The cashless revolution | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 06, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:03 AM, October 06, 2020

The cashless revolution

As the country strides towards attaining the dream of a ‘Digital Bangladesh,’ change in most spheres of life is inevitable -- from the way we socialise to how we entertain ourselves. This of course, challenges the age-old norms and conventions, and yet, slowly but surely, we are moving out of them to embrace newer, faster, and easier ways of doing things online. And one such monumental change lies in how we shop and make transactions; the era of cashless lifestyle is perhaps not far away!

And why not go cashless? Whether you pay through your credit card at a retail outlet or via your mobile phone, it is much more efficient and easier to manage -- not to forget that you are shedding off the hassle and safety concerns that come with carrying cash. Hence, nowadays it is not unusual for many of us to go even an entire day without dealing with physical money.

But even just some years ago, the scenario was rather different, with businesses and customers approaching the notion with a whole lot of doubt.

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SSL Wireless, with its payment gateway platform SSLCOMMERZ, observed this in its early years of operation.

SSLCOMMERZ -- a leading brand in this field in Bangladesh -- was founded in 2010 as a business-to-business company that provides digital payment solutions for its clients, and in the initial years, has gone through the struggle of dealing with something many people were simply not accustomed to at that time, and which thus posed a challenge.

Sayeeful Islam, Managing Director of SSLCOMMERZ, explains, "Businesses and consumers alike were not comfortable with the idea or system of cashless transactions. They approached it with caution and apprehension. Moreover, the market and the overall circumstances were not favourable. A lot of companies were yet to become digital and relied mostly on manual processes. The number of users with adequate or good quality Internet was also relatively low, and so was the number of credit and debit cardholders."

However, with time, these problems waned away to an extent, so much so that the Managing Director says that cashless payments are now very much prevalent in the urban regions of the country, especially in the bigger cities. 

In retrospect, that's a long way our country has come, and it continues with this evolution, especially during this pandemic, which is indeed working as a catalyst in the transformation towards the practice of digital transactions.

Mohammad Toybur Rahaman, Head of Merchant Acquisition at SSLCOMMERZ informs that they have seen a rise in the number of new clients during the pandemic, especially during the general holiday or lockdown, when businesses had to put a lot of the physical or traditional processes to a pause.

"There are businesses which never even considered the idea of digital payments, but this pandemic forced them to rethink, in order to adapt to the new normal," he said.

A drastic change swept across people. Rahaman explains, "It has always been a challenge to get people on board with the idea of online grocery shopping. It is just something people want to physically experience -- touch and feel the product -- before making a purchase. But the pandemic changed this attitude amongst many customers. Nowadays, buying groceries and everyday essentials online occurs more often than before."

SSLCOMMERZ's clientele spans across a wide plethora of sectors and even encompasses Facebook-based ventures. F-commerce, after all, has become an incredibly popular business model since the past couple of years or so.

If your venture only has a Facebook page but not any website, no problem! For digital payments, SSLCOMMERZ still has you covered. "We will give you a link, which you can forward to the customer. Upon clicking the link, s/he can fill out the necessary details, opt for the preferred channel (like bKash, a banking card, et al), and then make the payment," Rahaman explains. 

Old habits die hard, though. Even if customers are ordering online, many still prefer cash-on-delivery, instead of paying online, in advance. For them, SSLCOMMERZ has 'QR on delivery': the customer makes the payment after receiving the product, but instead of making cash payment, what happens is that the s/he is shown a QR code, which, when scanned, will basically take him/her to the aforementioned link, from where the customer can fill out the details and make payment online.

But what about those numerous tiny brick-and-mortar outlets which do not even have a Facebook page or any online presence at all? For such businesses too, there is the system of QR code, where the QR code is available for customers -- say, at the cash counter -- to scan and pay digitally.

SSLCOMMERZ is working closely with banks and payment brands such as Visa, Mastercard, UnionPay and others for implementing the Bangla QR which is the national standard of QR payments prescribed by Bangladesh Bank. Through Bangla QR, SSLCOMMERZ is bringing acceptance of contactless digital payments to all MSEs and SMEs around the country.

So, can Bangladesh one day truly become a cashless economy?

Finally, Sayeeful Islam says, "The younger generation is growing up using the Internet from childhood. Concepts like online shopping and digital transactions are not new to them; these are things they perceive as normal, given, and usual. Therefore, the shift towards a society which does not rely hugely on cash is eventually inevitable. We believe that the day is near when you will even digitally pay at the roadside tea stall."


Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed

Model: Marzan Mahmood and Salman Rashid

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