Virus fears drive Kathmandu residents towards cashless payment methodsAround 1 million Nepalis are using digital wallet services, according to service providers.
Cooped up in their homes with lots of time to think about payment options other than cash, Kathmandu residents are going digital with a zeal spurred by concerns over becoming a coronavirus statistic.
Digital wallet transactions are down because there's nowhere to buy or spend with the country in lockdown, but app downloads have swelled tremendously, say those in the know.
Roshan Lamichhane, chief operating officer at eSewa, said that the awareness level among the public has increased, and that the government has also been urging people to make online payment.
Mobile top-ups, utility payments and bank transfers have been helping operators to earn organic customers which will be helpful in increasing the number of users in the coming days.
As commerce is down to zero with economic activities at a complete halt across the country, e-transactions have plunged by 40 percent, he said.
“The number of app downloads has increased comparatively after the lockdown, which has provided support to organic growth,” he said.
The volume of mobile top-ups has surged, but since people are staying home and mostly using social media to connect with family and friends, turnover is at the average level, added Lamichhane.
Most internet service providers and the Nepal Electricity Authority have waived fines for late payment, so the volume of utility payment is also normal.
But people who have trust issues regarding digital payment have started understanding its convenience, added Lamichhane. There is growth in terms of the awareness level of people, he said
According to Lamichhane, all the company's internal work is being done from home. Employees are performing technical work, development and updates off site. Even customer care service is being operated remotely with the staff fielding calls at home, he said.
People are choosing digital payment as there are chances of transmitting Covid-19 when handling cash. But it is not only the virus threat, people now are beginning to feel that the time has come for digital payment, said Amit Agrawal, director and co-founder of digital wallet service Khalti.
“The number of Khalti users is increasing by 200 percent daily,” he said. "With people staying home, they are sharing the convenience of making digital payment," added Agrawal.
Business is down because economic activities have stopped, but it could have plunged to 80 percent if not for the mobile top-ups, utility payments and bank transfers we are handling, he said.
Digital wallet service providers say that though the economy is going through hard times, the crisis has created an opportunity for them to grow as the government has been supporting them by telling people to make digital payment.
The current situation has drawn people towards digital transactions and made them feel positive about it, said Pawan Pradhan, managing director of payment service provider Cellcom.
The service providers have also been running schemes and offers to motivate people to use digital payment. Khalti is providing cash back and discount offers while CellPay also offers various schemes to customers.
According to these companies, around 1 million Nepalis are using digital wallet services.
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of May 27, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. Covid-19 had spread to 210 countries and infected more than 5,684,795 people with 352,225 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 150,793 with 4,344 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 57,705 confirmed cases with 1,197 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 772 cases with four deaths.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.