Diwakar Pandey is currently the Chairman of DigiPay, a digital payments solution provider. He started his career with Yeti Travels from where he says he learned important lessons on effective communication and personality development.
The reason Pandey started working stems from his need to break away from his father’s shadow, he says. “I desperately wanted to create an identity for myself, be recognised as an individual for my work because at that time everybody wanted to identify me as my father’s son and not beyond,” he reflects aloud.
Having worked in tourism for some years, Pandey decided to switch careers and joined Gorkha Brewery in sales and marketing. Noting his expertise in public relations, the company created a designation for him – Incharge Special Outlet which had him dealing with star hotels, casinos and the diplomatic community. “I didn’t have the academic qualifications but they hired me for my experience and skills.” Later in 2000, he was also involved in helping launch ‘NTV Unplugged’ in Nepal.
But it was not until 2006 that Pandey got introduced to the world of information technology through his association with ournepal.com and there has been no looking back since. “The concept of DigiPay came about during that phase and what more could we ask for as there were rapid technological developments taking place and smartphones started becoming a must-have for everyone,” he reminisces.
A major factor that influenced Pandey’s decision to set up DigiPay was the opportunity presented by the big void in the market for new digital modes of payment. So, what differentiates DigiPay from other such platforms? He responds that they are probably the first digital company in the world that also accepts cash. “The top functions that most mobile wallets do are basically mobile recharge, utility payments and ticketing, so if we were to stick to similar roles there would be no point in launching our company,” he says, adding, “It would not make sense to compete with companies that are already very strong at their game.”
His plan is now to offer the franchise of DigiPay to penetrate the market faster and increase outreach. If the aforementioned strategy is successful, Pandey believes that within a year they will have no competition.
Pandey also wants to upgrade technologies to ensure it is so simple that even non-tech savvy people can use DigiPay. “We want to make DigiPay the main spending ecosystem.”
In this edition of Business 360, we caught up with Pandey, who has also launched DigiPay’s loyalty programme. “Other businesses do offer loyalty points but customers need to spend them within their businesses but ours allows clients to spend it at any place of their choice,” he informs. “For now, it is loyalty points, in the future, it will be mining cryptocurrency,” he says.
What are the challenges you face on a daily basis at DigiPay?
If it was only digital, the challenge would have been single. But since we have cash integration as well, there are multiple opportunities rather than challenges. We need to educate people on how to use digital wallets, and at the same time explain how traditional models can be replaced with digital models. But turning challenges into opportunities, is what makes us go forward and penetrate the market more.
What is the future of the e-pay system?
Being practical, when evolution was going on, we had a barter system in our community; the number of livestock determined your wealth status. After abacus was introduced, gold and silver were compared to wealth. Similarly, cash payments. And now the next big thing is definitely digital transactions.
What are the requisites of proper e-pay system?
Educating people is the most important aspect for e-pay systems. The faster people are educated, the faster the system will grow. Like various other sectors, education is the first step. What we do is practical education rather than just theoretical.
As e-pay systems gain popularity, do you think e-pay will replace cash and ATMs in the near future?
I strongly believe so. It has already been replaced in many countries worldwide. We are still talking about discounts when you use your debit cards whereas the race in the world is to be the first cashless country in the world. MasterCard and Visa cards are already facing issues, everything is on our smartphones and people have stopped using plastic cards. Globally, ATMs and cash will be replaced may be within two years. In 2019, Sweden was already trying to declare themselves as the first cashless country in the world but due to some technical issues, they are withholding it for now. In the context of Nepal, I’d say within 5-6 years, the market will definitely be 50-50. Once the jumpstart is applied, the system starts working on its own similar to various other sectors. So, after that 50-50 split in the market, the remaining 50% is easily accessible to digital payment.
Is there any law or policy that’s hampering the e-pay system in Nepal?
Yes and no. Since we are talking about finance, the future of money, even today, the traditional model has problems. Let’s talk about crypto currency. Bitcoin back in 2013 was built up from a 10 cents equivalence to more than a projection of $100,00 dollars by 2021. Our policies must change and adapt accordingly.
How do you view the business climate in the country?
I would say it is good. Twenty years back it was good, right now also it is growing and I believe it is in a fantastic state. In a country like ours, where there are obstacles, that’s where the adventure is.
How much has Covid changed the scenario of digital payment in Nepal?
I would say a lot. I think Covid is a booster for digital payment to grow at an immense rate. At present, Rs 200 crores of digital transactions per day are being done in Nepal.
What is the future of cryptocurrency? Is it relevant to Nepal yet?
The future of money is definitely digital, and it can come in many forms. The world is entering into a digital platform and crypto is just a unit after all. Supposing someday we had to go to the United States, would we go to the US by converting Nepali currency into dollars and take it with you or carry a currency that is acceptable in every country? Obviously the latter one. We would definitely carry Bitcoin with us rather than dollars while travelling to the US, right? That day is not far away, if correctly governed.
Cryptocurrency is unregulated, won’t problems like money laundering escalate?
Money laundering has always been there in the traditional model as well. There are always two sides to a coin: good and bad. Money laundering is one of the bad sides, but the government will have to evolve, adapt and find ways to mitigate the problem. When eSewa or Khalti registered for their licence, a company registration was all that was required. When digital payment started to grow, the government thought that they would need a governing body for it as well. So, after 2017, Nepal Rastra Bank established a governing body for it. Similarly, newer things will arise in the future. They are comparing us with a commercial bank, but being a private company, we won’t be able to compete with a commercial bank. Digital wallet acts as a mini-bank so monitoring and governing to some extent is obviously necessary. But as time, needs ad context change, the government must be compelled to adjust its policies accordingly.