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Mobile payment apps dethroning cash

A photo illustration of several popular mobile money apps. Tim Borith
A photo illustration of several popular mobile money apps. Tim Borith

Mobile payment apps dethroning cash

At an outlet of Tous les Jours bakery, Heng Souny approaches the cashier with a tray of baked goods and her smartphone in hand. Instead of reaching into her purse for cash, the 25-year-old real estate agent scans the QR code on the cashier’s point-of-sale terminal and enters her PIN number to pay for the goods using Pi Pay.

Souny said she initially tried the digital payment smartphone app because of the generous discounts – initially as much as 50 percent – offered by merchants. Those discounts have decreased as the app gains traction, but the speed and convenience of using digital cash has kept her hooked.

“I use it often because I think this payment method is faster and more convenient than using cash,” she said. “Now, every time I buy something or eat at a restaurant, I always ask the cashier if they use Pi Pay as a payment platform.”

Souny is one of tens of thousands of Cambodians using their smartphones not just to make calls and browse the internet, but also to pay for the goods and services they purchase on a regular basis. While the Kingdom is a staunch cash-based society, mobile payment platforms are quickly gaining traction and providing a new channel to promote financial inclusion.

Tomas Pokorny, CEO of Pi Pay, said thousands of merchants in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville have joined the Pi Pay network and the app has been downloaded over 210,000 times since its launch in July 2017. The mobile payment platform has processed 2.6 million individual transactions valued at over $51 million to date.

While Cambodian commerce has traditionally been dominated by cash transactions, Pokorny said he sees an increasing willingness, especially among young and tech-savvy Cambodians, to embrace technology that puts the security and convenience of cashless transactions at their fingertips.

“Throughout the development of the app and the Pi Pay platform, we heard a lot about how hard it would be to launch a cashless payment app in a ‘cash’ culture like Cambodia,” he said. “But the results show that we were right to persevere and Cambodians are more than ready to adopt new ways of paying for goods and services or transferring money using a secure technology.”

Pi Pay has taken a lead among mobile payment services, but it is certainly not alone. Other local apps are vying for a share of the growing mobile payment market, including DaraPay, Bongluy, GrabPay and Smartluy. In addition, several banks have rolled out their own payment platforms, either as standalone apps or part of their online banking platforms.

And now Matchmove Pay, a Singapore-based fintech firm that provides enterprise payment solutions, is looking to expand its Asian footprint and enter the Cambodian market.

Nitin Palande, senior vice president of MatchMove Pay, said the company is working closely with stakeholders in Cambodia as it prepares to make a foray into the Kingdom and wage a “war on cash”.

“With smartphone penetration of 48 percent, internet penetration 32 percent, and with a 22 percent banked population, Cambodia presents the right opportunities for us to make our timely entry and offers a huge opportunity to digitise payments,” he said.

Palande said Matchmove’s entrance into the market would focus on offering scalable payments solutions that address “the pain points” of verticals with high growth such as retail, e-commerce, micro-lending, travel and tourism and logistics.

Matchmove’s core product is an e-wallet app that allows consumers, including those who do not own credit cards or online banking facilities, to make payments with a pre-paid credit card. It also provides enterprise solutions that allow companies to offer their own fully branded and secure mobile wallets.

“Retail and e-commerce companies in Cambodia could [use Matchmove’s platform to] enable their customers to pay with their own branded cards, in-store or online, gain insights into customer spend analytics, increase their brand and retention,” he explained.

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