While shopping online is not much of an event for anyone anyplace on Earth at this point, Hyperwallet Managing Director for Asia-Pacific, Simon Banks, noted that even in the very recent past that wasn’t quite the case.
“If you went into the eCommerce market 15 years ago, it was the territory of early adopters. Delivery wasn’t reliable, and payment was hard to do. But consumers and businesses have ironed those problems out over the past decade and a half, and now my 73-year-old father order books online.”
The issue was a matter of trust, particularly for buyers, and developing trust that when they paid for a good, they would get the good they paid for, and if they didn’t, there was some easy recourse. And, noted Banks, payments essentially became that trust chit necessary to make the system operate properly.
“It is payments that puts trust into a digital meeting place and turns it into a marketplace.”
The marketplace, Banks said, does well by the buyers at this point, but for the sellers of goods and services writ large — the gig economy players — the situation worldwide still has a lot of room for improvement. For the digital itinerant worker or the occasional eCommerce seller, the trust part of the equation is still a work in progress.
“There are a lot of ways to think about participating in the gig economy,” Banks said. “I might have a product that I create myself or source myself, and I might only want to sell once a year or twice a year. So that traditional example can now become part of the gig economy. If I have the capacity to work, I may want to earn by doing odd jobs or moving furniture — that is obviously the gig economy. Or it might be content I created — a song I wrote and want to collect royalties on. These earning opportunities are all enabled by the gig economy. Fundamentally, I believe we are seeing a seismic shift where mobile technology has come together with the capabilities that can put trust into the on-demand environment.”
That trust, Banks noted, is once again payments capacity — and the sellers’ and service providers’ ability to be certain that they will be paid promptly for their service and that there is a recourse if they aren’t.
“The cost to participate is otherwise very low. The ability to utilize capacity and create labor market participation through the gig economy creates an opportunity for all types of people — including the impoverished and the underemployed — in both the developed and developing world. I do believe that if you remove the barriers, you can enable a lot of opportunity. Apps plus payments have given birth to tremendous opportunity here — much the way it did in the development of eCommerce from the buyers’ side.”
Hyperwallet, of course, as a premier payments provider in the gig economy, is chiefly concerned with bringing those barriers down and enabling more opportunities for gig economy participation in all its many forms.
And recently, as PYMNTS discussed with Banks, Hyperwallet is working to take its show on the road, so to speak, with a new launch in Australia and a big vision for Asia-Pacific going forward.
The Australian Opportunity
Given the structure, location and level of development in the Australian market, Banks said, it was an obvious pick for expansion, as Hyperwallet is making its move in the Asia-Pacific region in general.
“We picked Australia as the place in Asia-Pac to start with, because there is such a vibrant FinTech environment and a very mature eCommerce market.”
Australia also brings with it the highest level of smartphone penetration on planet earth — and a population very well wired into using those phones for commerce. Moreover, Banks noted, Australia comes “out of the box” with solid payments and commerce infrastructure so that digital is readier to ride.
“The Australian market has done a really strong job on the acquiring side of payments — the concept of making the consumers’ sign-up experience frictionless and then making the consumer payments frictionless. The Australian market has done a good job of removing consumer friction.”
Where the market has an opportunity, Banks noted, is in finding a space for the “sellers and workers who are really important in this ecosystem, too.”
And Hyperwallet’s solution mirrors the consumer solution — just as it is important for buyers to have an efficient way to pay, seller and gig workers need an easy and efficient way to get paid.
The Bigger Opportunity
Banks noted that though Hyperwallet’s initial plans in the region start in Australia, they certainly do not end there.
“We are not just going to stop there. Singapore and Hong Kong have very strong centers to support innovation in the gig economy,” Banks noted.
By the numbers, he said, Asia-Pacific is an easily overlooked center, where building out the gig economy into a more mature and efficient version of itself is critical.
“There are 1.2 billion smartphone users in Asia-Pac,” Banks noted. “And there are a lot of issues that gig workers locally are facing with getting paid that echo the problems in consumer payments that have been fixed in recent years. For sellers and gig workers, that is where the real opportunity lies and what I am excited to bring about.”
It won’t be done in a day — but then, Rome wasn’t either. But it will get done — and doing so in both the developed and developing world is something on which Hyperwallet is building its global expansion.
Digital meeting places for gig economy players have exploded — and now fast, efficient payments are needed to consistently inject the trust that makes them true digital marketplaces.