This week we spoke to Thish De Zoysa, Founder and CEO, at Their Perfect Gift, to understand their journey, the reality of running a business during COVID-19, and what they see as the future of fintech.
When was Their Perfect Gift set up, and who was involved?
We “soft” launched the business in May 2014 but hard launched in March 2016. The founders were myself and Andy Shambrook. We were both graduates from the University of Reading, but met when we had the 2 training contract spots with BDO in Reading in 1998.
Who exactly is your audience?
We originally launched the business as “Love From Me — their perfect gift” as we were targeting consumers and individuals directly. However, more and more corporates were approaching us, but asking for a variant of the name as “love” didn’t really work for them. We launched “Rewards”, but it was too cumbersome trying to grow two brands.
Hence we settled on just one brand to encompass both B2B and B2C — Their Perfect Gift.
Can you share any stumbling blocks that were experienced in the early days?
We had many!
Our first issuer turned us off just after the initial and very busy Christmas of 2015, citing compliance issues, though I highly suspect the real reason was a far deeper and politically motivated. This issuer is no longer in operation. The situation caused a potential chargeback and solvency issue. One of the most stressful times I’ve ever experienced.
Our magstripe cards were having checkout acceptance issues; the original cards weren’t automatically enabled for website use; the packaging and dispatch method wasn’t originally of a quality we were happy with.
After taking dispatch in-house, we realised we needed a better method than stamps!
Same Day delivery was becoming popular and people were prepared to pay — but running around London wasn’t feasible long term.
Customers were confused with how to activate the cards. Learning that customers don’t always have “product brains” was key for us as we found customers couldn’t/wouldn’t read what we thought to be basic instructions. We still wrestle with that one!
What are the things you are most proud of in your company’s journey?
We’ve pretty much done everything bootstrapped. We have never had a budget for outbound marketing, so all our sales are from inbound organic search.
We never had the funds for R&D or referral programmes like a lot of other FinTechs, yet we generate cash and pay our overheads without running heaving losses each year. We bring on product advancements largely from organically generated funds.
We learnt to code and wrote our own website. We navigated the payments world from scratch without consultants, we have repeat blue chip customers.
I’m also really proud of the people that we have had on this journey. From the angel investors, to the team past and present and also to those people in the organisations that help us get TPG to market.
I get a kick by seeing well known brands buy from us. Then coming back and buying again!
All the while, knowing that we haven’t raised millions in investment during our journey. This is the entrepreneurial story I always wanted to be spearheading.
Looking outside of Their Perfect Gift now, how do you see your industry developing in the coming years?
We are in multiple industries. But if we’re looking at the FinTech space, I am excited for how the level of investment going into the space will improve and speed up the flow of money, and how it will improve financial inclusion.
However, the industry must be careful and vigilant against the use of the product for nefarious means.
I also fear for models that lack sustainable business models, meaning they must seek significant levels of outside investment, which must be returned. If they are not careful their only avenue to generate significant revenues is to sell the data of their loyal “users” or “customers”.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has been going on for almost a year at the time of this interview. Can you share any survival tips for businesses?
Focus on cash and cash preservation! Ensure you have a digital strategy — whatever your business maybe; reduce unnecessary overhead; explore new areas to generate revenue; ensure your team have the appropriate IT infrastructure to function effectively at home; and ensure you have an appropriate staff motivation and rewards strategy in place.
And finally, what do you see as the future of fintech?
I think there will undoubtedly be some consolidation in the market as unsustainable business models are exposed.
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