Pay it Forward

Taking mobile payment in Vietnam to the next level

With smartphones on the rise and the digital payment platform still a black hole, will 1Pay become the PayPal of Asia? 1Pay from Vietnam seems to think so. The startup, formed earlier this year, is focused on making payments for digital goods using your smartphone a reality here.

The basic idea is that merchants can go to the 1Pay’s website (, create an account, thus giving them access to the API key and SDK to integrate payment via mobile for their games, content, or mobile apps. It allows customers to pay by SMS, online, and through prepaid cards for purchases through their mobile. Basically, you can buy things on your smartphone in Vietnam now with 1Pay, and merchants can check and collect all their sales in a dashboard provided by 1Pay.

It’s one of the first startups in this sector, where most other payment startups like Payoo, NganLuong, 123pay, OnePay, and Mobivi just focus mainly on online payments for either utilities or e-commerce related goods. 1Pay saw the need for people to buy things (both digital and non)
through their smartphones.


Don’t Cash It In Yet
There are several problems that 1Pay is facing as it tackles this new market. These include: the mobile market is still not as big as the overall market, telcos still take a hefty cut out of mobile payments, and there aren’t that many digital goods yet (the pot is small). But Nguyen Minh
Quang, overseas business director and co-founder at 1Pay, technically a subsidiary of mWork, one of Vietnam’s biggest mobile game affiliate networks, is optimistic.

“We focus on supporting our merchant to sell digital contents like games, apps, music, etc. The volume of this market in Vietnam is huge and we want to be the pioneer in providing telco payments for this through our online and automatic platform,” he says.

With the telco’s cut – sometimes telcos take up to a 40 percent cut on mobile purchases – Quang also thinks 1Pay can leverage. “1Pay aims to provide telco payment with some special connection then merchants can receive more, compared to the current ratio for prepaid cards, merchant can receive 85 percent in the near future. 1Pay can provide SMS charging where merchants can get 55 percent, compared to the 45 percent currently.”

It’s not clear yet how 1Pay plans to do that, but with its background in affiliate mobile games, it’s possible. The company, founded in early 2011, has over 25,000 media networks, and works with over 25 local mobile game studios. In one day, mWorks ships over one million downloads, and has over 50,000 successful installs. 1Pay plans to reach USD15 million in billing in 2015. Suffice it to say, mWork has the resources to push 1Pay forward.


Despite the above stats, they are still going to have a hard time. Since they’re first to market, they’ll have to educate customers, provide guidelines, demo codes, and a sandbox for merchants. They also partner up with companies like Appota, one of Vietnam’s hottest mobile distribution platforms.

1Pay may also free up markets for companies like (mobile ebook distribution), Terrabook (mobile education platform), and other young or large startups that are working on bringing mobile content to users. Up until now, a lack of options to pay for digital goods has generally held back growth in Vietnam’s digital goods industry. For e-commerce, and daily deals, the infrastructure is already there for shipping and cash-on-delivery, but if I want to start an education platform like Udemy, the only way to pay is through a bank transfer or credit card, both modes slow to rise in Vietnam.

Ultimately, time will tell how 1Pay meets these challenges and expands its platform. Quang says it’s looking at “both domestic and overseas, to do business on mobile and get back their money”.

“We also want to contribute to the rise of mobile digital industry in Vietnam to facilitate the best payment solution for developers and content providers.”

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