Thailand’s information and technology spending is on track for double-digit growth this year, helped by the national e-payment scheme and the development of Thailand 4.0 initiative, reports the Bangkok Post.

Thailand 4.0 refers to the development of a value added economy of innovation and creativity, a government backed initiative.

“The growth is to come from both the public and private sectors, especially the financial sector,” said Supakit Tiyawatchalapong, managing director of Computer Union. Despite the economic slowdown, both agencies and private firms are increasingly moving towards modernizing their systems to survive in the new era of competition and growth.

Modernising data infrastructure, especially data centre updates and consolidation, adopting cloud computing technology and big data analytics can cut costs and enhance business agility.

Businesses are shifting IT budgets to software and IT services to enable infrastructure management, rather than only build hardware.

Andrew Yeong, general manager of Asia-Pacific for Lexmark International said that the company is now offering enterprise solutions to help users manage their documents.

“A mobile workforce needs access to information any time, anywhere. More and more employees rely on mobile devices to work,” he says.

However, despite the positive outlook for Thailand’s IT sector, it appears that the country knows very little about the government’s 4.0 initiative. According to a survey carried out by the Thai Chamber of Commerce, 58% of respondents in the SME sector said they do not know much about Thailand 4.0.

What is Thailand 4.0?

According to Bangkok Post, Thailand 4.0 is the vision of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his government to revamp the economy so it is driven by creativity and innovation. The goal is to move the country out of the middle-income trap.

Thailand 1.0 was retroactively used to describe the period when agriculture was the major economic driver while 2.0 focused on light industries. Thailand 3.0 relied on heavy industries and exports.

A version of this appeared in The Bangkok Post on September 1. Read the full version here

reduce foreign exchange fee

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A new service proposed by OFX, one of the world’s largest international payments businesses, will enable merchants to reduce the foreign exchange fee faced when selling on international marketplaces by 6-fold according to Forbes. The service is already running in Hong Kong and will soon be launched in Singapore and China.

One of the complexities to manage when selling across international borders is currency exchange. As a merchant, it can be a real punch in the gut when you lose money in forex and on top of that, have to pay 3-4% fees to marketplaces like Amazon and eBay to convert money back into your home currency. “Given how slim online retail margins are, this is a big deal,” says Richard Kimber, CEO of OFX.

To alleviate the pain of paying such fees to marketplaces, OFX, one of the world’s largest international payments businesses has launched a new service called OFX for Online Sellers.  Jeff Parker, Chief Enterprise Officer for OFX comments,

Exchange rates and associated fees can mean the difference between growth and stagnation for emerging merchants

When you’re ready to move the money back into your local Hong Kong account, you only pay 0.5% commissions to OFX rather than 3-4% to Amazon. There is no charge to open an online seller account and no account keeping fees. By collecting money in domestically held accounts via OFX for Online Sellers, OFX is allowing merchants to save up to 60% in exchange rates.

The service to reduce foreign exchange fees currently works for merchants who sell to or from North America, UK, Europe, Hong Kong and Australia. It will soon add Singapore and China to the list. Right now, the site is only in English but will offer multiple languages later down the road.

Parker concludes: “We’re providing the means for merchants to reach new customers across country borders.”

A version of this appeared in Forbes on July 6. Read the full article here

Take Down Traditional Finance Companies


FinAccel is a new company that aims to take down traditional finance companies proposing a different approach: enabling a credit line for online purchases.

The company is based in Jakarta, Indonesia, and essentially acts as a layer between its credit card and lending company partners and consumers buying online.

Started last year by Akshay Garg, who founded ad tech firm Komli, ex-McKinsey consultant Umang Rustagi, and Alie Tan, formerly of a number of startups, the company has raised an undisclosed seed round, which TechCrunch understands to be more than $1 million, led by Jungle Ventures to get started.

The idea behind FinAccel is to disrupt the credit industry by enabling consumers to reap the benefits with a model that fits today’s digital era.

Initially in Indonesia only, customers have 30 days to repay the amount at no added cost, but the startup is planning to introduce credit card-style payback plans soon.

We are basically putting a virtual credit in hands of five to 10 million people in next five years[…].

We want to go hard against the consumer finance companies,” Garg said. “There’s a crazy amount of bullshit marketing in the industry today” justifying the willingness to take down traditional finance companies

The goal, he explained, is more than just beating existing finance companies, FinAccel wants to unlock new consumer spending opportunities, particularly in the ecommerce space.

FinAccel has plans to be present across Southeast Asia’s six main countries with an expansion that will likely kick off next year starting with Thailand.

The lack of credit cards in emerging markets like Southeast Asia is one of the major hurdles that online commerce companies are facing.

A version of this appeared in TechCruch on June 1. Read the full article here.

Facebook is targeting social commerce payments in Southeast Asia with a new trial that allows users to pay for products listed on Facebook Pages with just a few clicks.

The social network is running a trial in Thailand which allows users to make a payment to a Page owner without leaving the social network.

Qwik is a product powered by Southeast Asia-based fintech company 2C2P, one of the most popular payment solutions tailored for the local needs of Asian and international businesses operating in Asia Pacific. Qwik allows users to make payment via a credit card, debit card or bank transfer online, according to numerous sources with knowledge of the trial.

Social dominance in Asia is already well known and its influence extends to commerce, with many small and independent retailers using Facebook Pages to build and engage their audience and, of course, sell products.

The process of buying from social – browsing, reaching the seller through the message button, requesting bank account details, doing the transfer on an ATM, etc. – is hugely cumbersome for the customer in emerging markets as majority do not own credit cards, nor are familiar with internet banking but the fact is, people are so keen to buy online that they’ll jump through all types of hoops to do so.

This trial, which is somewhere in the alpha stage, is an early indicator of Facebook’s intent to keep all the processes of the social commerce transaction on its platform. Either way, this trial is the loudest signal to date of Facebook’s interest in social commerce payments in Southeast Asia and potentially other parts of Asia and emerging markets. The company has already dabbled with commerce with a feature to let users find local services which is currently being tested in India and Indonesia. While the technology behind Qwik is hardly revolutionary, entering the payment space is a major move.

A version of this appeared in Tech Crunch on June 9. Read the full article here.

Southeast Asia fintech opportunity

Source : Bidness etc

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s financial affiliate is planning to purchase a 20 percent stake in Thailand’s Ascend Money in a bid to seize Southeast Asia fintech opportunity. Investment in fintech startups in Asia reached US$797 million in 2014.

An investment into Ascend Money, parent of True Money and Ascend Nano, would help Ant Financial expand its online payments and small loans business in Southeast Asia.

Ant Financial, which is said to be valued at about $60 billion, is following billionaire Ma’s aspirations for global expansion. The Ascend Nano unit is a microfinance and personal loans provider with staff throughout Southeast Asia. True Money provides cash cards and electronic wallets, and holds financial-services licenses in key Southeast Asian markets. The division’s goal is to spread ecommerce and electronic payments services to places where many users lack bank accounts such as Myanmar and Indonesia. This could pave the way for Alipay to dominate Southeast Asia’s payment problem.

A version of this appeared in Bloomberg on June 18. Read the full article here.