Kakao, operator of South Korea's most popular chat app KakaoTalk, launched on Friday an e-payment service for utility bills in South Korea.
KakaoTalk users can now register for KakaoPay Bill on Kakao Pay and manage their electricity bills 24 hours a day by smartphone, as well as monitor their billing history and monthly usage, receive notifications, and pay bills.
The first utility on offer is the country's electric company, Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), but Kakao expects the regional gas companies to join as early as next month. Telecoms could follow after that, said a company spokesperson.
"KakaoPay Bill will prove itself as a comprehensive bill e-payment system as other companies join the system. It differentiates KakaoPay from other services in that it is more closely connected to your day-to-day life," said Ryu "Alex" Young-joon, vice president for Kakao's fintech businesses.
"Linking bill payments with KakaoTalk makes managing bills easier than ever before for the user. It also improves customer satisfaction with the utility companies and decreases the cost of printing and mailing bills to their customers."
Although chat apps Line in Japan and WeChat in China have payment services of their own, Kakao is now the first mobile platform to offer bill payment on its expansive fintech menu.
Of course, fintech innovations like KakaoPay Bill would not be possible if Kakao's eponymous chat app did not have over 40 million MAUs in a country with a population of 55 million, as well as one of the highest penetrations of smartphone and LTE usage in the world.
South Korea's financial regulatory authorities gave Kakao the OK in November last year to launch the first ever internet banking service for East Asia's third largest economy. Kakao Bank could come online in the first half of this year.
KakaoPay has amassed over 7 million users since its launch in September 2014, and the company is piling on the number of fintech services on it.
KakaoPay Bill is the fifth fintech feature offered on KakaoPay. The mobile platform already includes Kakao Easy Payment; Auto Card Payment, which charges selected services automatically to your card; Simple Cell Phone Billing, which allows you to out charges on your telecom bill; and Membership, which adds award points according to your shopping behaviour with select convenience stores, shops, and major brands like Adidas.
The chat giant announced earlier this month that its securities app marked $4 billion in transactions. It also recently launched a build to order mobile platform as it attempts to tap into the manufacturing industry.