FINANCIAL SERVICES | Staff Reporter, Singapore

EZi Wallet embarks on crusade to be Singapore's cashless choice

It digitises rewards cards, loyalty points programmes, and promo vouchers via a QR code-based system.

When food and beverage operator Chang Cheng Group was looking for a digital cashless payment solution for its more than 200 food outlets in Singapore, it partnered with homegrown startup EZi Technology to produce a cool new concept: The first productivity coffeeshop in Singapore called Foodtastic! in Choa Chu Kang.

“For Chang Cheng, the initial project involved creating a customer loyalty program, and cashless payment gateway for their brand,” said Ian Lee Thye Guan, the 44-year-old founder of EZi Technology, whose banner product EZi Wallet is at the heart of the food chain’s cashless transformation.

The EZi Wallet is an electronic wallet that digitises any card-based service in a customer’s physical wallet - from rewards cards, loyalty points programmes, promo vouchers to payments via a QR code-based system. It also makes it easy for the store to handle EZi Wallet transactions through a simple point of sale process, while also granting a business owner access to real-time sales reports and mobile ordering features.

“While loyalty cards and outlet-specific stored value cards, such as the Kopitiam card, have found success, mobile technology offers an opportunity to go digital and do away with the need for having multiple physical cards in our wallets,” said Lee.

The founder shared that the Foodtastic! concept has shown success, lowering cash managements costs and curbing cash leakages in the prototype store. The startup is now busy rolling out its platform solution to the rest of Chang Cheng outlets in Singapore.

Building on this initial momentum, EZi Technology has started offering its services to other small and medium enterprises, and small food outlets. While its Chang Cheng solution boasted of tailored specifications for the large chain’s requirements, Lee reckoned smaller businesses can similarly take advantage of the platform to digitise daily payments, manage customer loyalty programs, and launch marketing and promotions campaigns.

“For EZi Wallet, the next step will be additional emphasis on our segment marketing efforts,” said the founder, who self-funded the startup but now has attracted an undisclosed amount of additional funding from private investors.

“You will start to see segment specific activities and promotions that we will run, combined with various outreach programmes that we are working on to provide education to the targeted population segments on the various cashless payment modes available and how to use them.”

Clearing up the cashless confusion
Lee reckoned businesses are still confused as to the options that are available and optimal to them. This is partly because of the many cashless payment modes and service providers flooding the market, so EZi Wallet plans to cut through the clutter.

“Having some clarity will eventually help people make informed choices when it comes to which service provider to use, and we believe that this is the correct way ahead,” said Lee.

When it comes to setting itself apart, EZi Technology and its banner product have credibility and clout on their side. The startup is a member and the youngest company of the SGQR Taskforce set up by the Payments Council under the auspices of the Monetary Authority of Singapore. The taskforce is envisioned to play a major role in shaping the country’s payments landscape as it moves towards digitisation, according to Lee.

Lee is a computer science graduate of NUS and a serial entrepreneur that established his first business in 2004. He shared that his vision for a cashless Singapore began when he spent time in China. There, a movement towards a cashless society highlighted the convenience of such modes of payment. By contrast, the local scene saw a swath of restaurants and cafes relying on tablet-based ordering systems.

“Interestingly enough, hygiene was one of the issues that got me thinking about putting these two trends together,” said Lee.

“Having to place food orders using a touch screen that has fingerprint smudge marks all over was not very appealing to me. Cash also suffered from the same questionable hygiene issues especially in certain places such as wet markets.”

He said this realisation led to the blueprint for the startup’s first solution, which was a mobile phone-based ordering system with payment features, and the emergence of EZi Technology.

“Our vision has always been to push out new technologies that are inclusive, and we will continue guiding our research and development efforts in this direction,” said Lee.

Looking forward, the founder could not help but be excited. EZi Technology’s strategy to allocate significant resources to an in-house Engineering team and research and development projects is bearing fruit. The startup currently has 13 IPs registered in China, with more expected to come in the next months.

“We believe that our humanised cutting-edge technologies will be key to further success, and will continue investing heavily in this front,” said Lee.

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