InLoop: innovative solutions to real-world problems

InLoop: innovative solutions to real-world problems

Making the complex simple for businesses, clients, schools, parents, healthcare providers and patients, InLoop provides simple, effective and secure payment solutions across three brands: Flexischools, LanternPay and Nuonic.

Zubin Appoo joined InLoop in 2018, following a 15-year tenure as Innovation Manager at WiseTech Global. With an enthusiasm for the power of education and the potential for technology to deliver better educational outcomes, he was particularly interested in the work that Flexischools does to revolutionise and simplify payment strategies for educational peripherals, such as school lunches, events and uniforms.

Currently focusing primarily on Flexischools as his area of expertise, Appoo explains that InLoop uses technology to “deliver solutions to the education and healthcare industries that others have not been able to do”. In cutting through the bureaucracy and identifying a problem that needs to be genuinely solved, InLoop’s platforms achieve the vital objective of helping real people with real, everyday issues. For example, says Appoo, Flexischools works to address the fact that parents are busy, and thus do not always have the time to prepare nutritious lunches for their children or purchasing bespoke school uniforms when required. “In this sense,” he adds, “it was really born out of making busy parents’ lives easier, and busy kids’ lives easier to manage.”

Flexischools allows parents to store funds, order and purchase from a broad range of suppliers across each specific school campus, provisioning services such as school lunches, uniforms, events and ticketing, fundraising and stationery amongst other things. For the last decade, the platform has grown to support more than a million registered users across Australia and is now turning its attention to enrolling a broader range of off-campus services to its base. Currently in pilot, but rolling out from the beginning of 2020, Flexischools will allow parents to purchase partnered maths and literacy products, e-learning such as coding lessons, school holiday programmes, wellbeing programmes (such as anti-bullying and healthy eating content), and much more. Using the trust already in the brand, Flexischools will be able to integrate these products and provide parents with access to a much wider, and carefully chosen, selection of valuable products and content relevant to them via their existing accounts.

With regards to LanternPay, Appoo explains that it is a solution built around addressing problems around patients having easy access to the government healthcare funding that they are entitled to. In Australia, many patients find it difficult to use their state-provided funding to pay for private services such as physiotherapy, pharmacy or psychiatry, due to existing payment systems that can often see funds take several months to reach the service provider. Through LanternPay, this process is streamlined. Service providers will receive the payment within 24 hours, making them far more likely to accept the funding as a form of payment.

“Our primary goal is to always help people manage their lives and deal with real-world problems,” Appoo says. “We’re not trying to be a bank, or to simply solve banking-related problems, we’re working to eradicate real issues and challenges in education and health, the biggest social sectors in the world.”

Naturally, the nature of the issues that InLoop targets presents several challenges to the business. To be successful, Appoo maintains, a focus on assembling the right team and developing an appropriate management strategy, whilst effectively implementing the right technologies, are essential. To this end, he describes himself as a “hands-on CTO” and encourages close collaboration at all levels within his team. Hierarchies are less important than a good team structure, he believes, and an ethos of mutual respect, trust and leading by example are integral to his, and the company’s success.

“The team at InLoop challenges ideas and brings personal experiences to the table – everyone is expected to bring ideas to the business, and those ideas are always listened to and explored,” he affirms. “Whatever the specific areas of focus, I always encourage our team members to think ‘what are the core problems we are trying to solve, and how can we solve them in the most streamlined, efficient, usable way?’.”

Harnessing technologies and working with great tech partners has been an essential factor in growing InLoop’s innovative product portfolio. “Technology allows us to solve issues that people previously haven’t been able to solve or had taken a lot of time to solve, in a much more streamlined, efficient, accurate and high-quality way,” Appoo explains. “With a greater focus on AI, machine learning, deep learning and natural language processing, more problems that were previously thought of as impossible can now be solved.”

InLoop uses several partners to achieve this goal, including cloud-hosting by AWS to manage its servers. Using cloud-hosting negates the need for high-cost, high-maintenance physical servers and allows the team to put more time into the customer experience. The business is also heavily invested in Microsoft technologies. New Relic is a cloud monitoring and analytics tool which InLoop uses to monitor its systems and ensure that up-time is maintained, performance and order rates are high, and any anomalies are identified.

An integral factor in delivering any InLoop service is cybersecurity. Both the health and education sectors are open to vulnerability and are dealing with vulnerable people, as Appoo explains: “There is an immense amount of focus on privacy regulation and ensuring data is not leaked, including financial information.”

In order to achieve that, InLoop partners with Braintree, a PayPal company, which focuses on providing secure payment solutions. For example, there is no need to store any credit card information, PayPal accounts, or other financial details within the Flexischools product, as this data is managed by the Braintree payment gateway. This is a seamless service, but ensures that financial information is entrusted with a third party whose expertise is in payment security. Other personal information stored by InLoop is kept secure in databases hosted inside AWS, with strong security protocols and reviews undertaken by a dedicated security team.

Looking ahead, Appoo continues to focus on driving InLoop’s service portfolio forwards. In modernising the Flexischools programme, for example, the team is looking to deliver an improved user experience and to be responsive to the growing market by rapidly introducing new features. In contrast, LanternPay a relatively young division that, according to Appoo, will focus on gaining further traction in the market and encouraging greater participation from new providers and schemes. In continuing to use technology to deliver solutions that change lives for the better, InLoop will remain at the forefront of the provision of innovative answers to real-world problems.

Zubin Appoo