Empowering Micro Entrepreneurs in Thailand

Financial inclusion

I started my Thailand related series of blogs two weeks ago. In my first blog I wrote about the issues to be considered before starting a business in Thailand. You can find the blog here. Today, I’m focusing on how to create value for low-income communities by empowering micro entrepreneurs. Inclusive business is not exclusively for big corporations; startups can have an impact with their business as well.

Extra income without additional inventory

In Bangkok 7-Elevens and Familymarts are everywhere. In large cities, convenience stores by international chains seem to dominate the market, but there are still 815.000 small retailers in Thailand. Convenience stores are continuing their outlet expansion but by focusing their efforts mainly on densely populated areas. With our mobile marketplace, we want to empower small entrepreneurs, especially in rural areas. Instead of large chains, we want to see the benefit in entrepreneurs’ pockets and make their businesses’ more successful.

Tapp Market is a mobile commerce platform, aimed for under banked and unbanked populations in emerging markets. To start using, all you need to do is download the application from Google Play and make a deposit. Then you are ready to start selling e.g. airtime top-up, electricity, water, micro insurance, gaming vouchers, tickets or selected physical products. Entrepreneurs can sell more products without taking the risk that the inventory will stay on the shelf for too long. With Tapp Market, they can increase their product selection enormously.

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There are few similar platforms available in Thailand. Shop owners are not, however, willing to take many of these into use but they are interested to test new services, if this is incentivised. They are not able to make deposits to several services, otherwise they will not have enough money to serve their customers, in case they will come to pay a bill with higher value. Due to this they prefer to use platforms with a wider selection of products. They love the idea of mobility and the opportunity it brings to them, for example, the ability to keep their shop open around the clock from any location. Many entrepreneurs in Thailand are having a physical kiosk in front of their store for bills payments and airtime top-up. They would like to be able to service more customers and see that mobile solution would support this. 

Mobile commerce platform is not restricted only to shopkeepers. Anyone can become an agent, for example, truck drivers. When they are not busy and just hanging out with their fellow drivers, they are eager to find more income opportunities. In the interviews our local team conducted, the truckers said they would be happy to have more channels of income. However, they are concerned whether they have enough money to make a deposit before being able to start sales. Luckily there is no minimum deposit amount in Tapp Market.

Enhancing financial inclusion

People who live further away from the urban areas, and have lower income level, seem to be more interested in our service than entrepreneurs in the city. Tapp Market enables everyone to access mobile commerce, bridging the cash society with the digital economy.

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One of our most important reasons to enter the Thai market is that cash is still the preferred payment method. For many people it is also the only possible way to pay their purchases. 

Thailand is one of the most mature markets in Southeast Asia but still there are 12.5 million Thais, and several million immigrants, that are financially excluded. According to a survey by World Bank Group, the main reasons not to have a bank account are distance, high cost, and the lack of ID documents.

Mobile marketplace empowering micro entrepreneurs can have a significant impact on society and improve the daily life of many people, especially in the countryside. Application used by local entrepreneurs will expand access to goods and services for people living in the rural areas. They don’t need to take a bus to nearest town anymore to pay their bills or to purchase daily necessities.

 

Heini Saari is leading Tapp Commerce’s market expansion to Thailand. She loves exploring new countries & cultures and thinks she has the best job in Finland. Follow Heini on Twitter.

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This was Heini’s second blog out of three covering how mobile marketplace platform can create value for micro entrepreneurs and enhance financial inclusion. Her next blog will be on business culture in Thailand. Stay tuned!