Business Growth Case Study: Wonga Around The World

 Hannah Harvey
  Nov 20, 2017

Things haven't always been easy for household name payday lender Wonga - particularly in the UK. First launched in London in 2006 by South African entrepreneur Errol Damelin, the short term finance provider has come of age in a sector which faced both criticism and ever-evolving regulation as regulating bodies scrabbled to get to grips with the new and popular products being offered by short term lenders across the country.

As the most prominent name in UK payday lending, thanks in part to controversy-stirring advertising campaigns, it was Wonga which was frequently the focus of negative attention. Yet, today, the brand is one of the few of the UK's 400 short term finance providers that managed to weather new regulations which capped loan rates and repayment charges. In a recent YouGov poll the lender was voted the second most improved UK brand by participants, while a fresh approach to marketing works to repair arguably unfair damage to the lender's reputation. As for the brand's future in the UK, the coming months should prove interesting to observe with the new release of its 'flexi loan' product designed to offer loans for up to 6 months at competitive rates.

The Wonga brand may be largest and best established in the UK market, but today the British market is just one of Wonga's focusses in an international portfolio. The brand may have been “made in Britain” but today Wonga has a presence in numerous countries all over the world. Here we take a look at how the lender's other concerns are faring…

South Africa

With a South African entrepreneur behind the brand, Wonga's first overseas leap to Africa's biggest economy made perfect sense. The brand set up in South Africa in 2012, enjoying unexpected growth over its first two years in the country. This is unsurprising news as the South African digital market is one of the fastest growing in the world with around 60% of South African residents now owning a smart phone, the growth is especially rapid considering this number was only 47% just three years ago.


Wonga invested heavily in promoting itself as it made the jump to the Canadian market, but saw just $100,000 CAD in sales in 2012. Although guarded about Wonga Canada's progress, in 2012 CEO Mark Ruddock did claim that the company had boosted loan volume in the country.

Alongside Wonga's Canadian expansion came its move into Poland. Here the brand was met with less scepticism and in 2016 the lender opened its third office in the country, a 1000sqm professional space in Warsaw, bought to accommodate its growing team.

In 2013 came a new wave of overseas growth for Wonga, but this time the lender took a different tack. Instead of starting from scratch, Wonga acquired financial service providers in target nations, providing the brand with an existing customer base. Wonga Spain was launched after the acquisition of Spanish payday lender Credito Pocket, which has since been rebranded. It shall be interesting to see if the political turbulence in Catalonia will have a significant impact for the Spanish lender.

Wonga took the same approach in India, acquiring former SME short term lender Nahar Credits Private. Though the lender no longer provides finance to small businesses, its license to lend to individual customers was instrumental in helping Wonga access India's burgeoning middle class.


BillPay was also purchased by Wonga in 2013. This German-owned “pay later” lender had over two million users in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands, allowing customers to buy online and pay later via a range of finance options. This acquisition is more than a move into Western European markets, it also signifies a potential change to or expansion of Wonga's lending services.

What do you think the future has in store for Wonga? Will it survive regulation in the UK and expand even further overseas? Have your say below.

Business Growth Case Study: Wonga Around The World

Hannah Harvey

I'm an Irish born 20-something (barely!) woman with a penchant for quality in everything I do. I specialise in personal finance and startup businesses. If you want to chat tweet me @hannahtweet

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