Countries Across Asia Are Ready for Digital Payments. But Are Their Small Businesses and Consumers?

Conditions across Asia are ripe for a surge in digital transaction growth, as we have previously reported in

Factors such as the population’s reliance on cash and high penetration of mobile devices – along with the support of government – are thought to create a significant opportunity for technological advances making electronic payments simpler to take root.

But a fundamental question remains: will businesses and consumers embrace the technology?

According to a recent Economic Times article, the simplicity and convenience offered by the entry into payments by big-name tech companies already known to consumers – such as Google and more recently, WhatsApp – is helping digital payments to gain a foothold among consumers in India, a country where much of the attention regarding the growth of digital transactions is focused.

The article said that, since Google Tez – which partnered with payment facilitators in the region to help board merchants onto its platform – launched last September, the app’s digital payment transaction volume now exceeds that of the fourth-highest bank.

Google Tez tweeted this week that it had 13.5 million users and had processed 250 million transactions.

The Economic Times article quotes Diana Layfield, vice-president of product management at Google as saying, “It is the start of a hockey stick type growth for payments in India.”

The same article cites a forecast from Credit Suisse analysts that electronic payments in India could grow from less than $200 billion to over $1 trillion in five years.

Elsewhere in Asia, businesses are showing signs of embracing technology in general. A study of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore and other ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries found that 60 percent of them planned to invest in technology (vs. other fixed assets) this year.

The ASEAN SME Transformation Study was conducted by United Overseas Bank, EY and Dun & Bradstreet.

The study also found that 78 percent of the businesses surveyed would invest in software, with such activity as web site upgrades and creating mobile apps, the press release said.

“With greater support from the ASEAN-6 governments in the form of grants and subsidies for digitisation and technological innovation, we believe that these will help SMEs attain sustainable growth in today’s digital economy,” Audrey Chia, Chief Executive Officer, Dun & Bradstreet Singapore said in the release.

But showing the rest of Asia – the rest of the world, really – how digital transformation is done, China logged a record US$12.8 trillion in mobile payment transactions from January to October 2017.

The number was more than the entire year in 2016, an article in South China Morning Post said.

“China is recognized as the most advanced market for mobile payments in the world, thanks to WeChat and Alipay,” Paul Haswell, a senior partner at international law firm Pinsent Masons, was quoted in the article as saying.