Central Asian Neobank Alif Expands Across Borders with Hybrid Migration to AWS


Alif is a buy-now-pay-later and mobile-first disruptor in retail banking. Founded in Tajikistan in 2014, the company offers a banking app with no-fee mobile payments, remittances, and consumer financing that customers can manage with their iOS or Android devices.

Over the past 7 years, Alif has developed into one of the leading FinTechs in Central Asia. The bank wanted to continue its growth and expand from its Tajikistan base and offer new services to new customers in Uzbekistan and Russia.

Alif was the first company in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to use Amazon Web Services (AWS) for its operations in both countries. 

Following its successful launch in Uzbekistan, Alif decided to look beyond its local data center in Tajikistan and searched for a cloud solution to run services in the new market.


Using AWS, we can test and trial new technology much faster than making test environments in our own data centers. This gives us the confidence to follow our ambitions, so we can do more for our existing customers, as well as attract new ones.”

Habib Safarov
Chief Technology Officer, Alif.

Looking Beyond Data Centers

“We needed to expand, and after weighing the pros and cons of various alternatives, we decided not to invest in local data centers,” says Habib Safarov, chief technology officer at Alif.

“There are ongoing costs for hardware upgrades and it is also difficult to find properly qualified local staff in the region in which we operate. So, we decided to move to the cloud.”

Alif aims to expand its digitally driven financial services into new markets and more countries in the coming years, so it needed a cloud provider that could support its international growth plans and provide a reliable and easily scalable system.

The neobank chose AWS to support the expansion of alifmobi, its digital wallet service (and one of the most widely used finance apps in Tajikistan), as well as of alifshop, its ecommerce B2C offering and one of the largest online shops in the country.

Both services were built using Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS), and Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS). Sign up and user authentication is handled by Amazon Cognito.

Alif launched a buy-now-pay-later solution in Uzbekistan in 2019, and plans to launch its finance app, alifmobi, in the country in 2021. At the same time, Alif executed a soft launch of alifmobi in Russia to serve Central Asian migrants.

A Hybrid Cloud First for Uzbekistan

The Alif team developed a hybrid architecture in which all operations run on AWS, while users’ personal information is stored in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan data centers to comply with local personal data protection requirements.

"We couldn’t move everything fully because, legally, we still needed local storage for personal data,” explains Safarov.

The hybrid architecture, was prepared jointly by the Alif team and AWS, and successfully passed the Central Bank of Uzbekistan’s security checks. This made it among the first banks and payment organizations in the Uzbekistan market to get approval from the regulator for using AWS.

Alongside the assurance of the compliance benefits, the bank was able to accelerate product development, using AWS to design and build robust new environments, before testing and deploying them.

The FinTech currently has 600,000 unique customers in Tajikistan and 160,000 in Uzbekistan. The alifmobi super app can serve several countries and carries all the bank’s products, including loans, deposits, and peer-to-peer payments. The other substantial part of the business is payment processing, which links to third-party gateways.

Fast, Smooth, and Safe Operations Across Borders

Using AWS, Alif can scale payment processing in a few minutes so that services will be available in multiple regions. Previously, such changes would have taken many hours of manual work.

Elastic Load Balancing, Amazon API Gateway, and AWS AppSync freed Alif’s large IT and development team from implementation, deployment, and maintenance work, allowing the team to focus on new feature development.

AWS WAF - Web Application Firewall and other protection against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks have brought a new level of confidence and assurance that security threats will be managed using AWS. Alif has now improved the system and database monitoring, thanks to Amazon RDS and Amazon CloudWatch. The internal team no longer needs to install and maintain monitoring solutions on its own.

Using AWS, Alif is building toward a faster release schedule. “We’re still automating the pipeline,” says Safarov. “We plan to reach a point of maximum automation, when we’ll be doing several software releases a day.”

Recently, Alif built its new version of alifshop, an online marketplace with a buy-now-pay-later option, in the cloud. The bank also plans to migrate other important systems such as its core banking system and customer relationship management to the cloud. Alif is actively looking at more countries in which to launch in the near future, supported by AWS for a fast and effective rollout.

About Alif Bank

Alif, a digital banking challenger, was founded as a microfinance institution in Tajikistan in 2014 by Abdullo Kurbanov, Zuhursho Rahmatulloev, and Firdavs Mirzoev. Over the past 7 years, Alif has developed into one of the leading FinTech companies in Central Asia, offering its clients an ecosystem of technological and financial solutions.

Benefits of AWS

  • Alif has expanded its services in loan deposits, peer-to-peer payments, and payment processing
  • Faster software release schedule made possible using AWS
  • Payment processing is scalable in only a few minutes, as opposed to the several hours it took before the migration
  • Alif runs services on AWS while storing users’ personal information locally to comply with data requirements

AWS Services Used

Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) offers the broadest and deepest compute platform, with over 400 instances and choice of processor, storage, networking, operating system, and purchase model.

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Amazon Cognito

Amazon Cognito lets you add user sign-up, sign-in, and access control to your web and mobile apps quickly and easily. Amazon Cognito scales to millions of users and supports sign-in with social identity providers, such as Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon, and enterprise identity providers via SAML 2.0 and OpenID Connect.

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Amazon RDS

Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud. It provides cost-efficient and resizable capacity while automating time-consuming administration tasks such as hardware provisioning, database setup, patching and backups.

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Amazon API Gateway

Amazon API Gateway is a fully managed service that makes it easy for developers to create, publish, maintain, monitor, and secure APIs at any scale. APIs act as the "front door" for applications to access data, business logic, or functionality from your backend services.

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