Startup for migrants emerges top

Mehedi delivering his winning pitch. — FAIHAN GHANI/The Star.

MyCash Online’s e-wallet service which lets migrant workers reload phone credit, pay bills, buy bus tickets and more is the winner at the Seedstars Kuala Lumpur pitching contest, edging out 10 other Malaysian-based startups, writes QISHIN TARIQ.

WITH millions of migrant workers in Malaysia still without access to banks, fintech startup MyCash Online looks poised to solve the problem with its e-wallet service.

Proving the appeal of such a service, MyCash Online edged out 10 other Malaysian-based startups at the Seedstars Kuala Lumpur pitching contest for early stage startups.

Its chief technology officer Mehedi Hassan Sumon said the company positioned itself as an e-marketplace for migrants, allowing customers to reload phone credit, pay bills and buy bus tickets through agents instead of going through traditional channels.

Next, they planned to offer air ticket purchase, express remittance and to allow for transactions directly through their website, pending regulatory approval from Bank Negara.

For now, customers would need to go to their agents, which include some 280 mom-and-pop grocers, mamak and kopitiam foodstores and even 7-11 convenience stores.

Mehedi said it’s more convenient and safer for the customers to go to a nearby store, rather than travelling to multiple locations with a lot of cash in hand.

During the pitching session, he stressed that Malaysia had around 3.3 million migrants with no access to banks or credit cards.

“The life of the unbanked is like living 50 years ago. You cannot do anything online or by credit,” he said, adding that most ended up remitting cash home as they had no way of securely saving cash or purchasing products directly.

The Bangladesh-native has had previous business experience with the migrant market — through the Bangla Radio app that offers music content sourced from Bangladesh, which he founded with his wife, Malaysian Looi Yin Lin.

Since launching five months ago, MyCash Online has recorded RM796,000 in purchases through 96,000 transactions by 26,000 unique users.

As the winner of the Malaysian leg of the contest, the MyCash Online team will represent the country at the Seedstars World Summit in Switzerland next April to compete for up to US$500mil in equity investment.

The first runner-up at Seedstars Kuala Lumpur was Dropee, an aggregator for trustworthy B2B drop-ship suppliers. Third place went to Cooked, a full-service online food delivery company.

The winners were chosen by a panel of jurors that included Asia Venture Group managing director Kai Kux, Khazanah National Bhd assistant vice president Aziz Kevin Lee, Gobi Partners investment director Victor Chua, Mountain Partners Malaysia CEO Hassan Alsagoff and Teak Capital investment manager Rickson Khaw.

Khaw said MyCash Online was a unanimous choice among the jury as it targeted “the next billion”, looking beyond the “first billion” of urban middle class segment to the underserved migrants. The migrants, despite not being banked, were cash-rich, he noted.

He said such fintech startups showed regulators how more could be done to cut down on wastage, referring to how the service let migrants shop online directly rather than remitting cash to their families. This also helped to cut out remitters who charge a high service fee.

Alsagoff said MyCash Online was canny to offer an offline solution, allowing customers to buy online credit through agents seeing as to how smartphone and Wi-Fi penetration was relatively lower among migrants compared to locals.

The seven other startups invited to pitch were travel agency Tripovo, muslimah e-commerce Styline Collection, online-offline engagement site Cheqqme, beautician booking site WeStyleAsia, muslimah cosmetics e-marketplace VivaQueeenBee, package tracking solution AllSome Track, and pricing comparison site BolehCompare.

Seedstars World Asian associate Nick Feneck told DEALSTREETASIA that the top 10 were whistled down from 90 applicants, with many coming from the e-commerce field as Malaysia had strong corporate roots which could help facilitate startups in the sector.

The event was held at Menara Maxis, in Kuala Lumpur on Oct 1.

Besides Maxis, the event was supported by Mindvalley, Cradle, the Swiss embassy in Malaysia and Second Startup.

Seedstars World’s next stop for the Asian region was Singapore on Oct 6, followed by Dhaka, Bangladesh; Kathmandu, Nepal; Taipei, Taiwan, and ending in Islamabad, Pakistan.

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Business , Central Region , fintech , seedstar


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