Friday, May 21, 2010

Mobile Banking is expanding service for Cambodia's unbanked

WING, a subsidiary of the Australia and New Zealand Bank(ANZ), is consider the first emerging mobile banking in Camboida. This mobile banking launched its service in late 2008 that provides subscribers with the ability to use mobile phones to conduct a variety of banking transactions, including person to person money transfers. The service is now expanding to include loan repayments by mobile.

Banks and telecommunication companies in Cambodia are now targeting the unbanked communities, which could result in huge savings for the poor, higher transaction earnings for telecoms and financial activities for the banks.

Referring to a quarterly analysis by financial consultants McKinsey & Co., the cost of serving customers is reduced by 50 to 70 percent by using mobile phones, making it possible to offer financial services to a vast population once considered unprofitable.

Vietnam becomes main tourist gateway to Cambodia

VIETNAM could become the main tourist gateway to Cambodia as political instability continues in Thailand, government and private sector officials have said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Mekong Tourism Forum, held in Siem Reap on Friday and Saturday, Ministry of Tourism (MoT) representatives said that volatility in the Thai capital highlighted the Kingdom’s need to diversify from a situation in which Bangkok provides the single “gateway” to Cambodia.

“Before, Bangkok was the main gateway for tourists from Europe and from America. But because it has big problems, maybe tourists will use other gateways such as Vietnam or Kuala Lumpur or Singapore,” said MoT Secretary of State Kousom Saroeuth.

“In the future, maybe Vietnam will become the gateway for tourists coming to visit Cambodia,” he added, stating that he hopes recent signs of reconciliation between antigovernment protestors and the Thai government would “open the door” for tourists.

Members of the private sector are also concerned about the ongoing situation in Thailand, where political violence linked to Red Shirt protests has killed more than 20 people.

Businesses will be forced to adapt or close if Thailand’s instability persists through the next three to five months, Mou Chhay, manager at Phnom Penh-based agency First Travel, told the Post on Friday.

“Usually we have around 300 to 500 guests per month. Now we have only 50 to 70,” he said. Mou Chhay attributed First Travel’s slowdown to Thailand’s insecurity.

Sales manager at Siem Reap’s four-star Angkor Village Hotel, Sokkeo Seng, said that hotel occupants were shifting away from using Bangkok as a gateway.

“For us, most of our guests come through Vietnam,” she said, and added that it was difficult to assess if Thailand’s instability impacted the hotel’s occupancy rate.

Nevertheless, Thai authorities attending the regional conference sought to reassure tourism stakeholders that the nation is still largely a safe place to travel.

“We have had a problem, but it was only in Bangkok and only in one spot in Bangkok. We still have flights [throughout] the country,” said the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Policy Planning Director Runjuan Tongrut in a speech to delegates.

Attendees of the two-day event included around 100 stakeholders hailing from countries across the Greater Mekong area including Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, and China’s Yunnan province.

Scott Coates, owner of Bangkok-based Smiling Albino travel firm, which targets high-end adventure travel tourists, said the ongoing instability jeopardised Thailand’s global reputation as a tourist destination.

“Previously, Thailand was the only show in Southeast Asia. Now, there are other choices. The last few years made me realise it’s time to diversify,”” he said.

Coates added that Cambodia is on the rise as a tourism destination, and the firm intended to expand its offerings in the Kingdom this year.

Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon declined a request for comment from the Post at the conference.

Last month, MoT data revealed international tourist arrivals surged by almost 10 percent in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period in 2009.

Visitors from Vietnam accounted for most arrivals, totalling 92,605 in the first quarter of 2010, a rise of 28 percent on the first quarter of 2009.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mobile banking is changing bank customer behaviour

It is now accepted as being a reality for banking: mobile will be a part of the future of how banking will be delivered to consumers. As was the case with ATM's, it is highly likely that consumer's behaviour related to their interaction with banks will change, as mobile banking usage picks up. Something else that we can have fun with speculating...

Based on prelimanry research and other evidence, it does seem as if the growth of mobile banking leads to a reduction in visits by customers to branches and a reduction of calls to contact centres. This is of course good news as this will directly lead to a reduction in cost. Some observations also seem to suggest that consumers do more transactions now. It is as if the ease with which mobile banking allows consumers to do transactions, stimulate them to do more. But what are some of the other changes that we could also expect?

* Consumers will be more aware of their money (or the lack of it). I believe that consumers will become more educated about spending and saving money. People will budget better and become more savvy to manage and use their money.
* More sophisticated mechanisms to stimulate impulse buying will become prevalent. This will change spending patterns and the effectiveness of alternative sales and marketing approaches.
* As mobile banking systems become more mainstream, more advanced applications will be developed (making use of cellular characteristics like location based services for instance). This will lead to opportunities where new social and entertainment behaviour patterns will be triggered.
* Mobile banking will change the competitor profile regarding banks and also non-banks starting to offer financial services. This will mean that customers will start buying their banking products somewhere else (than traditional banks) and even expect it to be bundled with other products.

What do you think?

Mfone records $1 million Cambodian loss

MOBILE-phone provider Mfone saw its subscriber base tumble 28 percent year-on-year as its parent company claimed losses totalling more than US$1 million in the Kingdom during the first quarter of 2010, according to a Thaicom company statement.

Thaicom Public Company Ltd cited an increasingly crowded mobile-phone sector as subscribers for its Cambodian subsidiary Mfone dropped to 665,834 at the end of March, compared to 925,002 subscribers at the same date last year, in results released Wednesday.

The firm owns 51 percent of Mfone, with Asia Mobile Holdings controlling the other 49 percent.

“During 2009, three new mobile-phone service providers entered the market, resulting in fierce competition in Cambodia’s mobile-phone industry,” the Bangkok-based Thaicom said in a statement.

New market entrant Metfone, owned by Vietnam-based Viettel, has replaced Mfone as Mobitel’s main challenger in Cambodia, according to statistics measuring the number of SIM cards active in Cambodia at the end of the first quarter.

The numbers, released by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications on Wednesday, pegged Mfone’s market share at 9.6 percent, the fourth-largest.

Thaicom’s combined Cambodian operations, including Mfone, generated $3.14 million in profits during the first quarter 2009, the report detailed. Its loses were measured at $1.01 million for the first quarter of 2010.

Mfone officials did not return a request for comment on the results for its individual subsidiaries, which include 100 percent-owned satellite dish firm Cambodian DTV Network Ltd, on Thursday.

Thaicom, which is 41 percent owned by Shin Corp, lost a total of $4.86 million in the first quarter, an improvement on $6.81 million in losses suffered during the same period last year.

Shin Corp was controversially sold by former Thai Prime Minister and current economic adviser to the Cambodia government Thaksin Shinawatra in January 2006.

Thaicom’s 49 percent stake in Laos Telecommunications Company (LTC) Ltd saw first quarter profits rise by $455,339 to $2.23 million year on year, as its subscriber base jumped from 1,033,839 at the end of March last year to 1,328,800 at the same date in 2010.

Piracy sends IT sector adrift

WIDESPREAD soft-ware piracy is deterring foreign companies from working with Cambodia, Microsoft Corp’s country director said as an international report showed Tuesday that the value of unlicenced software worldwide has hit US$51.4 billion.

The sale of counterfeit computer software – which includes programs such as Windows and the Adobe Creative Suite – is considered prevalent throughout the Kingdom.

“The software companies which are interested in outsourcing are concerned about the security [of their products, and] thus wouldn’t choose to work with the Cambodian software companies”, Microsoft’s Country Manager Pily Wong wrote in an email Monday.

On Tuesday, a report from Washington-based Business Software Alliance (BSA) and market researcher IDC showed that piracy rates increased 2 percent worldwide last year, from 41 percent to 43 percent.

Although Cambodia was not included in the BSA report, Vietnam was reported to have an 85 percent piracy rate, representing a commercial value of $353 million in PC software, and Thailand a 75 percent piracy rate, representing $694 million.

According to a 2007 report by the International Data Corporation, provided to the Post by Microsoft, around 95 percent of the Kingdom’s software was fake, causing $47 million in losses to the sector.

Microsoft believes that continuing concerns over the poor enforcement of intellectual property rights has led many international software firms to avoid entering Cambodia.

Pirating software means the developers are not compensated for their work, Pily Wong said, slowing development of a domestic software industry.

“It gives a bad image of Cambodia to the international community. People would not invest in a country full of ‘thieves and pirates’,” he wrote. “We will always be technologically behind if there is no incentive for improvement of skills and innovation,” he added.

He says increased enforcement of intellectual property protection could boost earnings among distributors and retailers, generate increased tax revenue, and boost Cambodia’s information technology sector.

“Without the necessary support and incentives to reward software entrepreneurs and investors, rampant piracy will simply kill off innovation,” BSA manager Roland Chan added via email on Monday.

Some domestic firms hope to stem the use of pirated software. Development Manager for Blue Information Technology, Aeng Sopkaea, said that his firm experienced minimal losses due to piracy of its range of small business accountancy programmes, despite prices starting at $600. The firm relies on the software’s complexity to prevent counterfeiting, he said.

Assistant manager of Singapore-based ICT consulting firm Deam Computer International Limited, Than Tzin, acknowledged that piracy is still prevalent among home users in the Kingdom, but said the practice had been in decline among businesses since “about 2003 or 2004” when stronger anti-counterfeiting measures became increasingly common.

Security risks have also been highlighted by industry experts. Phnom Penh-based ICT security consultant Bernard Alphonso wrote in an email Monday that pirated titles often come with viruses preloaded, and that users do not receive security updates to defend against exploitation by hackers.

Ly Phanna, director general of the Ministry of Commerce, speaking earlier this year, said that Cambodia has four main Intellectual Property laws in place: one concerning trademarks; a law on patents; a law on copyright; and a law on plant variety protection.

However, Secretary General of the National Information Communications Technology Development Authority, Phu Leewood, said Tuesday that police confiscation of suspected counterfeit software is only undertaken in response to specific complaints, and only on a case-by-case basis.

“If we don’t receive complaints we can’t do anything,” he said.

BBC News | Asia-Pacific | World Edition

Everything in Cambodia

Loading...