By Lionell Go Macahilig
While money in Southeast Asia is still overwhelmingly perceived as equivalent to cash, the thriving market in this part of the globe has reached a level of technological maturity in which Internet adoption and mobile phone penetration can make cashless transactions skyrocket in the region.
This is the belief of Ooi Huey Tyng, Managing Director of GrabPay Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. Prior to assuming the position, Ooi had significant experiences working in multinational financial services firms and banks for more than two decades, the last of which was as the Country Manager of VISA for Singapore and Brunei.
“It has been a great journey with VISA and it was a pleasure to work with a talented team to successfully navigate through this period of rapid digital growth. My new role at Grab presents a new challenge for me, and one that is particularly critical in how payments providers are shaping Southeast Asia’s cities and communities,” said Ooi.
Encouraging an economic region heavily based on cash to try going cashless is a herculean task, not to mention the unique challenges in the payment space for each ASEAN country. In the Philippines for example, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) revealed that more than 98% of transactions in the Philippines still happen in cash, whereas 86% of people remain unbanked. Cash handling and services also cost millions of pesos a year to the banking industry. In spite of this, Ooi sees the predicament as an opportunity.
“The Philippines has one of the highest percentages of people in Southeast Asia who do not have a bank account and who transact in cash. We believe Grab, an everyday app available on one in two smartphones in the Philippines can make a difference where other e-wallets have not been able to so far. The convenience of Grab’s many services and the millions of customers already using the Grab app every day, make us confident about the GrabPay wallet’s prospects. With the support from BSP, we can now help millions participate in the cashless, digital economy without the need for a bank account or to download additional apps,” Ooi explained.
Earlier this year, Grab received an e-money license from BSP. With the e-money license, Grab consumers will not only be able to use GrabPay for rides and express delivery, but a number of additional payments services. The Philippines is the fifth country in Southeast Asia where the full suite of GrabPay mobile wallet services becomes available.
“We believe that GrabPay can make a difference in the Philippines were no other e-wallet has succeeded so far. We have built an ‘everyday app’ that serves the country’s most important everyday needs. GrabPay is Southeast Asia’s no. 1 wallet, supporting our goal to become the region’s everyday superapp. Be it transport, payments, food and delivery or as a source of income, Grab wants to be the one-stop superapp for people in Southeast Asia and the Philippines. We have expanded to ten cities in the Philippines. In Southeast Asia, we are in 235 cities. Regionally, more than eight million micro-entrepreneurs put their faith in Grab as a source of income,” she added.
Designed as a low-entry barrier to use cashless payment options for both consumers and merchants, GrabPay doesn’t require consumers to radically change their habit of paying cash. Many customers are already using GrabPay to book rides and express delivery, split bills via peer-to-peer fund transfers, top-up GrabPay wallet through online banking, Grab’s driver-partners, and retail outlets like 7-Eleven and Cebuana Lhuillier. With more than 500 partner merchants in the region, including huge companies like Globe, McDonalds, and Cebu Pacific in the Philippines, GrabPay allows consumers to get more value to every peso they spend.
“It’s an exciting moment to join Grab. With GrabPay, we have an opportunity to complement the work of our partners and bring the benefits of the cashless economy to millions of merchants and consumers in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines,” Ooi concluded.