Busi­ness in brief

Southeast Asia Globe - - Contents - Euan Black

Mo­bile fi­nan­cial trans­fer ser­vice Wave Money is en­cour­ag­ing its cus­tomers to ditch cash in a coun­try where peo­ple are known to pay for cars or apart­ments with bags full to the brim with bills. How­ever, Brad Jones, CEO and for­mer man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Wing (Cam­bo­dia), in­sists that they mean banks no harm

How do you hope to com­pete with tra­di­tional remit­tance ser­vices and new­com­ers en­ter­ing the mar­ket?

In terms of com­pe­ti­tion from other mo­bile op­er­a­tors com­ing in, I wel­come it, be­cause I think what we see here is that cash is the com­peti­tor. For a pe­riod of time, I don’t see it as a mar­ket share bat­tle, I see it more as the in­dus­try ed­u­cat­ing con­sumers as to why digital cash is bet­ter than phys­i­cal cash.

How would you like to work with banks in the fu­ture?

One of the things I’d like to do is pro­vide our cus­tomers with the abil­ity to ac­cess their funds from a bank ac­count, like mov­ing money into a PayPal ac­count from a debit card.

What are some of the main chal­lenges that Wave faces op­er­at­ing in Myan­mar?

The big­gest chal­lenge for any­one in this busi­ness is the dis­tri­bu­tion net­work – Myan­mar is such a big coun­try. Any­one can go and roll this out in Yan­gon and Man­dalay, but push­ing this out where the peo­ple re­ally need the ser­vice, that’s not so easy. Se­condly, trust is a big is­sue – pre­dom­i­nantly be­cause Myan­mar con­sumers have had such a bad ex­pe­ri­ence with the bank­ing sys­tem over the past 60 or 70 years. There’s been three de­mon­eti­sa­tions, and, in 2003, there was a bank­ing fail­ure.

What does the fu­ture hold for Wave?

I think this mar­ket here could sup­port 30,000 or 40,000 agents for an av­er­age player rel­a­tively com­fort­ably. We’re sit­ting at 8,500, so we’ve got a lot of growth to do, es­pe­cially on the digital side.

What’s your assess­ment of the startup ecosys­tem in Myan­mar?

There’s cer­tainly lots of in­no­va­tion and pas­sion, but ac­cess to fi­nance is a ma­jor chal­lenge. The bank­ing sys­tem does not al­low for un­se­cured credit, which makes it very hard for en­trepreneurs who need fund­ing. –

Well­wish­ers throw money dur­ing the Pagoda Fes­ti­val in Yan­gon

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