Globe, PLDT battle it out in cashless payments

MANILA, Philippines – The competition between the country's two telecommunications giants, Globe Telecom Incorporated and PLDT Incorporated, has spilled over into mobile payments, as they rush to serve a budding market that is slowly doing away with banknotes and coins. 

Jack Ma, billionaire founder of financial technology firm Ant Financial, on Wednesday, October 25, visited the Philippines in time for the launch of Globe's new payment technology. Through the GCash app, users can now scan quick response (QR) codes and shop at Ayala's Glorietta 4 mall in Makati City. (LIVE: Jack Ma in Manila)

On the same day, PLDT unit PayMaya Philippines announced its scan-to-pay technology's availability across the Philippines, with select merchants in key cities allowing consumers to pay by simply scanning QR codes through the PayMaya app.

"We welcome competition. For us, it is about coopetition. The more players coming in, the more Filipinos will adapt to the technology. Our end-goal is really that GCash eventually becomes their wallet. But first, we need to get in more merchants," GCash president Albert Tinio told reporters on the sidelines of the launch in Makati City on Wednesday.

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GCash, which was launched 12 years ago, currently has 5 million subscribers, according to Tinio. By the end of 2017, the firm targets to double this number. (READ: Helping sari-sari store owners through technology)

"The market here is young and still small compared to other countries like China. But that is because there are certain conditions in those countries that aren't present here," Tinio said.

Based on data from global payments technology firm Visa Incorporated, card penetration in the Philippines was at 11.4% in 2015, higher than the 9.2% in 2010. But cash remains king, accounting for bulk of transactions at 82.3% in 2015. This, however, is down from 2010's 84.4%.

"As PayMaya continues to grow nationwide, we take a giant step for our customers by making QR code payments available to all kinds of merchants," Orlando Vea, president and chief executive officer of PayMaya Philippines, said in a statement on Wednesday.

It was in 2014 when PLDT partnered with Rocket Internet to mainly launch its joint venture now known as PayMaya, offering mobile-first payment services. This supported the telco's existing mobile money services under Smart Money.

Meanwhile, Globe inked a deal with Ant Financial last February, with the Alibaba unit subscribing to new shares in Globe Fintech Innovations Incorporated (Mynt).

"Going back 12 years ago, GCash was a Globe product and wallet. What Ant [Financial] is teaching us is their experience. In China, there are 450 million users of mobile payments. But before they got there, they experienced challenges. With our partnership, we have the benefit of learning from their experience. We don't have to wait for us to experience it ourselves," Tinio told reporters.

In the future, Globe and PLDT are targeting to equip various retail partners – down to the sari-sari store levels – with QR codes.

The GCash president said he hopes to see street vendors using QR codes as payments in the next few years. The same goes for the PayMaya president, who said his firm wants micro and small enterprises to utilize QR codes for purchases and money transfers. – Rappler.com