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‘Digital economy should be everyone’s goal’

'Digital economy should be everyone's goal'

January 11, Kathmandu. E-Sewa, which has advanced digital payment services with the concept of digital economy, has completed 14 years since its inception. E-Sewa started its service in 2009 when planning digital payment service was a big challenge in itself.

In the immediate situation, eSewa has been building its base for digital payments in a reliable manner without any regulatory provisions. Jagdish Khadka, Chief Executive Officer of E-Sewa, says that E-Sewa, which obtained a payment service provider’s license from Nepal Rastra Bank in 2017 after Nepal Rastra Bank introduced the Payment Service Guidelines, now has 7 million registered users and 75 million e-Sewa app downloads.

Focusing on the digital economy seen by e-seva, Isewa’s plans for it and the challenges facing it up to now, Online News talks with Jagdish Khadka, chief executive officer of e-seva.

How does the state of digital payments look like when completing 14 years of service as a payment service provider?

When e-services were launched in 2009, envisioning digital payments was a big challenge. Its implementation was even more difficult. There was a situation where we had to go from place to place and tell them to make digital payments, payment can be made through e-service. We used to go to the ‘field’ from the employees of e-services to the managers in order to instill confidence in the citizens.

We have been advancing digital payments in a reliable manner in the absence of regulation. E-Seva introduced the first service in the form of top-up. Topup itself lasted for a few years.

In 2017, we got a digital payment service provider’s license after Nepal Rastra Bank’s payment service guidelines came out. After that, with regulation, e-service is providing more than 5000 services today.

As a leading organization of digital payment services, how do you remember the contribution of e-seva to the development of digital payment services?

We did not imagine that we can raise public awareness of electronic payment only through digital app. We have established agents to make it a reality. Today, there are more than 185,000 agents across the country. Their contribution is great for e-services to come to this state. Digital payments have not reached this stage by our voice alone.

Today, e-service has come to this state when every agent associated with e-service has informed the public about how to take the service of digital payment from their place and how to make payment. With the help of media, various merchants, banks and financial institutions and regulatory bodies, we have reached here by taking digital payment as our own product and providing reliable and safe services to the customers.

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After several years of establishment, what difference did you find between the situation after the National Bank gave the license and regulated it and the situation before that?

It has become easier for us after coming under regulation. Before, we did not know how far we should go and what the perimeter was.

There was confusion about what to be careful about and how to frame the company. After the National Bank has introduced guidelines, it has become easier to know what our target is.

The perimeter of the service and scope that we provide has been built. Our purpose has become more clear.

What achievements has E-Sewa achieved while completing 14 years in the field of digital payments?

While completing 14 years, the registered users of e-service are more than 7 million. More than 75 lakh Iseva app has been downloaded.

More than 3 lakh merchants have been added. There are more than 185 thousand agents and 523 employees working directly.

Many are directly involved. We have also found that the cost of running the business of various merchants has decreased.

Some payment service providers have also introduced plans to give interest on wallets. The user alleges that the e-service keeps the customer’s money in the wallet and earns interest from it. Some even say that they have lost their money from e-services. Does the e-service earn interest from the customer’s balance? Is the customer’s money at risk?

There is no truth in it. First you need to know how the wallet works.

Even if the money is visible in the mobile wallet, the money is not in the mobile. The settlement of all money remains in the bank. The e-service does not have any access to the user’s account or wallet.

Since the said money will remain in the bank and the beneficiary will be the user, e-service will not receive any interest or profit from it. We have not been able to pay interest till today as the regulatory system is not clear regarding giving interest on the wallet.

Even if there is an arrangement to pay interest on the next day as well, only the settlement bank can give it instead of e-sewa. E-Sewa does not have a banking license.

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There is no regulatory system for payment service providers to pay interest. Interest is paid by the bank that has the money. After the regulatory system becomes clear for that, it will be easy for the settlement bank.

The e-service user’s money is as safe as in a bank account. After their money is seen in the mobile wallet, it is in the bank account.

When moving from cash transactions to digital payments, what is e-service doing for literacy in this regard?

There are 7 branches of e-seva, 150 field staff all over Nepal. They have been conducting public awareness campaigns by going to various schools, various merchants and various agencies.

In addition to this, e-service from time to time to come to the digital payment platform conducts various programs that benefit the users. Our goal is that the customer should be confident about the digital payment service and adopt it.

The topic of data security in digital payment services keeps coming up from time to time. How is e-service ensuring customer data security and privacy?

E-Sewa is an ISO accredited company. We have an ISO audit every year. Along with e-service, we have adopted all kinds of techniques and procedures that can be done by e-service, including ‘check and balance’, data masking, to protect the customer’s personal details and transaction facts/data.

The control tools used by Iseva for data protection, which keep the data completely safe. E-service has provided services without keeping the customer’s data completely safe.

The data provided by the customer to Iseva is completely secure. No e-service user’s data is shared with any merchant.

Any amount of ‘reward points’ the user has got. It is only that they can go to the merchant and redeem it.

The incident of giving e-service user data to merchants has not been seen in e-services and will not happen.

As the number of e-service users increases, customer complaints are increasing. There is also a complaint that the hearing is not effective. How are you addressing customer complaints?

Complaints are coming from the customers, we have taken it positively and tried to make the customer service effective.

At present, we believe that the solution to the problem should be through technology. Our goal is to have as few inquiries and concerns as possible from the customer.

We will also promote it through public awareness. Also, e-service is in favor of making customer service more effective by introducing various features and addressing customer complaints through other means.

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In the 4-year journey of e-seva for cashless financial transactions, how far or near is e-seva from its goal?

The goal of e-services is the digital economy, the goal of all stakeholders should be the same. Nepal should be digitally enabled. We are far from the target.

There is a lot of work to be done in digitization and digitization. In some places, we are doing digitization with the help of e-services, while in some places, they have moved ahead with digitalization themselves.

At present our goal is far away but the positive change seen every year is very good. Seeing that the customer is connected to the new service brought by e-service, it seems that the goal will be achieved soon. However, there is a lot of work to be done these days.

He said the goal is a bit far. Are the infrastructure, legal and regulatory arrangements sufficient to reach that goal?

It is improving according to time and circumstances and will continue to improve. Today, it seems that there should be a digital framework for the entire country rather than a regulator. The failure of the regulator to formulate the necessary policy has not hindered the expansion of digital payments. However, to envisage a digital economy, all sectors need to be digitized.

Education, health or other government agencies should be digital. Where different service providers are involved. As a digital payment service provider, we have to depend on other agencies for the digital economy.

Only when all the data is digitized, then we can say digital economy. It cannot be said that we alone will go ahead and build a digital economy. For the construction of digital economy, the necessary works are being done by the government, hopefully it will increase in speed.

As digital payments are expanding so much in Nepal, in the future, even if we go to Arabia or Europe, America, can we imagine that we will be able to pay directly through e-services without exchanging dollars or not?

That may not be possible immediately. It is not possible to pay outside of Nepal due to the regulatory system. However, Nepal’s debit card works in India and Bhutan. It can be imagined up to that point. Beyond that, it cannot be imagined because of the regulatory system.

News/Image Sources: Online Khabar

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