Thai startup targets the unbanked

The potential of cyberspace to reach and serve the global poor may soon be realized in Thailand as Omise, a local startup, launched a new company last week aiming to reach lower income people outside the traditional banking system with electronic wallets using blockchain technology.

The potential of tapping into the huge market of people outside the traditional banking system drove Omise to launch OmiseGO. What the unbanked may lack in individual wealth, they make up for in numbers, as they constitute 70 percent of the world’s population. Executives of OmiseGO said that the market for electronic wallets is forecast to be $3.14 billion, while 2.6 billion people are smartphone users.

Several electronic wallet programs have existed for years already, but the advent of blockchain technology presents an opportunity to link them all. At the moment, the different electronic wallet systems lack interoperability. That lack of interoperability has been a barrier to the growth electronic wallets and their ability to accelerate the development of a cashless society.

“Blockchain technology has the potential to address this,” said Donnie Harinsut, chief operations officer and co-founder of Omise.

Blockchain technology is essentially a global spreadsheet in cyberspace that can be accessed and shared. OmiseGO is developing a network that will link all the wallet platforms using the global spreadsheet, and Harinsut said it will also allow businesses to easily exchange value in digital form, including loyalty points, game items, and digital lending.

“OmiseGO is developing the protocol for the financial industry, with blockchain technology, to facilitate financial services to be interoperable, which will help expand financial service to reach all people, especially unbanked people,” said Donnie.

Managing director of OmiseGO Vansa Chatikavanij said that existing wallet users and newcomers would be courted to join the new system. OmiseGO will introduce its own wallet software development kit later this year, while the network should be up and running by the end of 2018. Omise Holding raised series B funding of US$17.5 million in 2016.

Meanwhile, European and Thai entrepreneurs have launched a startup Bangkok-based website that gives visitors the ability to book cooking classes anywhere in the world. Known as Cookly (https://www.cookly.me), its motto is “Cook the World.”

Benjamin Ozsanay, Etienne Marleau-Rancourt and Kowit Charoenratchatabhan collaborated on the project. “When you think of a super popular travel destination and a world-famous cuisine, you get Thailand,” said Ozsanay, who added that Bangkok also has the potential to become a new Silicon Valley.

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