Thailand’s robust mobile payment landscape has given rise to convenient payment methods that range from mobile payments via one of Thailand’s leading mobile networks, AIS’s mPay to top-up kiosks scattered around public transport platforms and 7-Eleven.
Despite the wide range of attractive post-paid plans offered by mobile network companies, a large fraction of Thais still prefer to use pre-paid plans by regularly “topping” up their mobile credit because of it’s flexibility for those with small budgets.
Companies running the kiosks are also capitalizing on their popularity by offering other services in hopes of maturing the users’ digital habit. Long-standing kiosks such as Boonterm provides a money transfer service and even vending machines that dispenses drinks.
With Thailand’s top-up kiosk market worth approximately $1.9 billion, it’s no surprise more payment options are popping up but who are the country’s main players? And what’s True Money’s role in all of this? eIQ explores Thailand’s mobile top-up landscape.
Boonterm operates under “Forth Smart Service” plc. and offers a pre-paid mobile top-up service to Thai consumers nationwide and owns 45% market share. It also offers online money transfers under the brand “F-Smart”, the user simply inserts cash or coins. F-Smart can also facilitate real time verification of payment and displays past transactions.
The company’s 90,000 kiosks kiosks are available nationwide at convenient locations such as 7-Eleven, Tesco Lotus, Family Mart, Big C, Jiffy Gas Station and Bangkok’s public transportation systems (BTS/MRT).
AJ Termsabuy initially offered a pre-paid mobile top-up service as its main ventricle but has since offered other features such as online mobile games top-up (via True Money), mobile phone bill, insurance and credit card payments.
The company’s key advantage is demographic reach because its 3,7000 kiosks kiosks are installed with five languages: Thai, Burmese, English, Cambodian and Bahasa Melayu.
Singer Thailand plc. is a distributor for electronic products from fridges to sewing machines. The company also owns 20,000 mobile top-up kiosks across Thailand. Jaymart, one of Thailand’s biggest mobile distributors, bought 25% of Singer in 2015 for $30 million. The plan was to combine Singer’s 200 distribution outlets nationwide with Jaymart’s 250 distribution channels to own more of its value chain. Singer’s key target is customers upcountry unlike the other two mentioned.
Thailand’s largest communications conglomerate that owns TrueVisions, TrueMobile and TrueMoney (the latter now tied with Alibaba’s Alipay), True, announced the launch of 40,000 “TrueMoney” kiosks that will allow True users to top-up their mobile accounts and pay online game credit.
Last year, TrueMoney introduced TrueMoney Transfer, an offline remittance service that allows Burmese workers in Thailand to transfer money to families in Burma safely. Prior to this, most workers would ask friends travelling back to Burma to deliver the money in person but there is no guarantee that the money will ever reach the intended receiver.
TrueMoney Transfer has 681 physical counters, or transfer spots, in Myanmar, where family members across the country can pick-up money sent from Thailand with a secure 8-digit code. Workers in Thailand simply visit any of the 250 transfer spots in Thailand, Bangkok, Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakarn, Tak, Ranong, Kanchanaburi, and Phuket, to complete a real-time transaction.
Currently, this service is available through only TrueMoney Transfer service points and the TrueMoney mobile app.
True’s move: Another step towards monopolization?
It gets more interesting when we take into account that True owns 9,000 7-Eleven branches nationwide. A True spokesperson declared that for phase I of “TrueMoney Kiosk”, the company will only be placing a handful of kiosks at 7-Eleven and coffee shops to test out the public’s reception to its mobile top-up service.
However, the power of a wide offline footprint and its convenience factor makes it hardly surprising if TrueMoney kiosks did end up at all of the 7-Eleven branches and effectively squeeze out Boonterm from its usual turf. Last year, 7-Eleven made headlines when it discontinued its partnership with AIS, which meant that 1-2-call mobile top-up cards could no longer be purchased from any of the convenience stores across Thailand.
As True has not yet begun introducing phase I, smaller “top up” players have time to push more aggressive marketing initiatives, one that typically begins with education or others will simply have to adapt or die.