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Taxi drivers to drive digital payments adoption at hawker centres in Singapore

Leading Singapore payment services group, NETS and ComfortDelGro Taxi have announced a new partnership to drive digital payments adoption at hawker centres across the island through a new incentive programme that rewards ComfortDelGro taxi drivers for every new hawker that they sign up.

The ‘Hawker Champion’ incentive programme supports the e-payments thrust in Singapore’s Smart Nation vision. Together with NETS’ existing ‘Go Cashless’ consumer campaign, it is expected to help build a cashless ecosystem at hawker centres.

The NETS QR code was launched in September 2017, as a standardised QR code able to accept payments from different banking apps including DBS Paylah!, OCBC's PayAnyone and UOB's Mighty, with plans to include other payment wallets in future. NETS also provides hawkers with a single settlement report that consolidates all the different payment types.

ComfortDelGro cabbies are familiar with cashless payment options and they were amongst the first to use the NETS QR code payment solution in their taxis.

Under the programme, ComfortDelGro cabbies will introduce the NETS QR code payment solution to hawkers unfamiliar with the system. Interested hawkers will be referred to NETS and cabbies will be rewarded for every hawker that signs up for NETS services.

The cabbies and staff will receive a $10 NETS FlashPay card (NETS FlashPay card valued at $5 and usage value of $5) when they download the NETSPay app. 

The programme is being piloted amongst 100 cabbies who have already undergone customised training from NETS and will be rolled out to the rest of the fleet over the next few months. The partnership aims to see 15,000 cabby-ambassadors reach out to their favourite hawkers to encourage them to sign up as NETS merchants.

NETS CEO, Jeffrey Goh, said, “We’re excited to be partnering with ComfortDelGro Taxi on this new programme – after all, who knows hawkers better than taxi drivers? Ask any taxi driver for food recommendations and they’ll be able to point you to their favourite hawker stalls all over Singapore. Hence, we thought they’d be the perfect ambassadors to help us reach out to their favourite hawkers and encourage them to embrace cashless payments since the drivers themselves are familiar with NETS QR payments.”

Mr Ang Wei Neng, CEO of ComfortDelGro Taxi added, “Our cabbies are familiar with different kinds of cashless payments on our taxis and they appreciate the convenience of cashless payments. To be an ambassador for cashless payments at hawker centre is an extension of something that they are familiar with. In the process, we are happy that our cabbies can be part of the effort in moving Singapore towards becoming a Smart Nation.”

The press release from NETS quotes Tham Yuet Kok, 69, who is one of the first 100 cabbies to sign on the programme, “Having gone through the transition from cash to cashless and, now cardless payments, I have come to appreciate the convenience that cashless payments bring. But I also fully understand the concerns hawkers may have, and will be able to share my experience with them.” 

Recently, EZ-Link and NETS announced their first interoperable payments system in which e-payments can be made by EZ-Link (a contactless smart card used for the payment of public transportation fares in Singapore) and concession cards through all NETS terminals at hawker centres in Singapore.

NETS is waiving all terminal and transaction fees for three years to encourage the installation of NETS terminals by hawkers. There are currently more than 1,000 stalls across 70 hawker centres which accept NETS QR code and NETS card payments, including those at Beo Crescent, Tanjong Pagar, Yishun Park and Zion Road. NETS is also accepted at food courts and canteens at Singapore Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Nanyang Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic and the Nanyang Technological University.

NETS is also offering rebates to customers under the ‘Go Cashless’ consumer campaign to drive consumer adoption of QR code payments. The first 288 customers who make eight QR code payments a month at any participating hawker centre from 17 November 2017 to 31 March 2018 will receive S$28 in rebates. The top three hawker stalls who attain the highest number of cashless transactions on a monthly basis will receive S$388, S$288 and S$188 respectively.

Cashless hawker centres

Several initiatives have been launched since last year to accelerate the adoption of e-payments in Singapore. This includes the development of a common Singapore Quick Response Code (SG QR) by an industry taskforce co-led by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). The SG QR will be adopted and deployed by payment services providers in Singapore through 2018. For smaller merchants, the QR code option has the benefit of not requiring payment terminals.

However, challenges remain in changing preferences and behaviour for customers, as well as small cash-based merchants, such as hawker centre stall owners. Last week, a Straits Times report presented a mixed picture regarding cashless payments at the Jurong West hawker centre, where stalls accept eight different kinds of e-payments. Problems such as fees on certain e-payment systems and delayed credit to the stall owners’ accounts are hindering adoption. Many customers also appear to prefer cash for the low value transactions at hawker centres.

The National Environment Agency (NEA), Housing & Development Board (HDB), MAS and Smart Nation and the Digital Government Office (SNDGOjointly issued a Request for Information (RFI) for electronic payment (e-payment) solutions to support micro-payments mainly at small food shops and others in August last year.

Simultaneously, initiatives like this new partnership between NETS and ComfortDelGro or DBS’ Smart Nation Ambassador Programme (launched in May 2017 aiming to recruit 1000 ambassadors to encourage small cash-based merchants to adopt QR code payment option), could complement efforts by the government and industry towards creating a cashless society in Singapore.  

Featured image: Tiberiu Ana/ CC BY 2.0

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