Asian Pulse: A Cashless Way

Mobile payment processing companies have been steadily growing both in the United States and in Europe paving the way for the future market of the new global payment technologies.

In the US, San Francisco-based payments processing start-up Square has recently filed for its initial public offering. Square was founded back in 2009 with the idea to facilitate payment processing for small and midsize businesses and became a leading player at the market. It’s hardware is now used by millions of people who wish to accept credit card payments.

They are getting a new competitor now as SumUp, a European mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) company with a head office in London, has expanded its mobile payments platform to the US.

SumUp already operates in 15 countries, including France, Germany, Spain and Brazil.

What does Asia have to offer?

According to SAP research on the Mobile consumer and technology, 70% of consumers in Asia Pacific think mobile will become more important as a payment method in the future.

There are big forces that also facilitate the process of transformation into a cashless society:

- The further the more smartphones we have: China, already the world’s largest smartphone market, is set to add a further 400 million smartphones in 2014. And the fastest growing smartphone market right now? India, with 167% growth in Q4 2013 (Gartner, January & February 2014).

- With smartphones in hands we still have unbanked consumers: In many Asian countries, mobile penetration exceeds access to traditional banking services. There are around three times more mobile phones than there are bank cards in China (MasterCard, September 2013).

Every country in the Asian region has its own peculiarity.

An example of a localized solution for mobile payments (May 2014 Asia Trend Bulletin “Perfect Payments”)
An example of a localized solution for mobile payments (May 2014 Asia Trend Bulletin “Perfect Payments”)

In Asia, small business is typically represented by a large number of cafes with two or three tables and tiny convenience stores, which are often owned by women working hard to earn additional income to support their families. Mark-up there is usually lower than in retail stores.

In the Philippines, there are over 1 million of such stores, so-called sari-sari stores, and some 600,000 in Vietnam.

Sari-sari stores can be found anywhere across the Philippines — in small villages and in the mountains — where it is not always easy to find Internet connection. The owners often don’t have a lot of devices there, only the most needed ones. It is not American micro-business, the merchants at such small stores are often poor people without any financial training.

Normally, a merchant has to go to the bank, rent a regular POS terminal and open a bank account, but all that is not an option for those whose monthly turnover is not higher than U$1–2,000.

ibox company is making its mark with a new product to offer iboxKasa in Vietnam, Indonesia and the Phillippines. It is a complex solution allowing small businesses to accept cards and cash payments with the use of tablets and Android smartphones. It can operate offline, help the small businesses to handle accounting for a monthly $3 fee. For those who have online access, it can serve as a terminal for cards and cash payments.

Philippines government is already interested in this product. It will become part of the national support program for private business.

ibox in action

In India the technology has expanded to the social media.

An Indian multinational bank ICICI offers an option to pay a friend, recharge a prepaid mobile, check account balance and view the last 3 transactions on Twitter.

ICICI Bank

A cashless future remains a far off perspective in Southeast Asia, probably the same as elsewhere. But this doesn’t mean we can’t benefit now from other mobile solutions by adapting them to regional markets.

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