One thing that upsets me when I get back is that in the last 3 years, e-commerce in Vietnam doesn’t seem to have made any progress. I mean, the infrastructure might be better now. You have more online payment service providers. Besides the old-school ones like Nganluong, Baokim, OnePay, we have SoHaPay recently launched by the Internet giant VC Corp with a bunch of narcissistic PR articles on their own popular news sites. They claim to partner with 18 banks which account for 90% of the card market in Vietnam. The funny thing about the card market in Vietnam is that it sounds huge but means little. There are 40 million cards in the market at the moment, but 10 of them can belong to one person, and 50% of them are currently inactive (if you question my numbers, comment here or ping me and I’ll send you the source). There are also more websites that have incorporated online payment. We also have Rocket Internet pouring money in through the Zappos clone Zalora. However, despite all these, around 90% of all transactions made on any popular e-commerce websites in Vietnam are still COD - Cash on Delivery.
There are many excuses for this, both conventional and innovative: people don’t trust online payment, people can’t be bothered to go through all those steps, people aren’t used to this method of payment. First, if they don’t trust you, make them trust you, service providers. To be human is to be brainwashed. Second, if it’s too complicated, simplify it. The third reason seemed to be the most legitimate 3 years ago, but now, really? After all these years? You have no one to blame other than yourself, service providers. Tai tran has an interesting theory to explain this situation: e-commerce practitioners are so used to COD that they are actually guarding it as the ultimate standard and resist online payment. We’ve all been taught to serve the majority, and the majority is now COD transactions.
Another thing that upsets me is that mobile money transfer service is nowhere to be found which makes Vietnam way lagging behind even Africa. Take Kenya. M-Pesa is like a one for all money transferring solution. You can go to a grocery store without any cash at all, buy all what you want, and then transfer money from your phone to the cashier’s phone. You can lend/borrow money from your friends without even meeting them or dealing with all the complicated account’s details. You can even withdraw money from any of those ubiquitous agents all over the country. What amazed me the most is not only the infrastructure available, but the fact that people there usually use it. Even a housewife who has only completed primary school and lives in a slum uses her phone to pay for her grocery once in a while. Why a country with the number of telephone subscribers almost doubling the population can’t do something like that? (Yes, we have 170M telephone subscribers while the population is around 90M). I have talked to some people are looking into doing something similar to M-Pesa in Vietnam, and the excuses they give me are: too many banks, too many Telcos, too many promotions which dramatically de-value phone credits (for example, you top up 100 000VND and you get 50% bonus). I’m no expert in this field, but I believe everything has a solution: partnerships, a separate account for bonus credit, etc. I have a feeling that mobile payment is inevitable. It’s just taking too long.