Not long ago, we had to allocate a separate day (sometimes even days) to pay our bills – electricity, phone, water, internet, and delays would mean fines. But today all this hassle and frustration of managing time to pay utility bills has been done away with the introduction of eWallets in Nepal that has made payments so simple that one can do it via one’s mobile phones with a few swipes and clicks.
Trendy, necessary and the demand of time, users reckon that their lives have become easy but that they have also become dependent on it.
Making it easier?
Deepa Shrestha, 18, from Maitidevi commends Nepal’s “swift growth in the technological sector”.
She is especially appreciative of the eWallets in Nepal that has “helped save time, money and energy”. This “relieved” user of such an online payment app cannot imagine the time when “we had to travel to different government offices and queue for an hour or so for payments”.
Amit Agrawal, CEO of Janaki Technology and one of the designers of Khalti, an online payment app, says he doesn’t want his 6,00,000 registered users to “limit themselves to just utility payments”.
“We established Khalti in 2017 with the motto of providing hassle-free economic transactions in the urban areas of Nepal starting with Kathmandu to make it e-payment friendly,” says Agrawal.
Mobile phones and internet services have certainly boosted digital payment, but what if your internet balance gets over in the middle of the night while you’re waiting for your favorite football team’s match? Twenty-one-year-old Suraj Sharma of Tahachal faced this situation and was annoyed that he couldn’t livestream the game. But this came as an opportunity for him to be introduced to a digital payment service two years ago.
“One of my elder brothers said that I can pay my net bill as soon as it ends simply via my mobile phone. I was astonished then,” says Sharma, who these days, is in “charge of all the utility payments”.
The best part for him about this technological aspect is that “I can keep track of all my expenses”.
Sharma is happy with the growth in digital payment sector as “there are more options for users like us”.
Such digital wallets have also made Khusboo Shrestha, 22, happy as now she can take credit for completing some tasks and fulfilling duties at home quickly without any inconvenience. “My parents live in Dhangadhi, and I transfer money or make payments staying here in Kathmandu through e-payment services which makes them proud of me,” says this temporary resident of Sankhamul.
Despite 7,50,000 users in the age group of 18 to 35 years (of which 70 per cent are active), President and Founder of eSewa, another online payment app, Asgar Ali opines that “the market for digital payment is niche” and you can only focus a particular set of customers – those who can “easily adapt, are educated and also tech-friendly”.
“We initially launched this digital payment system in Nepal during 2009 to channelize the big number of mobile users to help them conduct banking transactions in a personalized way,” says Ali but “considering the scope, we have hardly reached one million users from the registered two crore mobile phone users”.
Ali believes that “a change in the trend among people” which is highly associated with their behavior “won’t happen overnight”. It’s not a mere entertainment site and is difficult for people to get hold of. “There is an initial reluctance to use the service as you have to invest money. But once you earn a customer’s trust and credibility, the rest of the functioning goes smooth”.
Offers that attract
Apart from paying their bills, customers are delighted with the different cash-back offers that these payment service providers give. Delighted with the scheme of refer and earn, 22-year-old Sachin Lamsal from Tanahu managed to convince his friends to try the app; in return he would get a balance top-up upto 10 per cent per one referral.
“Once I used to get 25 per cent offer on movie tickets through digital payment. Now it has come down, but still it is fun and saves me money,” shares Deepa.
Lamsal has used all digital payment services available such as eSewa, Khalti, Prabhu Pay and IME Pay, and despite all having their own distinct features “cashback offers are the best” as you unknowingly save a lot of money.
“In any transaction, you get a certain percentage off or get additional points, which if saved can earn you gifts as well. So, spending has also helped me in earning, which is great for me,” he says.
Clarifying on cash-back offers, Agrawal says their services have helped get rid of a large number of mediators in the field, so in turn customers are being linked to the provider directly which is helping them earn a few bucks.
Requests that go overboard
Such tech-tools can help you keep track of your expenses and keep a calendar regarding payments and due dates, however you can equally develop the habit of over-spending due to easy access. Moreover, even friends try to benefit from it!
Roshan Shrestha, 19, from Chabahil who is using such an app for over two years now, gets requests from friends to purchases movie tickets through his account or transfer phone balance. “Once I even paid my friend’s internet bill, and some don’t return my money. So these days I have started to limit my balance and only top up when required”.
Even Sharma and Deepa get requests from friends to transfer recharge balances for their cell phones. Who can deny a friend, after all? Such requests usually end with them exceeding their regular expenses in this scenario, “as you can’t get hold of where the money goes with a swipe,” says Sharma.
eWallets in Nepal: Upgrades needed
Not just paying utility bills, purchasing recharge cards, movie and flight tickets, users believe that the providers need upgrade and give more services. Sharma has switched to another app as the one he was using could not be used independently as a wallet.
Ali shares that they are yet to tie up with three banks but now have their independent wallet, “but during our upgrade in the app a few years ago, we did lose many customers”.
Shreyash Kharel, 21, from Budhanilkantha, another such app user, feels that now they need to “come with services like paying taxes, bill payments in restaurants and food sites” and more. Otherwise he is hugely satisfied with the service, but there are still worries in his mind regarding “growing hacker trends which create threats and prevent people from using such digital services”.
By Prasuma Rawal
This article was originally published in The Himalayan Times on 29 September 2018.