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Network International, the leading enabler of digital commerce in the Middle East and Africa, and American University of Sharjah (AUS), a regional leader in education and research, initiated a collaboration to explore knowledge and career-building avenues in fintech for students at the university.

The collaboration aims to hone digital and leadership capabilities among the youth and help them discover meaningful careers in the fintech space, while also supporting Network International’s quest to attract and retain high-quality talent graduating from the university.

We sit down with Nandan Mer, Chief Executive Officer of Network International, to learn more about the collaboration and the company’s expectations.

Tell us a little bit about your partnership with the American University of Sharjah. Why is this partnership of importance to Network International?

Nandan Mer, CEO of Network International

Network International is a home-grown UAE brand and as a company, the environment we operate in has given us the opportunity to hone our capabilities in the fintech space and go from strength to strength. Being at the forefront of digital payments and evolving and growing at such a fast pace means we’re always hungry for talent.

We already have a few AUS alumni as part of our workforce across different verticals of our business, who are deeply passionate about solidifying ties with AUS. This coupled with our own due diligence has brought us to the conclusion that AUS is home to one of the brightest minds in the UAE.

By building on the ruling family of Sharjah’s vision, they’ve invested heavily in developing academics and capabilities there. We see a lot of potential in what they’ve achieved so far and look forward to being part of their journey.

What do you expect to achieve specifically with the AUS partnership?

We want to inspire young students to take up professions in the payments industry. At present, there are almost no dedicated payment programmes at universities, despite being one of the most lucrative industries all over the world.

In this context, there’s a need to generate grassroots-level interest in the payments industry. At Network, we have a mission to do exactly that. By building awareness among young people about how payments can be a force for good and help businesses, financial institutions and ultimately economies to grow, while also improving the well-being of people in the counties we operate, we want to spot young talent and bring them into the company fairly early.

Can you tell us a bit about Network International’s people’s strategy?

I think we can all agree that no business can grow without its people growing. At Network, we're committed to investing in the development and growth of every person that's on the team.

And we do that in both formal and informal ways that are directed towards creating an environment that provides people a platform to be curious and engage with each other—as learning doesn't always come from structured programmes, but through interactions with each other.

Another aspect we’re focused on is building a culture where everyone feels comfortable sharing what they're thinking, is happy to be challenged and raises the bar collectively.

Besides attracting talent, what do you expect to fulfil with partnerships like this?

Ultimately, what we’re hoping to do is get universities interested in creating programmes that will enable and prepare the youth to enter the fintech and payments industry. As a leading payments provider, we’re in a position to help develop these programmes by outlining modules and providing relevant content. At the same time, we can also conduct seminars, arrange for guest lectures and offer internships.

What do you have on offer for interns at Network International and what do you expect from them?

We have a long history of internship programmes not just for postgraduates but young graduates and school students as well. So, it's safe to say that we like to provide opportunities and encouragement early.

In terms of expectations, we want our interns to be more informed when they leave the internship but ideally, we’d like for them to come and be part of the Network family, develop a niche in the industry and strive for a long-term career in this space.

Can we expect other partnerships in the near future?

The UAE has some great universities and has a large focus on developing academia. Besides that, we also have a large talent pool of not just the local population but all those who come to the UAE to study.

We are looking to partner with many of them and are also on the lookout for universities in key markets such as Jordan, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana.