Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Business Insider: Boosting inclusion for online payment at Pi Pay

Business Insider: Boosting inclusion for online payment at Pi Pay

Pi Pay CEO Tomas Pokorny.
Pi Pay CEO Tomas Pokorny. Photo supplied

Business Insider: Boosting inclusion for online payment at Pi Pay

While Cambodia remains a largely cash-based society, the market for financial technology has begun to expand through online payment services and mobile e-wallets like Pi Pay. The Post’s Robin Spiess sat down with Pi Pay CEO Tomas Pokorny to discuss the future of economic digitisation in the Kingdom.

Pi Pay has been in beta testing for about six months. How much business has it attracted?
Since our launch, we have had over 165,000 downloads of our app, and 70 to 80 percent of those downloads are active. We have processed over $27 million and had about 1.7 million transactions as of today.
We operate with about 1,600 merchants right now. It always takes time to train each of the merchants we work with, but by next year we plan to have agreements with 5,000 merchants.

Your business model relies on attracting customers by offering heavy discounts. Is this sustainable?
There are rumours that Pi Pay is going to be putting an end to the discounts we offer soon, now that the app has attracted enough customers.

Of course, our marketing strategy has always been dependent on attracting customers through our promotions, and there is no reason to hide that fact. Our main goal is to prove to the Cambodian market that financial digitisation can save you time and money, but the first things people see are the promotions we might offer, so we decided to incorporate them into our business model.

We will always offer promotions, though they may not be as high as they were initially. We like to assist merchants in attracting business by offering promotions at times when they might usually experience a lull in patronage, so the promotions help us both.

How do you anticipate expanding your business in the future?
In Cambodia, we are striving for financial inclusion of everyone, and intend to expand beyond Phnom Penh soon, starting with Siem Reap and Sihanoukville and then tapping into rural areas in the second half of next year.

Cambodia is a small market, though, so our goal is to eventually expand beyond its borders in about two or three years. Essentially, we want to pursue partnerships, both domestically and internationally, and this Wednesday we will be announcing a new partnership which we hope will start bringing more income to Cambodian businesses.

Online banking and financial services are becoming more common in Cambodia. Do you see competition growing in the near future?
Each market has a saturation point, and I think for online financial services, Cambodia is reaching it. The Kingdom can support about two or three payment services, I think, but that just means the others will have to consolidate through partnerships. Next year there will be a lot of companies competing, but before 2020 I think the market will be much more mature.

How is financial literacy expanding in Cambodia?
Some experts in finance complain that many Cambodians don’t understand fundamental financial concepts, like banking and saving, and in some ways they are correct. Many argue that Cambodia has very low financial literacy rates.

I think of it slightly differently. There are nearly 4 million people here aged between 14 and 30, and most are literate enough to use technology like smart phones. There’s a fine line between technological literacy and financial literacy. Likely, when you are technically skilled, you know elementary terms about financing. I think that most young people know they can send money from province to province, for example, from their phones.

When it comes to expanding financial literacy, the biggest thing we need to improve is social responsibility. If these young people using financial services like bank accounts and online payment services started to share the knowledge they have with older generations, I think there would be a lot more financial activity.

Cambodia is a cash-based society. Does this pose serious problems for the expansion of online banking and payment services?
Everything here is in cash. It’s very hard to monitor, so anything at this stage that helps create a solid financial structure will really help support businesses and the government as well.

Some analysts think Cambodia’s cash-based system is bad for fintech [financial technology] businesses, but if Pi Pay were to try to launch in Hong Kong instead, we would not get much traction.

Cambodia is a great launcher market. Here you can launch solutions, see the public’s reactions, better your services and then expand into neighbouring countries. In other, more financially mature countries, people want services that are already tried and tested. Because Cambodia offers a clear playing field, I think this country could be a fintech launching site for Southeast Asia.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • Hun Sen: Lakes filled in for national developments

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced continued operations to fill some lakes in Phnom Penh to create land for developments, though he is against the unrelated practice of damming rivers or blocking waterways. Speaking at the inauguration of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport

  • Koh Preus upgrades 70% complete

    Initial construction of a nearly $30 million tourism infrastructure project on Preah Sihanouk province’s Koh Preus Island is “about 70 per cent complete”, according to an official with the developer. Heng Thou, construction site manager of Angela Real Estate Co Ltd (ARE), told The Post that

  • Local media loses a giant, and The Post a great friend

    Cheang Sokha, a gifted and streetwise reporter who rose to the highest ranks of Cambodian media and was beloved for his sharp intelligence, world-class humour and endless generosity, died on Friday in his hometown of Phnom Penh. He was 42. His wife, Sok Sophorn, said he

  • Cambodia, India agree to start direct flights, tourism exchanges

    Cambodia and India have agreed to start direct flight connections and promote closer tourism exchanges and cooperation in all areas after the Covid-19 saga comes to a close. The agreement was reached during a meeting between Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon and newly-minted Indian