Mobile payment firms struggle to dethrone cash in Southeast Asia
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.