Tencent’s WeChat, which is the leading messaging app in China, has rolled out a digital payment platform in Malaysia in what is its first Asian market outside of China and Hong Kong.
According to a report in Financial Times, WeChat users in Malaysia can transfer money between friends and family and make payments to offline merchants in the country’s currency. The report noted that the expansion of the payment platform into Malaysia implies that the company is building a local payment service instead of expanding overseas by enabling Chinese customers to pay when traveling abroad.
“Malaysia is a vibrant market. Technology-savvy Malaysians are embracing a digital lifestyle, and to meet this shift, the payment experience has to evolve. Bringing WeChat Pay to Malaysia is our response to this,” S.Y. Lau, senior vice president at Tencent, told Reuters back in November when it landed a Malaysian ePayment license, noted Financial Times.
WeChat would not say how many customers it currently has. The report noted there is a huge opportunity for mobile payments in Malaysia; although cash is still the preferred payment method, the number of mobile phones has surpassed the population by more than 10 million.
In order for WeChat to take off in Malaysia, it will need to ink partnerships with local banks. The report pointed to Grab, the ride-hailing company that partnered with Maybank in Malaysia to boost its mobile wallet GrabPay. Grab is seen as a formidable competitor to WeChat in Malaysia, given its presence in the country.
WeChat’s expansion of its payment app comes at a time when the company is testing advanced technologies, including blockchain. Earlier this month, CoinDesk reported that Tencent is piloting a feature that uses WeChat Pay data to inform employers when an employee has made a purchase. Employees that pay with WeChat Pay can automatically send that transaction data to their employers to be reimbursed. The data would be transmitted using Tencent’s blockchain platform, the company explained, adding that the capability could eventually address friction in the corporate expense reimbursement process and cut down on expense fraud.