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

  • Restrictions re-imposed in capital as Covid cases surge

    Amid the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has shown no sign of subsiding with 750 infections and 10 deaths reported on June 2 alone, the Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has decided to re-impose the suspension of all occupations and business activities deemed as posing high risk of

  • Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway 51% complete

    The construction of the nearly $2 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway is 51.35 per cent complete and is expected to be finished in 2023, according to Ministry of Public Works and Transport secretary of state Vasim Sorya. Invested in by Cambodian PPSHV Expressway Co Ltd, the first expressway in

  • With herd immunity likely in 2022, is Cambodia ready to reopen for tourism?

    The government aims to inoculate 80 per cent of the target population by June next year, giving it a head start among regional peers to reboot the sector but first, it has to do a few things to up its game A sign on a glass

  • First 7-Eleven store to open mid-June, ambassador says

    Thai retail conglomerate CP All Pcl will open Cambodia’s first 7-Eleven convenience store in mid-June, Cambodian ambassador to Thailand Ouk Sorphorn told The Post on June 1. The Bangkok-listed 7-Eleven franchise operator, the retail arm of Charoen Pokphand Group Co Ltd, granted CP All (Cambodia)

  • US wants 'full access' to Ream Naval Base

    On June 11, the US embassy's Defense Attaché Colonel Marcus M Ferrara visited Ream Nava Base in coordination with Cambodian officials following the recent approval of Prime minister Hun Sen to allay the concerns on Chinese military presence at the base as raised by US Deputy

  • US embassy guard gets Covid despite two doses of Pfizer jab

    The Covid-19 tracking commission on June 4 said a security guard at the US embassy in Phnom Penh had contracted the novel coronavirus, despite having received a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot two weeks ago. Embassy spokesperson Chad Roedemeier confirmed the SARS-CoV-2 infection to The