Interview with : Matthias Wei Lian Low
Director of Paypb
Introduce yourself for our readers, please.
My name is Matthias Wei Lian Low. I come from Singapore. My Dad is a Malaysian-Chinese and my mom is from Myanmar. Therefore, I am part Burmese and I can speak some Burmese as well. I grew up and studied in Singapore and then went to university in Brisbane, Australia. I then worked in Singapore for a couple of years and here I am now in Myanmar, working on a new startup, Paypb.
Could you tell us more about Paypb?
The name of this company, Paypb was created together with one of my cousins, Ma Aye Moe Moe. We were having a chat on the mobile payments industry and in the midst of our brainstorming session, Ma Aye Moe Moe spontaneously coined the name “Paypb”. The next thing we did was to register the company with this name and thus, Paypb was born. Right now, Paypb is enabling local merchants in Myanmar to accept foreign wallets – starting with WeChat Pay. We have already begun our pilot project at the Mandalay International Airport where we are currently processing WeChat Pay transactions for our merchants. One distinction we have is that we are neither owned by nor an agent of WeChat Pay. We are a payment processing company which is as much independent as we are local. During this initial phase, we are working with WeChat Pay as the first cross-border wallet being legally accepted here in Myanmar. We are working hard to bring many other cross-border wallets from various countries, especially in the neighboring regions, into Myanmar for the convenience of travelers from these nations as well as that for our local merchants. We will progressively apply for the respective licenses from the Central Bank of Myanmar and only when we get the green light will we implement more cross-border wallets onto our platform. This will vastly improve our value proposition to our local merchants as well as the ever-growing number of travelers coming to Myanmar.
What are the requirements and criteria to use this application?
Firstly, you have to be a merchant, which means you have to have a business here in Myanmar. It doesn’t matter if your shop or office is small or big or if it is an online shop.
We cater to all kinds of businesses. Secondly, your business have to be a legally registered one – meaning you have to have a license from the respective states’ City Development Committee such as Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) and Mandalay City Development Committee (MCDC) to name a few. These are the two fundamental criteria you need to fulfil to be a merchant of Paypb.
Like I said, we may be only working with WeChat Pay right now, but we do have access to 12 other cross-border wallets
Who are your target markets?
According to our research, there are a lot of Chinese people going to Mandalay either for vacation or for work. Hence, the target market we are targeting at now are tourists and business travelers, mainly from China. This is why we have started with WeChat Pay as the first cross-border wallet. This is also one of the reasons why we chose to launch the our pilot project first in Mandalay and not in Yangon because WeChat Pay is only legally available to citizens of China as well as those who are legally working in China. Those who fall outside these two categories cannot use WeChat Pay legally. You can use WeChat messenger but not WeChat Pay. For now, we are mainly targeting local merchants and foreign users but we do have plans to introduce our own local Myanmar e-wallet for local Myanmar citizens in future.
What companies are you currently working with?
Right now, we are currently working with our Strategic Partner from Hong Kong, QFPay International. Our companies had initiated talks about collaborations in the mobile payments industry about a year and a half ago. Other companies we are working with include Tencent, who owns WeChat, of course. We have a very close relationship with these two companies.
How many cross border payments are currently available in Myanmar? Legally speaking, right now, as of May the 9th 2019, Paypb is the only one in operation. I do know some few illegal cross-border payments operators, but they have already been ordered to cease operations by the Central Bank of Myanmar. Then again, there are still illegal mobile payment activities going on in the country. There are people from, or who are working in China, who are selling WeChat Pay enabled accounts to those who otherwise are not able to legally use one. If you use it for small personal transactions, I think it is not that much of a big deal but if you use it as a merchant and accept transactions from WeChat Pay users, then this is a very serious problem for the country as a whole. During this illegal transaction process, the money does not come into Myanmar but instead stays in China. Imagine this on a macro scale and you get people evading taxes. How can the country prosper? Taxes that should be paid are not rightfully channeled to public projects such as infrastructure upgrades, etc. But now, WeChat has undertaken the responsibility to curb these illegal usages of WeChat Pay and has been freezing accounts that are deemed to be illegitimate.
Who are your competitors?
We do not have any legal, if I might add, competition right now but we don’t expect it to stay this way for long. In fact, we welcome healthy competition, because we see competition as the driving force to keep companies in check to always have their customers’ best interests at heart. This will ensure that quality user experience, great value and the best services will always be at the apex of the mission of every player in this market. Therefore, we really do welcome fair competition. As for our future competitors, I cannot say who they will eventually be and right now, all I can only do is guess. The major local wallets out there, they have already been in operations for a time and we believe that it is likely that they will potentially become our competitors.
areas, people have to do things like mass bill collections, where one has to walk down to the collection points to pay their bills with cash. As with all manual processes, many things can go wrong, making it very inefficient. We all know that the only way for a country to grow is to constantly upgrade and build new and improved infrastructure such as roads, bridges, housing, as well networking and telecommunications equipment. The only sustainable way for a country to get its revenue to fund these important projects is through taxes. We foresee that after digital and mobile payments become more popular, they will in turn make tax payments much simpler. When I talk about taxes, I don’t just mean income tax but also the myriad of different taxes that exist. What is happening now is that, even though people are willing to pay their taxes, the process can be far from straightforward. Now imagine an economy where the friction of payments is all but nonexistent with paypb as the lubricant.
What will be your competitive advantage when those local wallets get into the market?
Like I said, we may be only working with WeChat Pay right now, but we do have access to 12 other cross-border wallets. The thing is when we grow to the point where we can get to implement these 12 other cross-border wallets, all of our merchants will then be able to accept 12 different payment methods all within a single application either on their Android or iOS devices or through our Paypb point-of-sale (POS) terminals. So basically, you will only see WeChat Pay being accepted on our merchant terminal now, but as we progress further and of course with the relevant licenses, the others cross-border wallets will be shown for the merchants to choose from during a sale. If you are familiar with banking in Myanmar, you will know that each time you receive funds from overseas, you will most certainly pay exorbitant bank fees due to the limitations of the local banks in Myanmar with respect to the global SWIFT network. As compared to those in other countries, local banks here have to go through quite a number of intermediary banks in between and as a result, the costs of doing cross-border transactions are very high. One of the key promises we make to our merchants is that we will always absorb these transaction costs in order to make this cross-border payment not only sustainable for them but also
seamless as a whole. What they see is what they get – no hidden fees or extra costs. These are going to be our competitive advantages.
In how many countries can Paypb be used? For now, Paypb is only available in Myanmar. Also, like I have mentioned before, we do have plans to come up with a local paypb e-wallet. In future, what our value proposition would be is that right now, foreigners are coming, they use cross-border payment methods like WeChat Pay for a purchase at our Paypb merchants. In the future, local Myanmar consumers using paypb can go overseas, say China, and use paypb to purchase goods and services at partnered overseas merchants. What this means is that local Myanmar consumers will not have to convert Myanmar kyat to any other foreign currencies as they can just pay with Myanmar Kyat via Paypb. That is the vision of Paypb. Also, we promise our merchants that the transacted amounts will be available within three working days. This entire process is like clockwork – after three working days, all the merchants have to do is to check their bank accounts and they will see that the money is in.
Is there any bank related limitation for the merchants?
For this matter, technically speaking, they can use whatever bank they like as long as Paypb has an account with that bank. I guess here in Myanmar, most banks do not provide interbank transfer services. This is the one key limitation so if we do not have a bank account in common bank with the merchant, they will then have to open a bank account in any of the banks that we have an account with.
What is your long-term plan?
Our vision is to make Myanmar a smart country. Right now, from how we see it, there are so many challenges, in terms of people in their daily lives, business doing business the way it is being done now. As you can see, there are so many places, especially in the ru
ral areas, people have to do things like mass bill collections, where one has to walk down to the collection points to pay their bills with cash. As with all manual processes, many things can go wrong, making it very inefficient. We all know that the only way for a country to grow is to constantly upgrade and build new and improved infrastructure such as roads, bridges, housing, as well networking and telecommunications equipment. The only sustainable way for a country to get its revenue to fund these important projects is through taxes. We foresee that after digital and mobile payments become more popular, they will in turn make tax payments much simpler. When I talk about taxes, I don’t just mean income tax but also the myriad of different taxes that exist. What is happening now is that, even though people are willing to pay their taxes, the process can be far from straightforward. Now imagine an economy where the friction of payments is all but nonexistent with paypb as the lubricant.
What is your view on current Myanmar’s digital payment system and market?
We are only at the nascent stage of this market and it is still deciding what it wants. As the market develops further, we undoubtedly expect tremendous competition. This will most definitely create an environment where only quality players can survive. Even now, we have seen many players come in big with much hoorah but have since left quietly after a few short years. For those that remain, many of them, it seems, are surviving for now. As for the consumers, I am actually very encouraged that more and more people are engaging in conversations regarding the country’s digital economy. From streaming services to ecommerce platforms, we all know the successes of these digital services in other countries, developing and developed alike. The most common saying about digital services, most notably ecommerce, that you might have heard is that it has boomed in many neighboring countries around Myanmar. Who is to say that it will not happen here? I believe that day will eventually come here in Myanmar and when it arrives, you will see the spillover effects to many other digital services especially epayments. When the local market has finally decided what it wants, we will then see the winners pave the way for the advancement of the country’s digital economy.