Digital wallet and payment services see uptick in usersDigital wallet and online payment services are seeing an uptick in users as people can simply use the system to pay utility bills, order food and goods and more through their smartphone.
Digital wallet and online payment services are seeing an uptick in users as people can simply use the system to pay utility bills, order food and goods and more through their smartphone.
One of the biggest benefits of using a digital payment service is, not having to wait in long queues to pay the bills. Binay Regmi, a school teacher used to pay late fees on his electricity bill as he did not have enough time to stand in line and wait to pay at the cash counter of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). But with the launch of digital payment services, he is now able to skip the line altogether and pay his bills on time. “The digital payment on utility bills has made life easier for working people like me,” he said.
And as more people turn to paying their bills through an e-wallet, bill payment counters are seeing less traffic. The digital payment service providers said that they were seeing an uptick in the number of users daily and it is expected to grow further once the government launches the digital payment system by April-end.
Nepal was the first country in South Asia to introduce a digital payment service with the launch of e-Sewa in 2009 by Asgar Ali, Bishwash Dhakal and Subash Sharma—the founders of e-Sewa—with parent company F1 Soft. E-sewa is Nepal’s largest digital payment service provider.
According to Roshan Lamichhane, chief operating officer at e-Sewa, mobile wallet transactions started peaking from 2014 thanks to increased internet penetration via smartphones. Prior to that, the growth was steady as the market was not ready to adopt the technology. “Back then, we had less than 5,000 active users and around 20,000 customers,” he said.
Now, e-Sewa has built a network of 46,000 agents across the country with links to 50 banks and financial institutions. There are over one million customers and the company plans to double that by the end of July this year.
Currently, e-Sewa processes on average 158,000 transactions worth Rs40.7 million a day through merchant payments alone. Overall, the company handles over Rs710 million a day in digital transactions.
The company started online electricity bill payment of Nepal Electricity Authority from mid-August last year, he said, adding, “We have been collecting more than Rs10 million per day for NEA through electricity bill payment.” Almost 10,000 customers are paying their electricity bills through their mobile phones daily, he said. Likewise, the company is associated with 43 community water drinking service providers. “We are the first in South Asia to start a community online bills payment service,” he said.
Another firm in the digital wallet space is Khalti. The firm has been in operation for two years and is registering 18 percent growth per month. According to Amit Agrawal, co-founder and director of Khalti, most customers use digital payments to pay their electricity bill and such. The company also recently launched a newspaper subscription and payment facility. They also introduced the ‘Smart Chhori’ campaign to teach girls about the basics of digital payments, online security and personal finance.
While most users of digital payment service are based in urban areas, people living in rural municipalities across Nepal have seen their lives transformed by the new technology. “We are working with different women groups and cooperatives to provide our services in such areas,” said Lamichhane.
With four branches already set up, e-Sewa plans to open a full-fledged branch in all provinces to boost digital payment in rural areas, he said.