Driving electronic payment expansion in T&T

Port of Spain, Trinidad, February 15th, 2018


Bmobile’s digital transformation is being fueled by the company’s extensive investments in technology that is benefiting not just the company but customers and local businesses. The pervasive access the public has to better mobile data services and smart devices is an important ingredient for small businesses to exploit new electronic payment options for e-commerce.

“During this current challenging economic time, we need more entrepreneurs and organizations engaged in the digital space to contribute to the development of our society” stated Glynis Alexander-Tam, General Manager of InfoLink Services Limited, at the 2018 Trinidad and Tobago Internet Governance Forum hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Multistakeholder Advisory Group. Steady advancements in technology have catalyzed the growth of e-commerce globally and trends show that businesses are capitalizing on these opportunities which have not only reconfigured the modern marketplace but benefit both business and consumer.

“Encouraging more electronic transactions enables businesses to become more productive, efficient and effective" said Alexander-Tam and she stressed the need for more companies to offer solutions that are affordable to every-sized business and to encourage behaviour change in local consumers.  "We need to educate both businesses and consumers about the options available and the benefits of electronic transactions including the significant emphasis that is placed on the security aspect of electronic transactions which minimize the risk of fraud."

A report by renowned international statistics portal, Statista, revealed that in 2017, global e-commerce figures soared to US$2.3 trillion and it is expected to reach US$4.5 trillion by 2021.  During the panel discussion on the growth and emerging trends of Digital Financial Services in Trinidad and Tobago, Alexander-Tam was keen to note that there is an increasing demand for Trinidad and Tobago to follow the global example and facilitate more electronic transactions.

Panelist Zaf Rahaman, Owner and Founder of Forward Multimedia; a company that offers e-commerce website design and social media marketing, stated that ecommerce is growing locally.  "We have moved from an average cost of $USD 1,800 to set up an ecommerce platform in Trinidad and Tobago to being able to quickly launch payment platforms that are more user-friendly and very affordable.  Conducting financial business online is now within the reach of everyone."  However he noted that the uptake of online payment solutions locally was still low and one of the key reasons was a lack of knowledge among small and medium enterprises (SME's) and the general population of the options available.  "Companies have accepted the need for a website.  The next step is to accept online payments which is a vital business aid to companies of all sizes as it provides tangible benefits such as lower business costs, faster financial transactions and increased access to payments.  Most persons are familiar only with PayPal which does not facilitate payments directly to local bank accounts.  There are other payment-friendly online options for local businesses."

WiPay, which recently entered in a business agreement with bmobile, offers one of these payment-friendly online options for local businesses and has helped about 10,000 entrepreneurs get their business payments online in the last 6 months.  Aldwyn Wayne, CEO of WiPay, indicated that the platform allows businesses to quickly and easily begin accepting cash or credit card payments online, from anywhere in the world, directly to their bank account and without the high fees and red tape associated with traditional banking.

Using the recently launched Massy Stores' "Massy On The Go" shopping app developed by WiPay as an example, Wayne remarked that the best way to change behaviour was to offer solutions that bring benefits to people's daily lives.  The app allows a person to use their mobile phone to scan and pay for up to 5 items at the grocery without having to line up.  "Here the benefit to the consumer is convenience without having to think about the details of the technology behind it."  Wayne also noted that Trinidad and Tobago is a cash-based culture so his company sought to find ways to digitize cash by allowing persons to use their cash to pay online. "We used existing systems that people are familiar and comfortable with, such as buying a phone card which converts cash into phone credit, and built on top of this.  Persons can now go to a phone retail store, NLCB booth or Massy Store, buy a top up and use it for ecommerce payments.  There's now inclusion for everyone not just the percentage of our population that have credit cards."

Other payment solutions discussed were Samsung Pay and Apple Pay which facilitate purchases in-store and online using credit and debit cards with just a tap on mobile phones, as well as peer-to-peer payments such as Square and PayPal. The forum, themed “Shape Your Digital Future”, was held at the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce. The keynote address was delivered by Shola Taylor, Secretary General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation.