TECHINASIA: Cash remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have proven to be a crucial lifeline for their families back home. Yet BeamAndGo founder Mariliese Tan believes there’s a better way to support these families other than cash: digital gift certificates.
“BeamAndGo is a platform that enables Filipinos from anywhere in the world to provide for their families in the Philippines by directly purchasing goods and services in the form of gift certificates from merchants,” says Tan.
Here’s how it works: just put in the amount of gift certificates you wish to send, select a merchant you’d like to purchase them from, and fill out the form for pertinent information. Recipients in the Philippines will receive an SMS bearing a code after a few minutes. Then, they can go to the selected merchant and use the code to purchase goods.
Tan says they provide better services than traditional remittance firms on three aspects: speed, convenience, and affordability.
If traditional services takes days to process a transaction and charges up to eight percent of the transaction amount, theirs is almost instant and charges about four percent. In the meantime, the use of mobile phone makes the whole process easy. “No more waiting in long lines at remittance centers and banks,” notes Tan.
Not just BeamAndGo, several Bitcoin startups are also trying to capture the market of traditional money wiring firms by offering significantly lower transaction fees. Some like Rebit of the Philippines’ Satoshi Citadel Industries even brought transaction fees to zero.
There are about 10 million OFWs all over the world who send billions of dollars in remittances to the Philippines each year. Latest figures from the Philippine central bankshow cash remittances from OFWs amounted to US$24.3 billion in 2014, 5.83 percent more than the US$22.97 billion recorded in 2013. Recovering what’s spent for remittance fees will give OFW families a big financial boost. According to the central bank, these families allocate the remittances for food and other household needs, followed by school tuition, medical expenses, and debt payments.
Why gift certificates?
One may wonder how a business like BeamAndGo can compete with the appeal of cold, hard cash. Cash is flexible – it can be spent for anything and anywhere. There are no restrictions whatsoever.
But Tan stresses that’s the point of it all. BeamAndGo is focused on targeted remittances, and she says it makes a lot of sense when you hear horror stories about how some OFWs’ hard-earned salaries are being misspent or wasted by their families on non-essentials, even vices.
“Our value is that we ensure that money is used for the intended purpose,” she tells Tech in Asia.
Tan says they have partnered with merchants such as San Roque Supermarket, Prince Warehouse, Gaisano Capital, Generika Drugstore, Managed Care Medical, and Super 8 Grocery Warehouse, to name a few. “We are adding new merchants to our platform every day,” she continues.
She notes BeamAndGo is also beneficial for merchants because it gives them an additional revenue stream without manpower or IT costs. “We provide turnkey solutions so that our merchants do not have to make changes to their existing POS system. They can be up and running on our platform within a day.”
Since its launch in April 2014, BeamAndGo has had 60,000 registered users. It targets to have 500,000 users by the end of 2015.
Tan shares the startup bootstrapped its operations for the first six months. It raised a round of US$250,000 from founders and key hires early this year, and will spend the amount for marketing, business development, product development, and staffing.