential revenues, and many merchants lack advanced data and tools to achieve their business goals. Payments is a field where you must understand and embrace the existing reality to drive true innovation. Not everything is documented and not every player in the landscape has modern technology and robust APIs. It is exciting to see the pace at which things are changing. When handled strategically, payments can be a big competitive advantage for businesses. This includes understanding customer behaviour, increasing profit margins, and building additional monetisation opportunities, among others.

Could you tell us what problems Payrails aims to solve and for whom?

Payrails is designed for large-scale businesses that operate globally across several industries, like mobility, delivery, retail, travel, and more. Merchants at the enterprise level function on a completely different scale, each with their own specific set of payment problems they need to solve. We started Payrails to solve those problems for enterprises, offering an alternative to building payment solutions in-house and providing a powerful extension to teams working on unlocking payment optimisation and accelerating how financial products are built.

Merchant tech stack without and with Payrails

Coming from a merchant background, we consider our expertise in enterprise payments a key advantage. When merchants work on solving a payment challenge or launching a new financial product, they want to spend most of their time building the best possible customer experience and creating economical value, not thinking about how to integrate a payment provider or understand tokenization. Our platform's modular design manages these tasks. Merchants can choose independent products like payment acceptance and payouts. They can also benefit from the strategic compounding of value across all our solutions. These work together to help lower payment processing-related costs, increase checkout conversions, increase revenue, and launch quickly in new markets with a high degree of automation for complex financial processes. We are hands-on when it comes to the implementation process and support.

How does Payrails approach collaborating with customers?

Payrails has a partnership-first approach. We work closely with each customer to understand their exact pain points, and then develop a tailored solution to their specific payment challenges. This approach allows us to foster a close collaboration with each of our partners and to deliver a payment strategy that is calibrated for their payment infrastructure. Our customers appreciate our communication style and our culture of knowledge-sharing. Going live with Payrails is not the end of the project, quite contrary, it’s the start of a partnership.

What are your dreams for Payrails in the future? What can we expect from the company in terms of future developments and roadmap?

We are just getting started. I believe that, eventually, payments will be fully commoditised. The ultimate goal will always be to achieve the highest authorisation rates at the lowest cost, with the highest level of automation and safety. This drives most of the efforts for every merchant around the world. We are well-positioned as a technology partner that can help merchants accomplish this. We have a strong team and amazing partners. In the future, you can expect more products and solutions from Payrails tackling some of the most painful parts of managing payments globally at scale.

About Orkhan Abdullayev

Orkhan has previously built global payment infrastructures and financial operations at high-growth technology companies. He is also proficient at scaling fintech solutions, having previously developed the payments setup at Delivery Hero. Orkhan brings a wealth of experience in payments and a strong track record of driving operational excellence and product innovation on a global scale.

About Payrails

Payrails is a modular platform that takes the complexity out of modern payments setups by offering merchants everything they need to streamline their operations, including accepting payments, issuing payouts, and automating financial processes. Payrails’ suite of products works together to lower costs, boost conversions, and uncover revenue opportunities.

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Keywords: payments , paytech, merchants, ecommerce, payout, fintech, authorisation rate, partnership, payments infrastructure, payment processing, checkout optimisation , retail, delivery, API, financial services
Categories: Payments & Commerce
Companies: Payrails
Countries: World
This article is part of category

Payments & Commerce


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