Mobile payment firms struggle to dethrone cash in Southeast Asia

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

By Aradhana Aravindan, Khanh Vu

Bui Mai Phuong is an avid online shopper, ordering anything from clothing to personal-care products from her smartphone. But she prefers to pay with cash.

She is among hundreds of millions of people whom firms such as Softbank Group-backed Grab and China’s Tencent want to win over as they try to tap into Southeast Asia’s burgeoning internet sector.

More than 70 percent of the region’s 600 million-plus people do not use banks – higher than the global average of about 30 percent – and e-commerce is projected to hit $88 billion by 2025.

But convincing consumers like Phuong, who lives in Hanoi, could be tricky.

“I have never tried using mobile payments because I don’t know how to use it and it seems a bit complicated to use,” said Phuong, 36, a manager at a construction material supplier in Vietnam.

Mobile payments are ubiquitous in China; a consumer can spend a day without using cash at all in Beijing or Shanghai, and even some beggars accept mobile payments. But cash remains king in Southeast Asia.

Photo courtesy of Jaume Escofet.

Source: Reuters (link opens in a new window)

digital payments, fintech