What can Sri Lankan FinTech startups do to take us to the next level of ecommerce?
Do you want to know what’s going on in the FinTech startup arena in Sri Lanka? This is a recap of what happened in February SPIKE. Barefoot Café was filled on 27th with “Spikers” for another fantastic networking night. The place was overflowing with Sri Lankan startup entrepreneurs, investors and curious others.
SPIKE is Sri Lanka’s first and only monthly regular pitching and idea sharing meetup where Sri Lankan startup community get to meet in a casual surrounding for some great conversation.
The theme February SPIKE was FinTech. Even though FinTech is huge in other Startup ecosystems, we don’t see many startups in Sri Lanka who work on FinTech products. But the turnout yesterday suggested otherwise. It was a very insightful session on ecommerce, online payments and credit/debit card penetration in Sri Lanka.
There were three speakers for the night.
Anthony Watson – Country Manager of Visa
Visa needs no explanation. They are an American multinational financial services corporation. They are mostly known for Visa-branded credit and debit cards. I’m sure if you pull out your wallet, you will have a Visa branded card inside. Anthony Watson is the Visa country manager for Sri Lanka.
Anthony spoke about the challenges in Sri Lanka when it comes to online financial transactions and the usage of credit/debit cards.
There are 16 million debit cards in Sri Lanka (total Sri Lankan population is 22 million) and 1.3 million credit cards. When compared with the Asia Pacific region, the number of credit/debit card penetration is wildly high in Sri Lanka. But the real shocker is, the usage of credit/debit cards for online penetration. The average usage of credit/debit cards for online transactions in the region is 15% out of the population. But in Sri Lanka, it’s just 4.2% which really low.
The reason may be that Sri Lankans mostly use their cards to withdraw money from ATMs. We still seem to like the idea of “cash in our hands.” That may be one of the reasons that holds us back from making purchases online.
Another important point was the problems with infrastructure. In outskirts of Sri Lanka, it takes at least 30 seconds for a merchant to get a card payment from a usual credit/debit card (because the connectivity is slow and it takes time to connect with central servers). When looking at regional countries, Sri Lanka is still faraway with much needed tech infrastructure.
But Visa is positive about the future of Sri Lanka and they are expecting that numbers will rise soon as more people will get onboard with ecommerce. They are also planning to innovate with the next generation of entrepreneurs and startups in Sri Lanka and have great plans to link in with what Visa is doing both regionally and globally.
Co-founders of Payable.lk – Yohan Wijesiriwardane and Sujith Subasinghe
Payable is a company that enables you to accept card payments easily with a small mobile equipment. It’s like your own POS machine but small, wireless, Bluetooth-connected and cute!
Yohan (Co-founder) spoke about the journey of Payable and there plans for Sri Lankan FinTech industry. So far they have signed up with Seylan and Commercial banks and they have plans to sign up with more.
Many small merchants have gotten onboard and Payable has completed Rs.250 million worth of transactions through their system. Even though Sri Lankans are slow in adopting for online payments, they see a great potential for the future in card transactions.
Sujith (Co-founder) gave some great advice for Sri Lankan entrepreneurs and startups. Following are some of his favorites.
You need a higher calling
Yes, yes we all think about money when we start our startup. But as for Sujith’s view, you need to be better than that. If you really want to be successful while providing great value to customers, you need a higher calling. For them, it’s about enabling the SME sector in Sri Lanka and empowering them to become more than what they are.
That’s what gets them through their difficulties and dark times. So pick a higher calling for your startup. Money should not be your only goal. Money is always a byproduct.
Read, read and read again
Reading is no doubt the most common habit among many great entrepreneurs. It’s the same with Sujith. He is a voracious reader and some of his favorite books are The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success by Angela Duckworth.
The best way to learn something is to read what the masters do. Start the habit of reading.
Hard thing about hard things
This is by far my favorite quote from Sujith.
If you don’t feel like you’re doing the hardest thing you have ever done in your life, you’re not thinking big enough.
Do something that takes you way out of your comfort zone. Nobody benefits with you playing small. So start thinking big.
When you scale your business, sometimes you have to let go of certain aspects. As much as you’re in love with your product and company, sometimes the best thing you can do is to let go of things that holds you back. So learn the art of letting go in your entrepreneurship journey.
This is one of the classic principles that everyone seems to nod their head when they hear, but never follow. We all know this. We all have heard this. But we never do this! After you have given your best shot, be patient and wait. This is what’s lacking among Sri Lankan youth. We want to succeed overnight. Sujith is a great believer in patience and so should we!
Your “gut” can be right!
Sometimes, even when you have gone through all the analytics, it still can be difficult to make the right decisions. In such times, you have to go with your “gut.”
These were some of the gems Sujith unraveled for eager minds that night.
FinTech future seems to be bright in Sri Lanka but we need people like Anthony, Yohan and Sujith to expedite our journey. With more FinTech startups in the country, we can expect a brighter future for tomorrow.
That’s all for this week and stay tuned for next Spike which is happening on last Tuesday of March.
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