Sri Lankan businesses should use digital space more, online payment gateways are to come: ICTA Chief


Aug 07, 2015 (LBO) – Sri Lankan businesses need to use digital space more as internet-powered shopping across national borders has created “modern spice routes” for merchants who tap into the booming trend, ICTA Chief said.

“Do we have borders in this space? No. We have no boarders. We are open,” Muhunthan Canagey, Chief Executive Officer of the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) said.

“Let’s take a scenario where you would sell your products in an outlet of a shopping mall, there will be only limited number of shoppers. Now take that same concept and make an outlet on face book. You will be open to 1.49 billion of people who would shop with you and communicate with you,”

“Today there is no limitation and you will get equal opportunity to play,”

“Even in brand building, you don’t need traditional big advertising giants to build your brand now, you can do that on your own by simply creating a page.”

Face book has 1.49 billion people and Facebook messenger carriers 700 million people while whatsapp has 800 million people on board and 300 million people are on instragram, recent data showed.

E-commerce in United States has grown from 13.63 billion dollars in 2011 to 42.13 billion dollars in 2013 and is expected to reach 133 billion dollars sales in 2018.

“The next generation of entrepreneurs will not necessarily be the ones that build large companies but they will be the people who are passionate about something and build a single product or service to take it to the global market,” Madu Ratnayake, Senior Vice President and Head of Digital, Virtusa said.

“Technology and social technology by and large enables that.”

Canagey said digital space and social media shouldn’t be used as a tool just to sell products but as a tool for research to understand behavioral patterns of customers, needs and demands of customers while being engaged with the customer to improve the product and service more.

“This is what you are actually going to get in to,” Canagey said.

“But you got to change your way of thinking. Everyone has to be part of this eco system. The banks, the customs, the distribution companies, because competition is not local, it is global. And if you do not do it, since there is no more boundaries people will do it from other part of the world.”

He said, the government will open online payment gateways in time to come partnering with Sri Lanka financial institutions.

“Yes it is going to be open and Pay Pal will be allowed,”

“ICTA is initiating a broad payment platform where we have our bankers with already six financial institutions coming on board. They have their accounts directly on that platform and moving on,”

“But we want local financial companies to get involved.”

Paypal is a worldwide payment system that evolved out of the US, where small payments can be sent to over 190 countries at the moment.

Full Paypal freedoms are available in most free countries but some nations, including Sri Lanka are yet to allow payments to be received and withdrawn via Paypal.

Sri Lanka has already freed outward payments by Paypal accounts, which can be linked to credit cards.

But to run a Sri Lanka based e-business selling goods, or to provide professional services abroad, a Paypal account must be able to receive money. Small e-service providers – especially individuals – have been asking for the service.

To receive money and withdraw cash, a Paypal account must be free to be linked to a domestic bank account.

Many free countries in Asia, including Japan and South Korea allow full Paypal freedoms.

China has also allowed payment freedoms, but the countries with state-dominated banking system has a very high 35 US dollar withdrawal fee for wire transfers as well as additional bank charges.

The special administrative region of Hong Kong, one of the areas recognized as having the highest economic freedoms in Asia has a fee of 3.5 HK dollars for small transactions with large ones being free.

Singapore and Malaysia follows the same model.

Fast liberalizing Vietnam has allowed Paypal inward payments for many years and has a fee of 60,000 dong (less than 3 US dollars) for withdrawals.