This is the 2nd part of our interview with Hari Sivan, Founder and CEO of SOCASH. For the uninitiated, SOCASH’s mobile app turns shops into ATM alternatives, allowing users to withdraw cash or make loan applications at the checkout.
ABR: It has been reported that, with its new funds, the company will expand its distribution network in Indonesia, Malaysia and Hong Kong. It has obtained the relevant regulatory clearances in the three markets. Tell us more about this.
HS: SOCASH is now available in Indonesia, and we received a tremendous response, especially in new townships in outer Jakarta. We are readying up for launch in Malaysia – which are subject to Covid-19 restrictions being progressively lifted over the next few weeks. Hong Kong is a market that we are looking closely at, given that prolonged uncertainties have impacted decision making significantly. Hence we are evaluating an alternative market and working on the preparatory phase.
ABR: It has also been said that the company is “aggressively” building its team in the three markets, to cater to demand from virtual bank players looking for a smarter distribution alternative to physical branches and ATMs. Please elaborate on this.
HS: Virtual banks represent a generational change in the banking landscape in Asia. We see a huge demand in terms of product portfolio. The platform and organisation are ready to cater to the distribution needs of virtual banks. We await the grant of licenses and details of their product and distribution strategy to get their products into the market.
ABR: SoCash’s approach of connecting retailers, banks and consumers on a platform for cash circulation is a very innovative approach. Do tell us how things are progressing on that front?
HS: Creating this ecosystem to connect banks, retailers, and users remain our core focus. Over the last eight quarters, we have expanded our network across three markets and added six banks – driving a healthy volume of growth. We are now focused on building the technology components to accelerate the product distribution, which empowers small businesses to become banking channels, therefore representing a massive market in itself.
ABR: It was reported that Standard Chartered was the first bank to partner with SOCASH, with its integration of SOCASH into its mobile banking app since 2017. ICBC has now joined the list, along with DBS and POSB. Tell us about the recent updates on this front.
HS: We are privileged to have banks using our platform across the spectrum as well as key investors. Our relationship has also evolved over the last two years and now spans multiple distribution focused initiatives giving depth to the revenue opportunity. We have recently added two large banks in Indonesia and Malaysia, and are looking to form more ties with banking partners in the region
ABR: Finally, what do you see in your crystal ball? With the cash network platform in Singapore now comprising more than 1400 shops, are there plans to expand in Singapore? How about other markets?
HS: We are looking towards a future where the network extends towards individuals with a bank account – enabling them to become a human ATM for the network. This is highly relevant considering the growing need for new networks post Covid-19 era. Singapore remains a core market for us due to its progressive regulatory framework and focus on innovation. While we would like to see everyone as a human ATM, I think we are probably halfway through deploying the retailer network, which is a critical banking distribution tier.
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