Southeast Asia’s Grab partners with MasterCard to offer virtual debit cards

Ride-hailing firm Grab branched out into payments last year and now the $11 billion-valued company, which acquired Uber’s Southeast Asia business earlier this year, has given its fintech division a major boost after it announced plans to introduce virtual pre-paid debit in partnership with Mastercard. The move is the largest digital payment push in Southeast […]

Ride-hailing firm Grab branched out into payments last year and now the $11 billion-valued company, which acquired Uber’s Southeast Asia business earlier this year, has given its fintech division a major boost after it announced plans to introduce virtual pre-paid debit in partnership with Mastercard.

The move is the largest digital payment push in Southeast Asia to date. The deal will see its Grab Pay business offer Grab’s 110 million registered users the option to use a virtual Mastercard to make payments both online and in-person.

Users will be able to use physical Grab Pay cards or virtual ones — the latter being a card number, expiry date, and other details that are held within the Grab app. Interestingly, TechCrunch understands that Grab had been in contact with Visa over a similar deal but it ultimately chose MasterCard . Grab declined to comment on that when asked.

Regardless of the issuer, the deal instantly gives Grab Pay the potential for serious legs.

Last November, Grab launched its first payment integration by allowing users in Singapore to pay for food at selected restaurants using its app. While it has expanded that support in Singapore and other parts of Southeast Asia, it has needed to onboard merchants to do so. Now, with MasterCard, it is tapping into a vast network of three million retailers across Southeast Asia, with support for worldwide and also via online merchants.

That turns Grab Pay into a serious payment network on paper, but it will also give a large chunk of Southeast Asia’s 650 million population a chance to own a debit card for the first time.

While the region’s middle-class is growing quickly as internet access continues to increase — Southeast Asia’s internet population is larger than the total U.S. population, and growing — few people own credit or debit cards.

Many, in fact, remain unbanked. The World Bank claims 71 percent of the region is paid their salary in cash while just 30 percent own a debit card and only nine percent have a credit card. Many simply don’t qualify to own one. Grab’s effort, which is the largest pre-paid push in the region, could make a difference.

‘Could’ is very much the operative word here. While Grab has made progress with Grab Pay — which also runs an offline merchant network that enables those with limited internet knowledge to take advantage of e-commerce and other online services — the service is intrinsically linked to Grab.

Grab Pay can now exist as a standalone service. The question is whether Grab can market the virtual card service effectively and tap the undoubted potential that it has for its business and consumers in Southeast Asia. To date, no fintech firm has managed to build a regional network that covers over 100 million consumers, although there are plenty of promising challengers that have started out in a single market right.

Grab though is confident that its raft of non-transportation — which includes food deliveries, grocery deliveries and other third-party services on its platform — can make the Mastercard venture work.

“We see Grab Pay as a glue that goes across all the products we offer, and rewards our users for using them,” Reuben Lai, senior managing director at Grab Financial, told TechCrunch in an interview. “Grab Pay users spend two times more than regular users and they stay twice longer on our platform.”

Lai added that those who use Grab Pay are 30 percent more likely to use other Grab services — they, it seems, are the power users — but he added that Grab’s mission, beyond increasing engagement, is to digitize payments in Southeast Asia.

“What we want to do next is democratize payments and access to financial services,” he said. “Many consumers don’t have access to the things we take for granted, we want to make these available to our users, drivers and partners.”

Just as Grab founders Hooi Ling Tan and Anthony Tan have said that street hailing is Grab’s biggest competitor, so Lai suggested that cash is the biggest rival to Grab Pay right now.

That’s certainly true since the deal with Uber removed Grab’s main competitor from the eight markets that it serves in Southeast Asia, but regulators are keen to see increased competition. Singapore fined Uber and Grab a collective $9.5 million from what it deemed to be an “anti-competitive” merger deal while the Philippines followed suit with a far smaller $300,000 wrap on the knuckles.

That shock to the system, coupled with a consumer backlashed around more limited choice and a bodged effort to revamp Grab’s loyalty program, has seen Grab admit for the first time that it needs to rebuild ties. The MasterCard deal has the potential to be useful if executed right, but many Grab users will be looking for it to shore up on the basics, with complaints centered around issues like driver reliability and fair pricing.

That’s right, in the absence of Uber, Grab is learning that it isn’t easy being the top dog. But that status does give it the potential to work on major new products and with huge partners like MasterCard. A deal like this was unthinkable when Grab was the scrappy underdog, but now it’s a company that raises billions on a regular basis and is category leader.

Italian consumer watchdog hands down €15M in fines to Apple and Samsung for slowing devices

Italy’s Autorità garante della concorrenza e del mercato, roughly equivalent to this America’s FTC, has fined Apple and Samsung a total of $15 million for the companies’ practice of forcing updates on consumers that may slow or break their devices. The amount may be a drop in the bucket, but it’s a signal that governments won’t always let this type of behavior fly.

Italy’s Autorità garante della concorrenza e del mercato, roughly equivalent to this America’s FTC, has fined Apple and Samsung a total of $15 million for the companies’ practice of forcing updates on consumers that may slow or break their devices. The amount may be a drop in the bucket, but it’s a signal that governments won’t always let this type of behavior fly.

The “unfair commercial practices” are described by the AGCM as follows:

The two companies have induced consumers – by insistently proposing to proceed with the download and also because of the significant information asymmetry of consumers vis-a-vis the producers – to install software updates that are not adequately supported by their devices, without adequately informing them, nor providing them an effective way to recover the full functionality of their devices.

Sounds about right!

In case you don’t remember, essentially Apple was pushing updates to iPhones last year that caused performance issues with older phones. Everyone took this as part of the usual conspiracy theory that Apple slows phones to get you to upgrade, but it turns out to have been more like a lack of testing before they shipped.

Samsung, for its part, was pushing Android Mashmallow updates to a number of its devices, but failed to consider that it would cause serious issues in Galaxy Note 4s — issues it then would charge to repair.

The issue here wasn’t the bad updates exactly, but the fact that consumers were pressured into accepting them, at cost to themselves. It would be one thing if the updates were simply made available and these issues addressed as they came up, but both companies “insistently suggested” that the updates be installed despite the problems.

In addition to this, Apple was found to have “not adequately informed consumers about some essential characteristics of lithium batteries, such as their average duration and deterioration factors, nor about the correct procedures to maintain, verify and replace batteries in order to preserve full functionality of devices.” That would be when Apple revealed to iPhone 6 owners that their batteries were not functioning correctly and that they’d have to pay for a replacement if they wanted full functionality. This information, the AGCM, suggests, ought to have been made plain from the beginning.

Samsung gets €5 million in fines and Apple gets €10 million. Those may not affect either company’s bottom line, but they are the maximum possible fines, so it’s symbolic as well. If a dozen other countries were to come to the same conclusion, the fines would really start to add up. Apple has already made some amends, but if it fell afoul of the law it still has to pay the price.

AT&T’s streaming video device is now in beta testing

AT&T has begun beta testing a streaming device that seems to be something of its own Roku competitor, according to a statement made by John Donovan, CEO of AT&T Communications, during the company’s third quarter earnings call. The device, first scooped a year ago by Variety is an Android TV-based set-top box which integrates other streaming apps and […]

AT&T has begun beta testing a streaming device that seems to be something of its own Roku competitor, according to a statement made by John Donovan, CEO of AT&T Communications, during the company’s third quarter earnings call. The device, first scooped a year ago by Variety is an Android TV-based set-top box which integrates other streaming apps and ships with a voice remote, according to an FCC filing.

While AT&T didn’t comment on Variety’s report at the time, it did later confirm the device on an earnings call earlier this year.

The box was then described as a way for customers to watch DirecTV Now or other streaming services from their home. The plan at the time was to have the device launched by the end of 2018, the company had said.

The word today is that timeframe has shifted.

Donovan said the service was in “beta testing” now, but added that AT&T planned to “roll out trials in the first half of next year.”

The thin client-based service – as this product was referred to as by the exec – would be the next step in transitioning traditional pay TV customers to the streaming service, DirecTV Now.

It could also be used to target cord cutters in search of a more traditional TV experience, by offering access to streaming TV without requiring the installation of a satellite dish.

“This will be a more measured roll out,” Donovan said, of the new thin client-based service. “Like our introduction of WatchTV, we expect this service to be EBITDA positive. And over time, it should lower our acquisition cost of our premium video service. And both of these use the common platform we introduced with DirecTV Now,” he noted.

The device’s arrival comes at a time when AT&T’s pay TV business is in decline.

The company reported a 346,000 net loss in traditional TV customers (DirecTV and AT&T Uverse) in the quarter. However, it gained 49,000 for its streaming service, DirecTV Now, which has grown to 1.86 million subscribers.

AT&T said it would also begin evaluating its channel lineups, in order to better “align content costs with the price.” That seems to mean that AT&T may also be thinking about breaking up content into even skinnier bundles – something that Hulu says it’s doing, as well.

 

 

Apple shares bite-sized quotes from the overwhelmingly positive iPhone XR reviews

Apple wants you to know how great the new iPhone XR is so it’s shared more than a dozen overwhelmingly positive review quotes published in popular publications.

iDownloadBlog recently rounded up not only first YouTube reviews but also the most popular big media reviews of the new iPhone XR, and now it’s Apple’s turn to do the same. Earlier this morning, the Cupertino technology giant issued a press release highlighting the best bite-sized quotes from the overwhelmingly positive iPhone XR reviews.... Read the rest of this post here


"Apple shares bite-sized quotes from the overwhelmingly positive iPhone XR reviews" is an article by iDownloadBlog.com.
Make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Oracle’s Larry Ellison keeps poking AWS because he has no choice

Larry Ellison gave his Oracle Openworld keynote on Monday and of course he took several shots sat AWS. In his view, his company’s cloud products were cheaper, better and faster than AWS, but then what would you expect him to say? He rolled out a slide with all the facts and figures in case you […]

Larry Ellison gave his Oracle Openworld keynote on Monday and of course he took several shots sat AWS. In his view, his company’s cloud products were cheaper, better and faster than AWS, but then what would you expect him to say?

He rolled out a slide with all the facts and figures in case you doubted it. He wrapped it up in a neat little marketing package for the world to see. Oracle has an autonomous self-healing database. AWS? Nope. That much he’s right.

Slide: Oracle

He makes claims that his cloud products are faster and cheaper, claims that are hard to substantiate given how hard it is to nail down any vendor’s cloud prices and speeds. He says they have no disaster recovery, when they do. None of it matters.

This was about showmanship. It was about chest beating and it’s about going after the market leader because frankly, the man has little choice. By now, it’s well documented that Oracle was late to the cloud. Larry Ellison was never a fan and he made it clear over the years, but today as the world shifts to a cloud model, his company has had to move with it.

It hasn’t been an easy transition. It required substantial investment on the part of the company to build its infrastructure to support a cloud model. It took a big change in the way their sales people sell the product. The cloud is based on a subscription model, and it requires more of a partnership approach with customers. Oracle doesn’t exactly have a reputation for playing nicely.

To make matters worse, Oracle’s late start puts it well behind market leader AWS. Hence, Ellison shouting from the rooftops how much better his company’s solutions are and how insecure the competitors are. Synergy Research, which follows the cloud market closely, has pegged Amazon’s cloud market share at around 35 percent. It has Oracle in the single digits in the most recent data from last summer (and the market hasn’t shifted dramatically since it came out with this data).

At the time, Synergy identified the four biggest players as Amazon, Microsoft, Google and IBM with Alibaba coming up fast. Synergy chief analyst John Dinsdale says Oracle is falling behind. “We have seen Oracle losing market share over the last few quarters in IaaS, PaaS and managed private cloud,” he said. “In a market that is growing at 50 percent per year, Microsoft, Google and Alibaba are all gaining market share, while the share of market leader AWS is holding steady,” he added.

To its credit, the company has seen some gains via its SaaS business. “As Oracle works to convert its huge on-premise software client base to SaaS, Oracle grew its share of enterprise SaaS markets in 2016 and 2017. Its market share then held steady in the first half of 2018,” Dinsdale pointed out.

Yet the company stopped breaking out its cloud revenue last June. As I wrote at the time, that isn’t usually a good sign:

That Oracle chose not to break out cloud revenue this quarter can’t be seen as a good sign. To be fair, we haven’t really seen Google break out their cloud revenue either with one exception in February. But when the guys at the top of the market shout about their growth, and the guys further down don’t, you can draw your own conclusions.

Further Oracle has been quite vocal about protesting the Pentagon’s $10 billion JEDI contract, believing that it has been written to favor Amazon over other vendors, a charge the Pentagon has denied. It hasn’t stopped Oracle from filing protests or even bringing their case directly to the president.

At least Ellison might have had some good news yesterday. CNBC reported that the big Amazon Prime outage in July might have been related to a transition away from Oracle databases that Amazon is currently undertaking.

Regardless, Oracle finds itself in an unfamiliar position. After years of domination, it is stuck behind in the pack. When you find yourself in such a position, you need to have a strong bark and Ellison is going after AWS hard. As the clear market leader, he has few other options right now.