Posts Tagged ‘payment gateway’

Shopify, Off The Rack Asia – e-commerce hots up in Malaysia

A trolley in loveSome interesting news happening in the Malaysian e-commerce space today.

  • Shopify, the Canadian company, is now in Southeast Asia thanks to SingTel backing. Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and India get access to Shopify, and by September, you can work with local payment gateways as SingTel will help Shopify get onboarded. In Malaysia, that means working with MOLPay (NBEPay) or iPay88. Both have woefully terrible pages that break the flow.
  • With Maybank pushing e-commerce and “blogshops”, I’m surprised they didn’t have the foresight to do this. Shopify could have chosen Malaysia as a headquarters, no? Alas, the sufferance when Singapore is your much more welcoming neighbour.
  • I read about a startup, Off The Rack Asia, that aims to compete with Zalora/FashionValet/Rakuten/etc. The story broke at FZ, which is also worth a read. They don’t disclose how much Cradle gave as a grant? It’s anywhere between RM150,000 – RM500,000 isn’t it (CIP150 or CIP500)?
    • This is great for merchants. They have more places to distribute their goods. Love that they’re supporting locals.
    • Target market is 18-35 – I think that’s two broad, you get at least 2 distinct age groups there, if not three!
    • I checked out the site – nice design. I notice that the items are generally quite pricey, so definitely not mass market fast fashion prices.
    • Checkout page can do with improvements. (I must accept terms but can’t read it via a clickable link?) Payment page basically sucks, it heads to MOLPay.
    • No idea if they’re drop shipping or holding inventory. Zalora started via drop ship, but soon realised that fulfilment was an issue, so they have a warehouse with inventory.
    • Zendesk is their Q&A platform (odd choice that you’d pay for such a service).

    Overall, I’m hoping to see improvements in payment gateways with lobbying by all these players. And I wish the girls at Off The Rack the best, it’s a tough space to be in, but one that can only grow as Malaysia itself grows digitally (as does the region).

    MOL at the center of online & offline payments

    There’s a chance that Malaysian payments will get shook up. From an online perspective, you’ve got the former nbepay becoming MOLPay. From an offline perspective, you’ve got a joint venture between softspace and MOL to form MOLCube (e27 cover it too). The center of all of this is MOL.

    For me, I’ve been waiting for a softspace device for quite a few months. I was excited since April 2012. I was told a device would be coming my way from 18 June 2012, and never heard back; the presumption is that people are using this device according to their website. But it is not available for the “general population”.

    I have never met Ganesh Kumar Bangah, the man behind MOL, but being a young CEO, I figure he’s got the chops & energy to pave the way. Besides, he’s backed by Berjaya tycoon Vincent Tan.

    Ugliness begone, let there be better online & offline payments and this will pave the way for e-commerce as well as physical versions of e-commerce (pop-up stores, bazaars, heck, imagine your pasar malam vendor going online).

    A lot of this will involve lobbying Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM). I don’t believe any payment gateway intentionally wants to provide terrible user experience, I believe its usually to feed regulatory requirements.

    Looking forward to payments in 2013. It can only be better than today.

    The state of e-commerce payments in Malaysia: still terrible

    Today I tried to checkout RM450 using iPay88. They only accept Visa or MasterCard credit cards, so I pulled my wallet out.

    I thought I would use the Citibank card today. I got sent to an error page. So I clicked the back button to head back and thankfully this worked.

    Error Finding Page

    I dug further and found a Direct Access card. I have to choose an issuing bank and now had to think a little harder to figure out that this card belongs to CIMB. I was sent a code via USSD verification which was valid for a mere 3 minutes. I had to run to my phone which was charging upstairs and run back down to make the transaction.

    Later I see an SMS from Citibank giving me my OneTime PIN that is valid for 4 minutes. I never even got the chance to use it.

    Now, lets say I was the average consumer.

    1. What would I have done with the error page?
    2. How would I have reacted to seeing one design then seeing the iPay88 page? Seems close to an attack. Stripe doesn’t have this problem.
    3. How quickly would I have retried the same credit card before I gave up on the online purchase?

    Anecdotal evidence from several online stores that I’ve been involved in suggests Malaysians are a patient bunch. They try up to three times for a credit card transaction before abandoning the cart. Some will email because its clear they really want the item. Most truly just give up.

    E-commerce is slated to be big. But fixing payments should be crucial.

    Square helping the everyday entrepreneur

    I arrived in San Francisco yesterday (Easter Sunday) and my usual shuttle service to Santa Clara had some issues fulfilling my journey (some 1h45m wait). So I took a taxi. As soon as I arrived at my destination, and he knew I was a techie, he said: “Look, a San Francisco startup has this cool device that helps independent entrepreneurs like me accept payments by all kinds of credit cards.”

    He didn’t know what the device was called, but I immediately recognised it as the Square app (I’ve recently written about this space). On an Android phone. Found it interesting during tipping: 15%, 20%, or 25%. No option to enter your own choice. Enter your email address for a receipt (there’s also a phone number option, which I am sure I can’t use). Then the taxi driver writes one physically for you as well. I presume the driver gets money in his bank account in a rather short period of time.

    How did it use to work? A manual scan on carbon paper with a device the credit card company provided. Probably submit the receipt and get paid within a much longer period of time. Or it used to be plain old cash — most drivers would never accept a card, preferring only cash.

    Square uses: CentOS, Puppet, Ruby, Graphite, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Redis. They also build the service on the JVM orchestrating Ruby on Rails, Sinatra, JRuby, MRI and Java. Incidentally, love the way they hire people — tell them what is required of them, then ask them to complete a task/programming example.

    Square-like payment devices in Asia

    Ever since I heard about Square, I was impressed. I was wowed when they used Square to accept payments at WordCampSF 2010 (May 2010). It all just felt right. Swipe the card, email the receipt. The experience felt like making a purchase at an Apple Store with their handheld point-of-sale systems. Square sadly never made it out of the USA and there were rumours that VeriFone and others were going to do similar things. Naysayers claimed security problems (square is magnetic stripe based, rather than chip-based last I used it). Alas, its 2012 and I’ve still not seen anything usable.

    So it pleases me to see Swiff in Singapore and the fact that PayPal Here (product page) will also launch in Singapore. Malaysia seems to have SoftSpace. However its April 2012 now and the first reliably available service is Swiff.

    Square is upfront with their costs – it basically takes 2.75% of the transaction. That’s considerably higher than the 1.8% charged by Malaysian banks. However it takes away the burden of renting a terminal which can set you back RM130-150/month, with the only option of a refund on that exceeding RM10,000 of transactions per month. And the chances that the terminal accepts “everything” tends to be slim (its usually just Visa/MasterCard). Swiff lacks fixed rates at the moment, and SoftSpace claims to be inundated with queries (but will support more security and have a chip reader).

    PayPal might crack this though. They have experience with dealing with banks and banking regulations (Malaysia famously has BAFIA as law). Many tech-savvy people already tend to have a PayPal account (and if they don’t, maybe they’ll start one). They’ve also gone out with a flat 2.7% transaction fee.

    I’m looking forward to more competition in this space. It can only lead to lower rates. And with bazaars, conferences, etc. this sort of thing can be very useful.

    Credit Cards and Malaysia’s recent budget 2010

    Dear current ruling government of Malaysia,

    I see you’ve decided that it would be wise to charge a RM50/year credit card tax, on a per card basis, while charging the supplementary users RM25/year. Your opposition says that you will thus make RM400 million a year in revenue, just from these fees alone.

    credit cardSome are however convinced, that though you slap a tax on us credit card users, most banks will probably absorb the charges to hold on to customers. But you don’t like it, because the tax, is meant to promote prudent spending.

    Now, let me tell you my opinion, as a person who liberally uses his credit card for every purchase he can use it for, because he’s kiasu to get rewards points. To boot, I also settle all my bills on time, in full. And I also have business interests, in where credit card transactions are crucial. </disclosures>

    First up, the rakyat aren’t stupid. Please do not think you’re smarter than them. Telling the rakyat for example, that the EPF is the be all and end all, is just silly. Telling them that they need at most “two cards”, is no better, my friend.

    Promoting the online economy
    Limiting credit card transactions, harm the economy. As more and more people are getting broadband Internet access, more and more people are choosing to purchase online. Today, you can buy air tickets, groceries, cameras, services and clothes online, all thanks to a credit card. By imposing a fee, you are potentially harming the online economy, and this is not in tandem with the MSC, at all.

    Discounts galore
    Credit card companies like to reward their cardholders. HSBC for example, regularly rewards you in the MidValley and Gardens shopping malls. CIMB is currently rewarding shoppers at Pavillion. American Express regularly has some dining places on its rewards list. These lists go on for many banks, including Citibank, UOB, etc. These are 10-20% discounts, which mean a lot to the average Malaysian.

    This encourages you to carry more than one credit card. If I may be allowed to put on my kiasu hat again, I’d like to say, this is exactly what I do. I patronise places, where I know I can get a discount. Or where I know, that if I spend RM50 on food, I get a free dessert valued at RM15. I want my ringgit to go further, and I’m sure the rest of my Malaysian friends do, too. Today, I almost always exclusively buy coffee at Starbucks with a credit card, because everything I sign off, is 10% cheaper.

    No fees
    Credit card companies like Citibank tell me that they’d like to slap me with an RM600 yearly fee for my credit card. I got off a plane, and at about 2.30am, I called their call centre, and told them I’d like a waiver. They did just that. Do you honestly think they’d like to charge me RM50, when they’d just waived RM600?

    HSBC tells me I get my Visa Platinum and Gold MasterCard, free for life. I have a hefty limit on the Visa Platinum, and almost never use the Gold MasterCard (not many places today only accept MasterCard, thankfully). Do you think I will be cancelling it if I’m slapped with an RM50 fee for something I almost never use?

    Public Bank likes to give me credit cards that are free too. To boot, they give me a 0.7% rebate for every ringgit spent. Now, remember, I am kiasu, and I like seeing my rebates. Would you honestly think I want to spend RM50 of it, on fees? (make that RM100/year, for both Visa and MasterCard).

    Quick math tells me that I’ll have to spend nearly RM15,000 just to get my cash back, to pay the government.

    Incidentally, a lot of banks throw credit cards against those that hold a loan at their bank. They are free of fees. Should they also now be slapped with an RM50 fee?

    Electronic transactions are safer
    I lived in Australia for many years. There, you can pay for everything, from a 5-dollar latte to a 100-dollar taxi ride, using your bank card, via EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale). There are lofty goals with MEPS in Malaysia, but its just not widely used.

    However, credit cards are widely used and available. No, I still can’t pay for a taxi ride, and we’re very far behind in comparison to Australia, or our little neighbour down south, Singapore, but at least, we’re getting there.

    Charging fees will probably hamper the use of electronic transactions. I have a dream, that when I go to a mamak stall, and order myself a roti telur (double telur!), and a teh tarik, I can use my credit (or debit) card, and pay for it.

    Malaysia has always aimed to be a modern society, and if we can go cashless, we’ll be safer. Crime in Malaysia is already so high, and the last thing we need, is further encouragement from the government, for people to deal in cash transactions. The more we can move to electronic transactions, the better.

    Donning my business hat
    Today, the average Malaysian probably buys a lot of things on these wonderful “easy payment schemes”. You take the item home, and pay for it, with 0% interest, over a period of 12-24 months. This is how people get a snazzy television, a new laptop, or a massage chair. Having less credit cards in circulation, means people potentially buy less stuff. Are you not hampering the economy, this way, as well?

    One more thing…
    As a frequent traveller, I can for one tell you, that the Malaysian Ringgit, is not worth very much. 1 Euro is about RM5, and 1 USD is about RM3.50. Visiting Australia, sets it at 1 AUD being about RM3, while just going down south to Singapore, 1 SGD is about RM2.50. We had a 1:1 currency with Singapore, not long ago, but this “basket peg”, has really undervalued our currency.

    Travellers need more credit cards, plain and simple. What are the other options? Carry a boat load of cash, and lose it at a tourist spot? Travellers cheques, are going out of fashion, like you wouldn’t believe. And the glorious Malaysian ATM cards stop working from midnight-6am Malaysian time (yes, you have to time your withdrawals overseas). And that 6-digit PIN number, tends to not work, in countries where PINs are 4-digits long.

    In conclusion
    Don’t assume the rakyat to be dumb. They can plan for themselves.

    Start an advertising campaign. A Flickr user, Liyin, can help. That image is off to a good start (not CC licensed unfortunately).

    Don’t assume the lenders (banks) to be dumb, either. This isn’t America, and the banking regulations are a lot stricter. Credit cards usually give you a 2-3x salary limit. They ask for papers (salary slips). The banks know how much debt you can handle. Wouldn’t it be better to impose on banks to say, “no to 3x salary, but 2x salary”?

    I want to see online transactions take off. And the solution is not online bank transfers (RM2 GIRO fee applies). Its credit cards.

    Please don’t hurt the rakyat from spending.

    Photo credit: LiewCF on Flickr.