‘Startup fever’ has been rampant throughout Southeast Asia and the Kingdom of Cambodia is no exception. Armed with basically untapped potential, the progression this nation has made over the last decade in terms of infrastructure, GDP growth and foreign direct investment, make the Kingdom a prime destination for startups to flourish.
In particular, the startups in FinTech have been pushing Cambodia’s banking and microfinance sector to expand their existing services. To put this sector’s growth in perspective, in 2013 less than 1% of the Cambodian population– approximately 140,000 people–had an account at a registered banking or microfinance institution according to World Bank. In 2018, Khmer Times reported that there were 5.6 million bank accounts in Cambodian commercial banks–showing a dramatic upward trajectory.
Let’s take a look at the top Cambodian FinTech startups that have helped shaped this sector:
We explore Cambodia’s startup scene
Wing Limited Specialised Bank (Wing) is currently Cambodia’s leading mobile banking service provider. Since their launch in 2009, they have been driven by a mission–to provide a bank for the unbanked, and give every Cambodian ‘financial wings’ through access to a plethora of mobile services. These services include local money transfers, online phone top-ups and shopping, bill payments, and international transfers to over 200 nations–and this continues to grow.
Keeping in mind the smartphone phenomenon that has swept through Southeast Asia offering fertile soil for mobile financial services, Wing offers 100% district coverage with over 6,000 Cash Xpress outlets. By partnering with key global financial players such as Mastercard, AliPay, and Visa, Wing has focused on developing payroll services which can help small and medium enterprises (SME’s) as well as large established companies.
Company CEO Jojo Malolos estimates Wing processes 60 to 70 million transactions each year from over 3 million customers. Malolos also believes in making Wing accessible to all, which means Khmer farmers and tuk-tuk drivers, too, can receive loans and use Wing’s mobile wallet technology to progress their business.
Welcome to PayGo–your own personal electronic wallet which allows users in Cambodia to pay for online transactions. Heard of PayPal? It is very similar in nature to the PayGo FinTech platform.
Established in 2013, PayGo can handle various bill payments from the palm of your hand–or desktop–including phone top-ups, utility payments, and games purchases. The platform also allows for settling school fees for certain institutions and gives users a variety of shopping options.
A serious point of difference for PayGo from other mobile banking providers is the online Mastercard service, which allows customers to make purchases online without having to set up a bank account. This is available through the PayGo App, available on both iOS and Android platforms and requiring only a simple top up at registered outlets nationwide.
General Manager Evgeny Kagay has expressed the startup’s mission to make necessary day-to-day financial transactions simple and accessible–even to those in remote locations of the provinces of Cambodia who have less access to financial services.
Another leader in mobile payments is TrueMoney, which hit the Cambodian market in 2016 and launched their official TrueMoney application in April 2018. Like other key market players, money transfers phone top-ups, payment of bills, and online shopping are all available services.
Managing Director of TrueMoney Cambodia, Kong Mean, has a vision of making transactions possible “anywhere at any time.” The app can be used in major outlets such as Hard Rock Cafe, Botaya Village, and Gloria Jean’s Coffee. With its head office in Thailand, TrueMoney has branches in five other Southeast Asian nations and close to 6,000 agents across Cambodia.
Originally established in Ghana in 2010, BIMA entered the global market with a focus on providing medical and life insurance solutions for families and individuals where current premiums seemed financially unattainable. BIMA forayed into mobile health services in 2015 and has since entered 14 developing nations–including Cambodia.
BIMA aligned with Tigo, an international telecommunications company, to create a mobile-centred platform for insurance that is fully integrated with all existing mobile operators. The result is that customers can pay for insurance premiums through their mobile and arrange to have automatic payments deducted from the customer’s pre-paid credit. As a global first in this field, the insurance platform has followed suit of other key Cambodian FinTech startups by providing an effective payment solution for those who don’t have a bank account.
Based in the culturally rich city of Siem Reap, this Japanese owned start-up was launched in 2015, and blends both agricultural technology (AgriTech) and FinTech to create solutions for farmers. The Android-based platform uses an integrated online and offline system to produce real-time data that provides insights into income and expenditure patterns in a forward-thinking way.
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The system is innovative in that entrepreneurs called ‘Buddies’ are recruited and trained using the Agribuddy application. They then recruit farmers, many of whom possess limited literacy and technology access. Buddies and their farmers’ network with markets, financial institutions, and suppliers with the goal of creating connectivity and efficiency throughout the farming community.
In 2017, Agribuddy secured $730,000 USD in venture capital funding to further increase its reach throughout the Kingdom. Recent statistics show over 14,884 registered users spanning over 190,000 hectares of farmland nationwide. With approximately 45% of the local population directly involved in farming, Agribuddy has the potential to increase the profitability of the agricultural industry.
These FinTech startups are just a handful of the forces driving Cambodia’s consistent economic growth. However, all of these startups hold two definitive similarities: a tremendous amount of growth over a small period of time, and a desire to integrate and educate the local population in financial technology.