Low-cost carrier AirAsia, which recently launched its digital payments arm, BigPay, has set its eyes on Southeast Asia’s cross-border remittance and lending businesses, a space that has already witnessed heightened interest from regional and foreign players.
“Wallet is the first step and finally we will disrupt the remittance market and money lending business…this will be in Asean, not in India, not in China,” AirAsia founder and CEO Tony Fernandes said on Thursday officially launching BigPay at the Money20/20 in Singapore.
The move to launch a digital payments business is an effort to monetise the wealth of “high resolution data” that the airline has collected in 16 years from over 60 million passengers, he said.
Interestingly, the announcement by AirAsia’s BigPay to enter Southeast Asia’s digital financial services space has come a day after ride hailing company Grab announced its fintech business Grab Financial that will include services like mobile payments, lending and insurance for its drivers. The same day, Alipay announced its entry into the region’s five new markets.
BigPay had soft launched its new app in Malaysia and claims to be the everyday digital alternative to bank accounts with an accompanying card that gives users the flexibility to spend anywhere in the world.
However, acknowledging the intense competition in the digital financial services space in the region, Fernandes told the audience, “This is not a zero sum game – there will be others too out there, and we think we can all co-exist.”
Earlier, in January, Fernandes had tweeted, “The launch of a great company BIGPAY. Part of AIRASIA Digital strategy. One day this product will be worth more than @AirAsia. Many features being rolled out. Soon no more cash on AIRASIA.”
BigPay says, it wants to be the top-of-wallet choice for its users allowing them to top-up from all their existing cards, to manage their spending in one place and to take back control of their money with a convenient and seamless user experience.
Run as an independent company with a startup culture running through its blood, reflecting the DNA of its entrepreneurial parent company, the payments company says, AirAsia was set up so “everyone can fly”. In the same vein, BigPay’s ambition is to revolutionize financial services in Southeast Asia, so “everyone can buy”.
Southeast Asia, with a growing mobile penetration and wealth in the hands of consumers, has become an attraction for many players who are trying to monetize the data they have collected in the past many years in mobile-backed applications. With an estimated internet population at 480 million in 2020, the region’s digital economy will be worth close to $200 billion by 2025.