iPay88 moves into Philippines market

  • iPay88 gets a more regional outlook
  • Opportunities about in the Philippines

 LIM Kok Hing, executive director of Mobile88.com Sdn Bhd (iPay88), had just returned from Manila on April 18 and was gushing about the opportunities in the Philippines.
“It is really a vibrant place,” he says, equating it with how Indonesia was five years ago. “Today, everyone is pouring into Indonesia, but what if you had gone in five years ago?”
Lim feels Malaysian entrepreneurs can make up for that lost opportunity in Indonesia by getting into the Philippines now, though he notes that it is still an unnoticed market by Malaysians.
[Not unnoticed anymore as CIMB Bhd announced on May 8 that it was acquiring the ninth largest bank in the Philippines, Bank of Commerce.]
iPay88 operates one of the leading online payment systems in the country and is popular with large merchants and even right down to the individual blog shops that have mushroomed over the last two years.
Lim says that today iPay88 has 5,000 merchants (including blog shops) online and handles over 300,000 e-commerce transactions a month, with fewer than 100 disputes with merchants. Total monthly transactional volume is RM20 million a month and the company had RM6.4 million revenues in 2011.
“Over the years we have built up our capabilities to handle pre- and post-transaction fraud detection. In this area, it is very important to detect any irregular patterns quickly,” he says.
It is this rich domain experience and expertise that iPay88 has built up serving the Malaysian market since 2006 that has brought it to the attention of leading banks in the Philippines.
“We are finding that a number of leading banks there are keen to offer e-commerce supporting infrastructure and hence their interest in our solutions as they are aware of our track record in Malaysia,” says Lim.
In fact such is the interest in iPay88, that the banks are waiting to buy his solutions but he needs to get his company registered first, he claims.
His trip to Manila late last month was to appoint a country manager for iPay and the first task was to lease office space in the CBD (Central Business District) of Manila, Makati District.
“That is where all the banks are and we have to be close by,” he says, adding that the local office there will be formally set up by June.
At the same time, Lim has also appointed a local partner in Manila to help localise content for his mobile phone content portal, mobile88.com.ph. “We go live in June,” he says.
For those not familiar with Lim’s story, he and his partner, Chong Lee Kean, his chief technology officer, actually started business with the portal mobile88.com.my in 2000 to help customers trade for mobile prepaid card numbers in the then-nascent prepaid market.
“Along the way, we found that providing information about the mobile phone market to our customers complements what we did, and that's how we got into the content space," Lim explains.
They then got into the online payment world as an aside. “We could see the rising interest among those who visited our portal to transact online and thought, since we already had a relationship with our readers, we should extend our business model into the payments space. We did not realise it would one day become an important standalone business for us,” he adds.
Lim, whose company has MSC status, says the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) has been very helpful over the years.
“They are always asking how they can help us and that is always great to hear. With us being a regional company now, with our Jakarta offices opened in 2008, we have quite a bit of travelling to do around the South-East Asian region. Because of this, MDeC is helping me get a passport that lets me use the APAC facilitator lane at airport immigration.”
He is next off to Vietnam on an MDeC-Matrade (Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation) trade mission to explore opportunities in that emerging tiger economy.
But he is also wary of the dangers of spreading himself too thin and suffering from possible poor execution of business plans in the various countries. “To be honest, I am not sure how to balance between the opportunities I see and the need to be conservative and adopt a gradual growth strategy,” he admits.
Having been around for 12 years as an entrepreneur, Kok Hing will probably be able to figure this one out on his own. If not, someone from MDeC reading this will probably offer him some counsel.

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