Funny money in Myanmar’s fintech sector
IN LESS than a year, OK Dollar’s bright yellow billboards have become a feature of the Yangon streetscape, visible from flyovers and high rises, at street level and in traffic jams.
The company, a subsidiary of Internet Wallet, is winning many customers to its service, which enables them to deposit, withdraw, send and receive money using an online account. They can also use the wallet to pay for a range of goods and services.
OK Dollar is one of the new breed of “fintech” companies taking advantage of rapidly growing mobile phone and internet use to offer financial services. And OK Dollar appears to be leading the pack. According to business manager Ma Zin Mar Nu, the service has attracted about 100,000 users since it launched in June 2016.
There are two reasons for OK Dollar’s success. The first is convenience. OK Dollar is easy to use, but also has a wide network of partners with which users can pay for everything from phone top-up cards and bus tickets to wedding and holiday packages. The company has developed a platform that encourages its customers to not only bank with OK Dollar, but also use it regularly for purchases.
The other factor is that it’s cheap; money transfers, known as remittances, are free.
There’s only one problem. OK Dollar doesn’t have what’s known as a Mobile Financial Services licence – a licence for non-bank financial institutions to perform tasks such as accept deposits and transfer money using a mobile platform.
Instead, it appears to be operating in a grey area with little regulation. In an industry that is yet to find its feet, that has many concerned – and confused as to why the regulator, the Central Bank of Myanmar, is not taking a tougher line.
Photo courtesy of Uditha Wickramanayaka.