Dominant celco Dialog is anticipating reaching five million users for eZ Cash over the course of 2016. There are currently 1.9 million eZ Cash users, according to Fariq Cader, the mobile operator’s Vice President of Digital Services. As of today, eZ Cash is accessible via smart phones connected to three local mobile networks, as well [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

eZ Cash users to reach 5 mln by 2016


Dominant celco Dialog is anticipating reaching five million users for eZ Cash over the course of 2016. There are currently 1.9 million eZ Cash users, according to Fariq Cader, the mobile operator’s Vice President of Digital Services.

A mobile phone with the corporate Dialog NFC fuel sticker transacting with a NFC-enabled Point of Sale machine

As of today, eZ Cash is accessible via smart phones connected to three local mobile networks, as well as even with Dialog’s range of Near Field Communication (NFC) cards.

Speaking to the Business Times, Mr. Cader revealed an ongoing push was underway for eZ Cash, which also recently received global recognition for being one of the only products to attract competing celcos Etisalat and Hutch as partners; adding that one of the two remaining locally operating celco hold-outs, Airtel, planned to soon join eZ Cash as well.

He also noted that Dialog was also on the verge of announcing that a number of Commercial Bank card less transaction ATMs would soon go online with the eZ Cash network, facilitating cash withdrawals.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cader also noted the synergies that existed with eZ Cash and Dialog’s growing NFC cards and stickers, which could also house prepaid eZ Cash amounts. Available to buy at around 600 outlets in the Western Province, the main uses of NFC cards and stickers locally were for paying for petrol and diesel and bus transportation.

Elaborating, Mr. Cader explained that the creation of the Dialog NFC Fuel Card stemmed from its solution to surmount an existing “pain point”, distinct fuel allowances for staff at different levels of the corporate hierarchy, which resulted in a variety of complex and bureaucratic administration processes. Once the NFC card and sticker solutions were developed, the company also realised the same problem was shared by most local corporates, so it was pitched to a number of them, ultimately becoming a successful product for the celco. Currently, 160 petrol stations all over Sri Lanka service this product, which Dialog provides for as many as 300 corporates.

In terms of bus transportation, Mr. Cader identified the giving and receiving of exact change in terms of coins as being a common problem for

The entire range of Dialog NFC Cards, which includes a bus pass, a seasonal bus pass and a fuel card.

commuters and conductors alike. While, for the bus owner, some saw as much as 20-30 per cent pilferage since tickets were not regularly issued.
He also added that, when Dialog took the idea to the Central Bank for approval, it was very well received. This was because of major issues with minting coins locally, namely the metal value of a coin being more than the face value, resulting in losses. Also, a scarcity of coins exists because most end up in tills in local temples, as well as even in temples in India.

As such, Dialog initially started a programme wherein it signed with the Western Province private bus authority, allowing for 1,200 buses, to date, accepting these NFC Bus cards. “We have about 13,000 cards in use. The next step is to get Central Bank approval to expand this via the Sri Lanka Transport Board. The good thing is we already have 2,000 buses using these machines, mainly for ticketing purposes,” said Mr. Cader. He also added that it is only a matter of time before all 2,000 machines will accept payments as well.

Mr. Cader also stated that Dialog has already signed up with seven transport authorities, both provincial and national, out of the 11 that currently exist today, with the plan being to expand, both intra- and inter-province usage, from one province to the next. Dialog has also signed up with the Road Development Authority, which has approved the NFC Bus Card for Galle highway buses, with its use for the airport highway buses soon to be approved.

He also reiterated that this solution is not restricted to transportation only, with Dialog already holding a pilot programme to pay for parking in Fort via NFC cards. This, said Mr. Cader, is because the problem with paying for parking, again, is with coins; “coins are a big issue all over and this is what we are trying to solve, because NFC is an access medium”.

Adding to this, he also said, “when one looks at Over The Counter (OTC) payments, when people are facing a cashier, we have found that they still want to pay mostly in cash or credit cards or debit cards, the simple reason is that, may be people don’t want to be meddling with their eZ Cash in front of a cashier. But what we want to bring in is there are some cases like when people are out of money and they want to buy

Dialog's Fariq Cader speaks on how he uses his own NFC stickered phone

something, they can get someone to send them eZ Cash and then just tap their phone to buy with little effort”.

He also noted a number of interesting cases where NFC technology has been deployed for clients. For example, for a garment industry client, they implemented a solution to help with line balancing, where data was collected from NFC enabled staff ID cards,which were used to access staff transportation, to identify staff attendance at the point of their boarding staff transport vehicles so as to manage the production lines more efficiently.

Commenting further on the eZ Cash mobile wallet, which may prove to be the biggest user for the NFC access medium going forward, he said, “After two years, people have realised what this is about. Also, we are adding a lot more products to the portfolio. We started off with paying utility bills and Dialog TV and now we have many more services. We started off with 10,000 merchants and now we have more than 20,000 merchants. Many more (strategic partnerships) have been signed. Pretty much all the big insurance companies have joined, all the main retailers, etc. The finance companies, despite initially having some regulatory issues with joining have received Central Bank clearance, and Central Finance and CDB have already come on board… We are also hoping that the regulator will also allow us to offer loan and savings products”.

He also said, “what we are doing right now is getting merchants on board. We have also done some interesting products with ICTA where any service that comes online can be paid via eZ Cash. The Western Province is not online yet but the Southern Province and other areas provide a number of eZ Cash payable services”.

Said Mr. Cader, “What we realised is that there are only about, conservatively, 1.6 million credit cards in circulation, while usage is only about 500,000 to 550,000 and when you look at the typical sizes of the payments, for example, a Department of Education transcripts costs Rs. 200, people will not want to expose their credit cards for such a small amount. Because it only takes your 16 digit credit card number and the 3 digit CVV to do a transaction, you don’t need the card itself”.

Further, he noted, when it came to eZ Cash, even if one used someone else’s mobile wallet number, and the related PIN number, a payment could not be made without the phone itself.

“So we have about close to 200 Internet merchants. We are specially targeting the small timers, those who are having a tough time getting payment gateways from top banks because they have issues with providing the paperwork required, maintaining deposits of certain amount, etc. Because we don’t need anything, we just give the APIs and they do it all on their own. This is another area we are seeing some progress,” said Mr. Cader.

Concluding, he shared another example, “where small entrepreneurs, like housewives, run a small catering business on the side but usually have to stay small, making cupcakes and short eats, etc. Previously they were servicing only friends and family because of too much of a risk of non-payment but now they could now offer their services to outsiders, fostering a larger pool of potential customers, by asking for advance first via an eZ Cash deposit”.

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