UK fintech AGAM International and SBK Foundation pioneer in first digital and sharia only micro finance platform in Bangladesh

SBK Foundation
  • First ever Sharia based microcredit in Bangladesh
  • Two-women set to revolutionise credit for the gig economy and beyond
  • Factory workers, small business owners, gig-economy workers and entrepreneurs to benefit
  • The majority of garment factory workers in Bangladesh are women

Cardiff, Dhaka, Monday 3rd April, 2023 – UK fintech AGAM International and Bangladesh’s leading Micro Finance Institution, SBK Foundation, formally launch the first Sharia based digital microcredit in Bangladesh today. The partnership will provide financial access to unbanked and underserved communities, including Ready-made Garment (RMG) factory workers, small business owners and gig-economy workers. There are four million garment workers in Bangladesh, more than 58 percent of whom are women.

The Sharia finance product is designed to help individuals and small businesses who need access to financial resources but may not have the collateral or credit history required for traditional loans. Providing Sharia microcredit to the Bangladeshi population will enable thousands of workers and entrepreneurs to apply for loans who would not previously been able to do so, making lending more inclusive. Demand for Sharia finance products in Bangladesh is increasing whilst Sharia finance has been inadequately supported by innovations in fintech.[1]

Speaking about the partnership with SBK, AGAM International’s founder and CEO, Shabnam Wazed, said: “Our provision of a Sharia digital microlending takes us a step further in achieving our mission of promoting financial inclusion in Bangladesh, especially among women and the gig-economy group. We are harnessing AI to transform traditional Sharia lending, making the process faster, efficient and fair.”

Sharia microcredit are the latest development in AGAM International’s partnership with SBK Foundation. It follows the September 2022 launch of Bangladesh’s first AI digital microfinance platform which made it possible for app-based entrepreneurs to access credit to purchase goods so that they can carry out their jobs. Two of the first businesses whose workers obtained loans from SBK Foundation through AGAM International are Shajgoj (the Bangladesh-based beauty ecommerce platform) and Food Panda (the Berlin-based Delivery Hero’s brand in Asia, a popular online food and grocery delivery platform in Bangladesh).

Under the partnership, SBK Foundation is able to draw on AGAM’s innovative credit scoring platform to enable financially underserved people to have access to finance, even when they lack a traditional credit history. AGAM’s AI based behavioural analysis backed credit scoring provides the SBK Foundation with the confidence to identify prospective borrowers and make accurate, speedy lending decisions enabling micro entrepreneurs to create value.

Today’s announcement sees garment factory workers, small business owners and entrepreneurs, be able to access credit to purchase essential groceries and access medical support via Apon Tech and Niramoy Health Tech Ltd and others. Enabling wider access to both of these services is key to the ability of AGAM International and SBK Foundation to improve the lives and livelihoods of these factory workers and entrepreneurs.  

Founded in 2019, AGAM International, which means ‘advance’ in Bangla, is backed by the Development Bank of Wales, UK. It has a mission to enhance both lives and livelihoods of individuals and entrepreneurs by providing the infrastructure for financial institutions in growth markets to deploy innovative solutions to ensure better, and more inclusive service for their customers. AGAM International has developed a leading fintech platform which is set to reshape the financial sector landscape in growth economies with its integrable, customisable, scalable framework.

Sonia Bashir Kabir, Founder & Vice-Chairman of SBK Foundation said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with AGAM International with whom SBK Foundation shares a common vision to empower marginalized communities with technology and affordable access to finance. Our relationship is focussed on harnessing AI to revolutionise lending for entrepreneurs and ‘gig’ economy workers – many of whom are women. This innovative partnership focuses on supporting factory workers, enabling them to access credit to purchase essential supplies and medication. We look forward to seeing the positive impact of our ongoing collaboration with AGAM International.”

[1] Fitch Ratings (November, 23, 2022)

Notes to editors

Sharia loans are used to purchase a product or service. The loan repayment goes direct to the merchant rather than into the bank account of the borrower. A Sharia micro loan is a small, fixed service charged based murabaha loan offered under Islamic finance principles. In the Sharia banking system, interest (called profit/service charge) is paid on a fixed rate basis as collecting compound interest is against Sharia codes of practice.

Apon Tech are factory-located marketplaces that offer affordable products and services for (primarily) garment factory workers in Bangladesh. The social enterprise provides discounted goods and services to benefit the livelihoods of factory workers including groceries, free health insurance credit and other wellbeing benefits within their place of work. Some 200,000+ people have benefitted from their services to date.

Niramoy HealthTech Ltd is an app-based service connecting patients directly to doctors – across general practice, paediatrics and specialist clinical consultants. The mission is to simplify access to healthcare delivery to all.

About AGAM International:

AGAM International enables financial institutions in growth markets to accelerate the digitalisation of products and services to their customers through its Banking-as-a-Service platform.

AGAM, which means advance in Bangla, puts financial empowerment and responsibility directly in the hands of individuals and businesses. Its platform is powered by its dynamic AI credit scoring algorithm, enabling lending to a broader community. Customers are supported in their financial journey with AGAM International’s digital mentoring app to become more bankable, improving both financial literacy and credit scores. The company’s scalable neo banking model provides transparent, dynamic, de-risked credit decisions for financial institutions.

This all supports AGAM International’s wider mission to make banking and finance available to all, advancing lives and livelihoods.

Founded by female CEO, Shabnam Wazed, AGAM International is head quartered in Cardiff, UK, and operational in Bangladesh, with plans to scale into other growth markets. Wazed is supported by a senior management team, including: Chair, Nish Kotecha, an entrepreneur, banking and board professional; and, Chief Technology Officer, Rohit Sankhe. The management have a combined experience of over 40 years. The company closed its latest funding round in November 2022, with international investors led by the Development Bank of Wales. AGAM International has also been backed via the UK Department for International Trade’s Global Entrepreneur programme, Invest UK and the FinTech Wales Foundry Accelerator programme.

AGAM International was the joint winner of the Global Fintech DIT (UK) Award, 2021 and Shabnam Wazed won Computing’s Women in Tech Excellence Award 2022.

About SBK Foundation:

SBK Foundation is a non-profit organisation and world’s first Digital and Sharia only licensed Micro Finance Institution (MFI) in Bangladesh, aiming to empower marginalized communities with technology and affordable access to finance.

Marginal communities often lack access to basic health, finance, legal and other crucial services due to poor infrastructure and insufficient resources. SBK Foundation aims to democratize technology and empower women & youth to generate income.

SBK Foundation offers Sharia-compliant product, operates under Islamic finance principles which prohibit interest-based lending and require all financial transactions to be grounded in tangible assets and real economic activity.

Our vision is to build digitally inclusive societies and contribute to build Smart Bangladesh.

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