Southeast Asia is undergoing enormous change and development as digital infrastructures, and startup ecosystems start to level the playing field in countries that were previously left behind by global economic growth. Places like Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia are all hotspots for technological development and are attracting investment and attention from across the globe.
A little slower off the mark, and still playing catch-up with its neighbours, is Cambodia. It still bears the scars of the 1970s regime which decimated the population and set it on a backwards developmental trajectory. Digitisation, and a society embracing change, is moving it forward as it tries to redress the economic imbalance.
Still, a large percentage of the population is unbanked. Estimates in January 2019, showed that a mere 5% of Cambodians had a bank account. With no access to banking, it is infinitely more challenging to establish a successful business or raise yourself out of poverty. Enter the fintech startups in Cambodia attempting to make everyday monetary tasks less difficult for the majority of the population.
With only 3% of the people owning a credit card and just 13% using mobile payments, the switch to eCommerce and other online activities has been slower than in other countries. Fintech in Cambodia is a relatively new and limited concept, but that is changing.
Now, it is one of the largest sectors in tech startups with astounding potential. There was a rise of 31.6% in internet users in the first half of 2019, with both fixed and mobile connections reaching almost 16 million, showing Cambodians are rapidly moving online. This increase means that 98.5% of the population now are using the internet.
With such a phenomenal growth spurt comes opportunity, particularly for the fintech startups in Cambodia. Over 50 companies were working in this space in 2019. We take a look at some of the movers and shakers in the scene to find out how the digital financial revolution is changing this Southeast Asian country.
Launched in 2009, Wing provides money transfer and payment systems to the unbanked of the country with 100% coverage throughout the land. It has evolved into a comprehensive personal and corporate mobile banking services provider.
Not content to just provide financial services, Wing has been instrumental in supporting the growth of startups and recently teamed up with the Techo Startup Center to spur further development.
Need a quick, small loan? Spean Luy (meaning bridging money in Khmer) has you covered. Through the use of machine learning for risk assessment, the app gleans credit-worthy information from social media to approve loans of up to $1,000 USD in minutes.
Offering an easy line of credit helps those in difficult situations and can be lifesaving. The fintech microloan industry can be big business, and Spean Luy’s parent company DIGICRO claims to have raised over $1 million USD in funding to date.
A relative newcomer to the fintech world payment service, Pi Pay, recently merged with one of Cambodia’s biggest eWallets, SmartLuy, to create an extensive platform allowing payments and the movement of money. Going beyond simple, secure money management and transactions, it has social aspects such as a chat feature, friend finder and messaging services.
Teaming with SmartLuy is indeed a smart move as it is a subsidiary of one of the country’s biggest mobile service providers Smart Axiata with over 8 million customers.
Clik Payment offers secure, personalised financial services through its mobile phone app, but the company is still waiting for final regulatory approval to be processed by the National Bank of Cambodia before it can become fully operative. It has raised over $2 million USD prior to launch.
Many of Cambodia’s SMEs struggle to keep track of their finances and to access affordable support and software. BanhJi (meaning accounts) helps to take some of the difficulty out of this scenario with its free accounting software.
The company aims to simplify financial records even for those with a limited understanding of business processes. The online software provides simple-to-use ledgers and integrated workflow systems that aid SMEs in the management of their finances and submission of tax returns. Last year, the company signed an agreement with Wing, which will further its goals of helping SMEs stay tax-compliant.
The Cambodia Industrial Development Policy 2015-2025 document, notes that one of the hindrances to the growth of SMEs in the country is the lack of financial support for projects. With fintech startups in Cambodia stepping up to help fill this void, the country looks set to climb the economic ladder and join the ranks of its neighbours as the digital boom in Southeast Asia continues.