Tanjong Pagar hawkers adopt standardised Nets QR code payment

SINGAPORE - Customers at the Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market and Food Centre can now pay for meals with a scan of their mobile devices.

This comes as payment network Nets launched its standardised QR (quick response) code, that is able to accept various payment types, at a hawker centre for the first time on Saturday (Sept 9).

The cashless payment option has been rolled out at close to 50 stalls in the Tanjong Pagar hawker centre.

Customers can pay with DBS Paylah! - available from mid-November - OCBC's PayAnyone, and UOB's Mighty, and Nets has plans to include others in the future.

READ MORE: Wanted: Ideas to get heartland to go cashless

Customers can use the banks' apps to scan the Nets QR code displayed at stalls, before keying in the amount they need to pay. Hawkers will get a confirmation on their terminals on the spot.

Nets aims to roll out this standardised QR code to 30 hawker centres by the end of this year.

Under the new collaboration, Nets will install the QR codes and provide hawkers with a monthly report consolidating their payments.

Currently, stalls at over 20 hawker centres have adopted Nets' cashless payment systems, where customers may utilise Flashpay.

On Saturday, Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah, who is also an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, was present to launch the tie-up between Nets and the hawkers.

"We want Singapore to take full advantage of IT (information technology)," she said.

However, consumers today may be using "too many wallets", provided by different financial institutions. These may not all be accepted at point-of-sales terminals, she said, and hence, there is a need for a standardised code.

"We decided to give it a try, because people are moving towards cashless payments now," Mr Ng Tiong Hoe, 52, a porridge stall owner at the Tanjong Pagar hawker centre. "It may be more hygienic not to deal with coins as well."
Hawkers will be able to adopt the Nets system for free for the first three years, with the installation cost borne by Nets and its partner banks.

Saturday's launch marks "the first time such a system has been fully deployed in a traditionally cash-based environment", said Nets chief executive Jeffrey Goh at the event.

But Singapore still has some way to go to become a cashless society, he added.

READ MORE: Challenges SMEs face in going cashless

"Six in 10 transactions today are made using cash or cheque," he said, adding that cash-based transactions are mostly "micro-payments" involving $10 or less.

While quick service retail outlets where such payments take place, such as convenience stores, fast food outlets, and coffee shops, have mostly moved towards some forms of e-payment, this is not the case for hawker centres, he said.

"Close to $1 billion worth of cash-based transactions take place across 6,000 hawker and food stalls in Singapore every year," added Mr Goh.

"If Singapore were to make the push towards a cashless society and deliver on the Smart Nation vision, this is an area that needs conversion."

He told reporters that there are plans to offer such payment methods to heartland shops eventually as well.

READ MORE: Wanted: Ideas to get heartland to go cashless

"I like the cashless system, because I can go out without my wallet," said Mr Adrian Wong, 39, a programme manager who visits the Tanjong Pagar hawker centre. "It's good to have this option at hawker centres, because we wouldn't have to deal with coins anymore, which is convenient."

Some hawkers at stalls that previously implemented the cashless Nets FlashPay service said they were still considering if they wanted to adopt the new QR code payment system.

A wanton noodle stall owner in Bedok Interchange Hawker Centre, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tan, 57, ran into issues using the Flashpay terminal in the past, as "screens were small".

He added: "My staff could not easily see what was on it; if they pressed the wrong buttons, it became problematic."

Another issue was that few customers made use of the cashless payment systems, said Ms Joan Wong, 55, a staff of Xin Kee Signature Curry House, also in the Bedok hawker centre.

"Only one to two people used it in a month, and it was always the same customers," she said. "Our customers tend to be older, and may not be familiar with the system."

But she added that things might improve with a machine that can accept various payment methods.

Besides Nets, mobile payment service Liquid Pay has also rolled out its own cashless payment system at over 60 hawker centres since November last year.

"To drive hawker adoption of using cashless payment will take time," said Liquid Group founder Jeremy Tan. "Having a standardised QR code will help drive the adoption of mobile payments in Singapore."