Viber, whose customer base in the Philippines accounts for a quarter of the population, said Wednesday it was launching a payment function "very soon" to ride on the shift to digital payments during the pandemic.
The platform, with 25 million subscribers in the country, is targeting small businesses with tools that are "not intrusive but inclusive," Viber CEO Djamel Agaoua said. Ninety-nine percent of all businesses in the Philippines are classified as micro, small, and medium enterprises or MSMEs.
"We want to bring the businesses to the users," Agaoua said in a Zoom call with reporters.
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The app is partnering with Globe for the soon-to-be-launched payment service and is in talks with other mobile wallet services as well, Viber Senior Director David Tse said.
Data from Viber shows that it saw a doubling (2.7x) of messages sent to communities, and viewers in communities (2.5x) in the Philippines during quarantine.
With Viber, small businesses can use chatbots or create communities to connect "personally" with their customers, the app's chief growth officer Anna Znamenskaya said.
"People go to messaging apps not just to consume content…but also to do useful things," she said.
Many Filipinos have turned to online selling during the pandemic as a way to augment their income following months of strict lockdown.
Data from the Department of Trade and Industry show a surge in online business registration this year with 84,446 new registered online sellers as of Oct. 16. This is far from a similar 8-month period of May to December 2019 which only saw 1,642 online business registrations.
As it marks a decade in service, Viber's Agaoua said the messaging app aims to service "businesses of all sizes" without compromising the data security of its users.
"Our future is to go to small sizes [of businesses]," he said.