Mr. Shiraz Refai -Deputy General Manager, Alternate Financial Services,
LOLC Finance PLC
LOLC Al-Falaah, Sri Lanka’s most awarded Alternate Financial Services brand celebrates its 15th year anniversary in April 2022. This milestone marks a period during which LOLC Al-Falaah revolutionised Sri Lanka’s non-interest based financial services as the trend setter of the industry. LOLC Al-Falaah is also the first licensed Non-Banking Financial Institution (NBFI) to offer 360-degree Islamic Finance product portfolio to operate since its inception in the Sri Lankan Alternative Financial services landscape.
LOLC Finance initially introduced a single product offering within its framework when the organization was researching for new market segments to expand their leasing facilities. Over time they realised that a considerable fraction of the market was in demand for Alternative Financing. In 2007 LOLC Finance launched a segregated business model under the brand name “Al-Falaah”. The unit expanded to offer both, investment and financing products to a broader market demand. Since then, LOLC Al-Falaah ventured into offering a full cycle of financial support to the Sri Lankan community.
Over the past 15 years, LOLC Al-Falaah faced and broke many barriers to reach potential consumers. The market space at the time was filled with doubts as the communities thought it is another label used for conventional facilities. Limited access, lack of product knowledge and the idea that losses are more frequent than profits were the major defies. This was the time that LOLC Al-Falaah entered and penetrated the market successfully.
The most unique aspect of their journey is the customer confidence, trust and appreciation gained in a very short period of time. LOLC Al-Falaah was initially catering to the SME segment and was gradually reaching out to the bottom of the pyramid through its product portfolio. The business unit also expanded to offer a sub-product category to everyone from the minor’s products to senior citizens.
The company currently operates in 142 branches all around the country with dedicated Al-Falaah service centres in all strategic locations. Customers also can reach their investments and savings accounts through LOLC Real-Time Internet Banking and through its Digital Banking App, iPay. Free registrations are offered via virtual platforms giving accountholders the convenience of accessing their accounts for transactions both locally and overseas at zero cost.
The business entity is closely monitored and guided by the able scholars that has a blend of both local and international experts who conduct periodic audits to ensure the purity of LOLC Al-Falaah’s transactions.
LOLC Al-Falaah is considered to be the ‘trend-setter’ in the Islamic Finance industry and also being benchmarked by many of the new entrants since 2007. They have always resembled their recognition through the countless number of awards gained over the years. The titles gained by LOLC Al-Falaah has habitually aligned with innovations and novelty. These continuous accolades affirm their commitment, despite various challenges faced overtime including the recent global pandemic.
LOLC Al-Falaah also claims many industry firsts. In terms of their service expansions; they were the first ever Alternative Finance business entity to introduce a regulated Savings Account, a Debit Card facility and a loyalty program dedicated for ladies with over 100 merchant benefits to the customers.
For the first time in Sri Lankan Islamic Finance industry; A Securitization equivalent product under the concept ‘Sukuk’ for generating funding, an Overdraft facility equivalent under the concept ‘Wakalah Speed Draft’ and a Gold Loan equivalent product under the brand ‘Wadi’ah’ were introduced to the market by LOLC Al-Falaah. Wadi’ah was introduced as a solution to the less privileged fraction of the society who were deprived from formal avenues of financial support. Ever since the launch, Wadi’ah has captured the communities who are engaged in Micro-Small and Medium Scale Enterprise (MSME) sector, mounting to be the industry number one choice for regulated Gold Loan services.
‘Al-Falaah Ladies’ business unit was also introduced for the first time by an NBFI to break the bias and to provide financial freedom to women in the Islamic communities. A segregated business model was established at all LOLC Finance outlets with a female officers to provide a comfortable environment to the female customers. LOLC Al-Falaah also offers an exclusive extra profit-returns and ‘Empress’, the specially designed discount card for the ladies.
The foreign funding received by LOLC Al-Falaah in 2016 by ICD is the first ever foreign deposit received by an Islamic Finance entity in Sri Lanka.
In 2015, LOLC Al-Falaah diversified their business propositions with the introduction of Takaful concept for General and Life Insurance options under LOLC General Insurance and LOLC Life Assurance.
The business unit has committed themselves for public awareness campaigns to uplift and to create the brand visibility. Almost over 100 programs island wide were conducted so far. Each of these programs were steered with the participation of 100-150 participants per session from the local communities where they were introduced to the new products while boosting their overall knowledge on Islamic Financing.
Commenting on the 15th Anniversary celebration, Mr. Shiraz Refai, Deputy General Manager of LOLC Al-Falaah said, “The prolonged journey of LOLC
Al-Falaah demonstrates the efforts and the pivotal role we play in the Alternate Finance industry of Sri Lanka. The success of LOLC Al-Falaah is the result of our fully compliant business model, our comprehensive product portfolio and LOLC’s brand strength. In addition to this, the efficient processes driven by the advanced technological platform has made LOLC Al-Falaah a game-changer in the industry. We have been continuously recognized and awarded as the best in the industry in Sri Lanka and Overseas, over the past years. I take this opportunity to appreciate and place my gratitude on behalf of LOLC Al-Falaah to our most valued customers and stakeholders for the trust they have placed in us and for moulding our brand to be a household name across all our communities. We have always strived our best to offer services that cater to our customers’ pressing business needs as well as spiritual comfort for the past 15 years. I also believe that our continued existence and its consistency is a direct effect of our committed staff members across the LOLC branch-network and of the senior management of the parent company.”