Razer-Singtel partnership aims to plug e-payment gaps in Southeast Asia

Major players such as those from North Asia have begun offering their e-payment services in this region, but these cater mainly to their domestic customers travelling overseas, says Singtel exec, on the objective behind the Razer partnership.

SINGAPORE--Razer and Singtel have inked a partnership that they say aims to plug current gaps in e-payment services, particularly in Southeast Asia, as well as tap growing opportunities in e-sports and digital media.

Under the agreement, the games peripherals maker and Singapore telco would ensure each company's e-payments systems interoperate and their respective customers would be able to pay for the other's services using these payment modes.

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Speaking to reporters here Wednesday, executives from the two companies noted that the e-payments landscape in Southeast Asia was highly fragmented and cluttered with multiple e-wallets and payment systems.

And, yet, these often would not be supported across different platforms and lacked cross-border interoperability, noted Arthur Lang, Singtel's international CEO. This meant that a mobile wallet user from Singapore would not be able to use their app in Indonesia or Thailand.

And while some major online services providers, specifically from North Asia, had begun offering their e-payment systems in some Southeast Asian markets, these catered mostly to customers in their domestic market, said Lang, referring to Chinese vendors Alibaba, and its Alipay e-payment service, and Tencent's WeChat Pay.

"We're like the Star Alliance of e-wallets [where] each [member] has its own airline brand but work together to create a better customer experience," he said. Star Alliance comprises several airlines including Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa, which respective customers can earn miles on their flights and redeem these for flights on another participating airline in the alliance.

Lang added that some governments might have restrictions or concerns about foreign companies owning payments infrastructure in their country. Enabling local e-wallets to interoperate cross-border, rather than offering or acquiring more of the same, then would make for a better offering, he said.

"We want to create the largest e-payment in Southeast Asia," said Tan Min-Liang, Razer's Singaporean co-founder and CEO. The Hong Kong-listed company is headquartered in Singapore and San Francisco.

Pointing to Singtel's reach in the region and Razer's own footprint, in particular, following its recent acquisition bid for Malaysia's MOL Global, Tan said his company operated more than 1 million offline payment points across the region, including 7-11 and Starbucks. In addition, MOL last year handled more than US$1.1 billion worth of digital payments, processing 11 million transactions.

Together with Singtel Group's network of more than 680 million mobile customers across the region, and Razer's 40 million registered users of its gamer-related digital services, the partnership would effectively create one of the largest connected e-payment networks in Southeast Asia, said the two companies. They further noted that this region's mobile payments market was projected to reach US$32 billion by 2021, citing figures from Euromonitor.

Lang said Singtel, through its subsidiaries in the region, had existing payment licenses and capabilities as well as distribution and partner networks in the respective local markets.

He added that in the third quarter of this year, Singtel's e-wallet Dash would be supported in Thailand through local telco AIS and vice versa, so customers of both telcos would be able to use their respective e-wallet to pay for services in either market.

Similar rollouts were in the pipeline for the Philippines, through Globe, and in Indonesia via Telkomsel as well as India with Airtel. According to Singtel, there currently are 500,000 Dash users.

Razer also was planning to launch its own e-wallet, RazerPay later this year, said Tan, who told ZDNet that he was following developments in cryptocurrencies but currently had "no announcement" to make regarding this at the moment.

He noted that Razer already operates its own e-payment merchant network and zGold virtual credit system, which will subsume MOL's MOLPoints virtual credits platform when the acquisition is finalised. This is expected to be May 10, pending regulatory approval.

Where games mean serious business

Apart from e-payments, the Razer-Singtel partnership also would look to drive e-sports in Southeast Asia as well as launch initiatives in digital media and telecommunications.

The two partners noted that the number of online and mobile gamers in the region was expected to climb from 300 million last year to 400 million by 2021, pointing to figures from Niko Partners. Worldwide, this number currently stood at 2.2 billion, Tan said, who revealed that Razer sold US$500 million worth of hardware last year.

Under the partnership, both companies planned to jointly run activities such as regional events and nurture e-sporting professionals in the region. Details, however, remained scant at the moment.

Lang did say, however, that Singtel recently launched an e-games league in Indonesia as well as the Philippines. It planned to roll out more of such leagues across Southeast Asia, he added.

Details also were scant with regards to the two companies' collaboration on "games-related digital media and telecommunications services", but Tan said more details on such plans would be announced "soon".

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