Payment startups are new companies that use financial technology (FinTech) to provide customers a way to pay for goods and services, and most recently, to withdraw cash, using online payment systems and mobile wallets. In Southeast Asia alone, there are more than 370 million internet users in 2018, and a mobile connectivity increase of 141%, with a prediction that the expansion will continue. With indicators such as these, it’s understandable why there is so much interest in payment startups, and the opportunities they present.
One feature that is helping the growth of FinTech companies is the use of mobile technology. Large payment players in Southeast Asia already exist, and include Grab, valued at $6 billion USD, and Go-Jek at $3 billion USD. Here are some other well-known startups worth watching.
Released in 2014, MoMo is a Vietnamese startup company that provides banking services for people with or without bank accounts. It is an e-wallet and a payment app downloaded onto the user’s mobile phone. Consumers can top up their e-wallet through 4,000 independent agents, their bank account, or credit card, then use their e-wallet to make purchases or to withdraw cash. It has received $28 million USD in funding from Standard Chartered Bank and has become the most downloaded app in Vietnam. With 2.5 million users, and a 30 to 50% growth rate per month, in transaction volume and user base, MoMo has a very interesting future with plans to expand beyond Vietnam.
Cambodian Pi Pay launched last year and is already teaming up with the Cambodian government to provide cashless payment options for public transit services, helping to reduce bribes in these sectors. It is a cashless payment app and a mobile wallet for users with or without a bank account—considering only a small percentage of the population have bank accounts, this is an important feature. From zero to 160,000 downloads in less than a year, with transactions totalling $23 million USD, Pi Pay has proved popular and demonstrates the country is embracing a cashless system. They have an upcoming feature, AUAM (All Users Are Merchants) allowing any merchant to accept payments with their mobile phones, meaning tuk-tuk drivers and other businesses operating only in cash, can also benefit from Pi Pay. Expanding to key cities across the kingdom, Pi Pay has partnered with major banks, petrol stations, and a huge range of retailers, meaning more people will find the convenience in a cashless system. They have also partnered with Alipay, suggesting more merchants will adopt Pi Pay in order to tap into the revenue of Chinese tourism.
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Based in Singapore, Fomo Pay was founded in 2015 to help merchants accept a variety of payment options and to help Singapore move into a cashless society. It is the only startup to work with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) taskforce to develop a single QR code to integrate all the different payment methods. Winner of multiple awards in FinTech, it is a payment platform that can accept payments from credit/debit cards, and different e-wallets such as, WeChat Pay, Alipay, Baidu Wallet, and BestPay currently used by Chinese consumers. This allows merchants who adopt Fomo Pay to tap into the 200 million yearly Chinese tourists predicted to travel abroad by 2020. With a reported $12.8 trillion USD spent through mobile payments in 2017, the Chinese have demonstrated a keen desire for cashless transactions. It is no surprise, therefore, that online retailers in Australia, the UK, the United States, and Canada are already using Fomo Pay.
Another payment startup from Singapore launched in 2015, SoCash allows retailers and individuals to act as virtual ATMs, letting users withdraw cash. The platform is linked to the user’s bank account and withdrawals are made through the platform by ‘purchasing’ the cash amount. The amount is then collected from the recognised retailer or individual. The whole process aims to make cash more readily available and to lessen the operational costs of online banking. The banks are charged a fee for each withdrawal and the money goes to the retailers or individuals acting as the cashpoint, allowing them to earn from their involvement. The retailers also get more traffic directed to their premises. An innovative system that, in the future, will allow users to make deposits as well as withdrawals. SoCash has, to date, raised $925,000 USD in funding, including a grant from MAS. It is presently in service in Singapore, India, and Japan. With challenges for countries to move into a cashless system, SoCash is paving the way, providing benefits to banks, retailers, and consumers.
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How did these companies make it into our list of the best payment startups in the region? Simple, they are the leading startups that allow users to access their cash and make payments with their mobile phones. MoMo raised the most capital in Vietnam, Pi Pay has backing from its government, Fomo Pay has enforcement from MAS, and SoCash is the first ATM system of its kind in Asia. With a booming digital economy, a population of over 650 million people, and a high mobile penetration, Southeast Asia remains the place to be in the world for FinTech startups.