RazerPay vs NETS isn’t the right debate. Encouraging Innovation and Innovators to Step Up is.

RazerPay vs NETS isn’t the right debate. Encouraging Innovation and Innovators to Step Up is. Credit: Min-Liang Tan Facebook page

There is no doubt a unified e-Payment system is the way of the future; its benefits for Singaporeans are unquestionable. The objective has always been to enable Singapore to be a cashless society whether through Nets, PayNow, RazerPay or GrabPay or other contenders.

The recent RazerPay proposal appears to have brought hordes of critics out from the woods.

While many have praised Min-Liang Tan (Min), CEO of Razer, as an innovator who’s willing to step up to the challenge, the proposal and Min himself have been heavily criticised.

As a founder, this sort of response is discouraging and makes me question the type of environment we are fostering (or not) in Singapore. I’m not here to defend the RazerPay proposal. I am here to urge everyone to look beyond the proposal and the message we send.

RazerPay vs NETS isn’t the right debate. Encouraging Innovation and Innovators to Step Up is.

NETS Payment system. Credit: RWS

Here are some of the shortcomings highlighted:
(To be clear, I agree with some of them.)

  1.    What value does RazerPay bring to the e-Payments industry?
  2.    How does RazerPay measure technically?
  3.    How successful can RazerPay be? Isn’t it just another wallet?
  4.    Aren’t there better alternatives? Especially NETS since they are already dominant? 
  5.    The RazerPay proposal doesn’t highlight something new. 

The personal criticisms include:

  1.       Min’s just drumming up publicity for Razer’s IPO
  2.       It’s simply a marketing ploy
  3.       He was being cheeky and did not expect Prime Minister Lee to reply. Things escalated quickly.

This begs the question, where is all the resentment coming from? Being an armchair critic is an easy pastime in the digital age. It is, however, alarming to observe how unkind some of the comments have been and they have not been particularly constructive either. (Not all, some are educated and practical.)

If entrepreneurs have the added burden of being wrong before we even try,… how can we ever be right?

In this information age, Singaporeans should feel encouraged to take a chance; to stand up and to try. Even if one was to fail, there is something to be said for the courage to try.

We need to champion people who take calculated risks and reward the indomitable spirit of taking action. We need to stop being so daunted by failures only to be rendered to inaction. Let’s not censure the risk-takers who took a chance and put up a hand, flippantly discouraging those who are thinking of trying something new or different.

When you do that, you break the spirit of entrepreneurship and of trying.

In their own ways, each and every entrepreneur or founder is trying. Most of us fail. Most of us don’t make it out. We know the chances of us succeeding is low so please, don’t add to the weight of doubts that entrepreneurs have to face by shredding them into pieces. Otherwise, how do we dare to dream?

The Question: How can we be part of the solution?

Yes, Razer has no experience in large-scale payment transactions and operations. Their proposal lacks the technical details that experts wanted. Yes, it has its weaknesses, and it doesn’t highlight anything new. But to deride the proposal for recommending a way forward when nothing evident was being done at that time is unbecoming.

RazerPay vs NETS isn’t the right debate. Encouraging Innovation and Innovators to Step Up is.

Credit: Min-Liang Tan Facebook page

In this instance, Min has shown the initiative. He stood up, raised his hand and delivered on what he promised — a proposal in the form of RazerPay. He cannot be accused of “all talk, no action”. Min took a chance and put his money where his mouth is, albeit based on a playful exchange on Twitter, blown out of proportion. 

Is Min a marketer? Of course, he is. He demonstrated that in proposing the e-Payment system to Prime Minister Lee. And there are no two ways about it, Min is an exceptional marketer, and a successful one at that. One does not build a company from the ground up and turn it into a thriving global cult brand through pure luck. He’s savvy, knows his market and has a keen pulse on the market.

There is no onus for Min to do this. Should the plan go through, he will be committing  $S10 million from Razer’s own pocket to seed the e-Payment system. This is in a bid to advance Singapore to a cashless society.

Then, there’s the jab about the political undercurrent of the tagline: For Singaporeans. By Singaporeans. (It’s a variation of Razer’s tagline – For Gamers. By Gamers.)

Some suggested that Min is doing this as an investment for his personal net worth; to cover up his company’s losses. But to put it in context, this is the man who made it into #41 of Forbes 50 before he turned 40 — on his own accord. He is a self-made man. More zeroes in the bank might not necessarily make him happier. Or give him satisfaction. At a certain point, ‘more money’ doesn’t serve as a motivation. Instead, changing perceptions, breaking things and doing the impossible is.

True, he is a public figure and yes, “he signed up for it”. And perhaps, he “should be used to it” – the brickbats thrown at him. Yet, just because he became a ‘public figure’ (by way of establishing an illustrious company) does not validate the mud-slinging his way.

And how about the faceless, nameless team who worked on RazerPay? How about the time and effort they have put into developing the proposal?

Because Min made good on the promise to Prime Minister Lee, more people have sat up and taken notice of the cashless system debate and issue. It brought a new widespread interest in FinTech in Singapore.

The magnitude of the criticism is disheartening; the effort that went into questioning and throwing shades which did not go into providing useful alternatives and suggestions. The rhetoric we should be focusing on is not how bad RazerPay is, or how it won’t succeed. The critical question should be: How can we contribute to making a difference?

“Failure is not having the courage to try, nothing more and nothing less.”

(Robin S Sharma)

SIm Wong Hoo, RazerPay vs NETS isn’t the right debate. Encouraging Innovation and Innovators to Step Up is.

Credit: ST

Sim Wong Hoo of Creative Technology used to be one of the few recognisable, high-profile, public technology company founders. He popularised the term “NO U-Turn Syndrome”, emphasising how Singaporeans had to gain permission from high authorities before taking action. He believed that being overly-compliant stifles innovation and creativity (pun intended).

Fast forward to today, the entrepreneurship scene in Singapore is dramatically different. On average, more than 50,000 new businesses are formed in Singapore every year. In 2017, Singapore can proudly hold claims to 2 more high-profile tech unicorns – Razer and Grab.

Min’s story is very un-Singaporean, and many have hailed him as the rockstar of the start-up community. Before starting Razer, he worked as an advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Singapore. He then left the secure and respected legal profession to move to San Francisco to start a gaming company. But if Min’s Razer was not a success, will we still celebrate him/ Razer as much today?

Based on an Aug 2017 report, the cessation rates for businesses spiked to 22% last year. While you don’t have to be a cheerleader for every entrepreneur or silly ideas in the market, I hope we can all collectively reflect on the kind of community we will like to build for the future generations.

If RazerPay fails, then what? We try again. We learn from the mistakes. We avoid the pitfalls. We adapt. We reiterate. Till we succeed.  Same goes for NETS, PayNow, GrabPay, or any other solutions.

But if we take every innovator we have and hurl bricks at them and drag them through the mud, then who will step out?  Sticks and stones shall not break the bones of entrepreneurs you may say… but who then can Singapore rely on to be the entrepreneurs, founders and dreamers of our society?

RazerPay vs NETS isn’t the right debate. Encouraging Innovation and Innovators to Step Up is.


 

Final Thoughts on a unified e-Payment system : What Can We Do to Reach an Effective Solution Faster?

For e-Payments to succeed, we need a solution that can be implemented easily and widely used. Instead of focusing on having new wallets of increasing the issuance of cards, we should concentrate on having a universal QR code, deploying more POS terminals and convincing merchants to adopt the new technologies by offering monetary incentives or rebates.

In summary, the reasons Singapore are not advancing in e-Payment systems are:

  1. Lack of Customer Adoption
  2. Small Merchants’ Willingness to Implement
  3. Different POS solutions

Singapore should focus on adoption and get the buy-in of the different stakeholders and their support. We should develop a universal QR standard for PayNow. PayNow has the capabilities to support both cashless peer-to-peer and merchant payments. This can be executed through credit, debit and fund transfer.

The biggest hurdle towards a cashless payment system is the willingness of small merchants to implement an e-Payment system. A lot of small businesses, or hawkers, only accept cash as payments. The costs of moving to a cashless payment might be too prohibitive. Hence, we should think of how we can pass on the cost savings to these small merchants to persuade them to adopt new technologies.

What are your views on how we can advance e-Payments system?

What are some of the best ways Singapore can transform into a cashless payments system?

RazerPay vs NETS isn’t the right debate. Encouraging Innovation and Innovators to Step Up is.

Credit: Wikimedia common

Anna V. Haotanto

Anna V. Haotanto

Anna Haotanto is passionate about finance, education, women empowerment and children’s issues. Anna has been featured in CNBC, Forbes, The Straits Times, Business Insider, INC and The Peak Singapore.

She was nominated and selected for FORTUNE Most Powerful Women conference in 2016 (Asia) and 2015 (San Francisco, Next Gen).

Anna has 10 years of experience in the financial sector and is currently a Director in Tera Capital. Her previous work experience includes positions at Citigroup, United Overseas Bank, a regional role in Business Monitor and a boutique private equity firm based in Shanghai. She graduated from Singapore Management University (Finance and Quantitative Finance).
Anna V. Haotanto