Despite all the challenges involved in the financial inclusion of the unbanked population, Singapore-based Nearex has still managed to emerge as a startup with payment hardware specially geared towards the rise of micro-merchants.
Its goal is to bring everyone into financial inclusion. It has successfully tested its products in developing countries such as Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
The Nearex team has realized that enabling cashless, small day-to-day payments using mobile wallets in the emerging world is a business opportunity worth hundreds of billion dollars annually.
Mobile phones may address the consumer side of this need but unless all small merchants can accept mobile payments, cashless micropayments will remain a myth.
Any solution has to be as easy to use as cash, while being affordable for both sides. Nearex has developed Xip, a mobile micropayment solution that meets this very need.
To gain a greater insight on developing hardware scene for the Bottom of Pyramid, we spoke to Nearex’s CEO, Mayank Sharma.
Innovation is Everywhere (“IIEV”): Hello Mayank, nice to have a chat with you about Nearex, could you share what Nearex provides?
Mayank Sharma: Nearex is geared as a technology provider to micro-merchants who have traditionally relied on cash. We want to enable their access to funds by going mobile so we work with existing wallets and integrate with back-end technology to offer a fully integrated solution to merchants in developing payment ecosystems.
IIEV: Could you share more about how the features of your NFC-enabled XipPOS device are adapted to the Bottom of Pyramid?
Mayank Sharma: XipPOS emphasizes on convenience and speed. It can run on a GPRS signal and has its own SIM-card to ensure connectivity for transaction processing regardless of the merchant’s own connectivity.
Its battery life is also estimated to be around 4 days to enable maximum use. The machine is also easy-to-use and portable which allow it to be used in a wider range of situations such as Tuk-Tuks in Thailand.
We also have remote-key injections to enhance the features of the device such as integrating a loyalty rewards scheme into the software at the request of the merchant.
IIEV: Within the micropayments landscape, where has XipPAY expanded to?
Mayank Sharma: We started out with micro-merchants in Zimbabwe and Tanzania by allowing payments using our devices via a XipTAG, an NFC sticker with stored value.
Currently, we are expanding into transport payments for the unorganized public transport networks worldwide such as the auto rickshaw in India, motorbike taxis across Africa, Tuk Tuks in Thailand and Jeepneys in the Philippines.
Nearex has noted that these merchants encountered the same problems with collecting and handling cash as their organized counterparts – small cash payments that result in a need for small change, theft, pilferage, and accounting.
Hence, our stored value solution based on our Xip micropayment platform aims to solve these problems. The solution is built around the award-winning XipPOS which serves as a low-cost in-vehicle fare collection device which can collect fares even with no connectivity.
The customers carry the XipTAG, an NFC card or a sticker, which securely stores a value which can be topped up by agents, also carrying the XipPOS.
IIEV: What do you think is critical in catalyzing the adoption of such systems?
Mayank Sharma: Currently the cash out activity by merchants is limiting the adoption of digital payments. Hence, the emphasis on the need to move micropayments to the top in order to complete financial inclusion. Nearex has focused on affordability by reducing transaction costs for merchants via our XipPAY hardware.
It costs like a feature phone but is not complicated by issues such as the employees using the device to play games which are problems associated with using a smartphone device within a store.
We’ve also partnered with companies such as Econet to offer our device for $3.70 a month, which facilitates payment processing at a low cost to the merchant. Furthermore, government subsidies are also available to merchants which drive the costs lower still.
Hence, the option of low transaction costs with our system makes it cheaper than the cash-out option, promoting its continued adoption.
IIEV: Thank you Mayank for your time.