Razer is leveraging its loyal fan base to introduce new fintech products for both gamers and non-gamers alike

MIN LIANG TAN   Razer
Min Liang Tan, CEO and cofounder of Razer

Gaming hardware manufacturing company Razer has come a long way since CEO and cofounder Min-Liang Tan had the idea to design a computer mouse specific for gamers back in 2005. According to the firm’s latest financial results, 2020 was a record year, with Razer for the first time achieving over US$1 billion in revenue, in the process also registering its first ever annual profit.

Razer’s success naturally lies in its hardware business, where it enjoys a hugely loyal fanbase for its controllers, headsets, keyboard, and laptops. But there is another business segment that is growing fast and which is pointing to a new – and potentially highly profitable – revenue stream for the gaming industry: fintech

In 2017, Razer stepped for the first time into the fintech sector with the launch of in-game payment service Razer Gold, which now has 26 million registered users. This was followed in 2018 by Razer Fintech, a digital payment network targeting both B2B and B2C end users across Southeast Asia.

Revenue from the financial services arm grew over 66% in 2020 to US$128.4 million. Speaking at an earnings briefing in March, CEO Min said the financial services growth was “truly phenomenal”, adding that it had been driven by surges in Razer Gold usage in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the demand for Razer Fintech B2B services due to the accelerated digitization of many businesses in the region.

Digital payments in Southeast Asia

When it comes to fintech, Southeast Asia is one of the fastest-growing markets in the world, outpacing the US, the UK, and even China. Razer is one of a number of companies with no previous financial sector experience that are now making significant steps into the sector. From ride hailing apps to e-commerce platforms and even airlines, more companies in the region are now also offering fintech services such as digital payments, loans, and even virtual banking.

“The usage of fintech, especially e-wallets, is a growing trend in Asia, especially in East and Southeast Asia,” Darang Candra, director of Southeast Asia at Niko Partners said. “None of Razer’s fellow unicorns in the region, such as Sea Group, Grab, and Gojek, started as fintech companies, but they later created their own fintech services – SeaMoney, GrabPay, and GoPay, respectively. This helped in pushing brand loyalty to their respective services. Razer seems to be in line with this trend.”

For companies such as Razer, moving into the fintech space is simply a case of responding to customer needs. This is especially true when it comes to providing digital payment services in a region that has some of the world’s lowest levels of financial inclusion.

KPMG estimates that as many as 73% of Southeast Asia’s population does not have access to a bank account. What they do have, though, is access to the internet. According to the e-Conomy 2020 report, co-produced by Google, Temasek, and Nain & Company, over 70% of people in Southeast Asia are now online, including an additional 40 million who came online in 2020 alone. The report also said the estimated gross transaction value (GTV) of digital payments in Southeast is expected to reach US$1.2 trillion by 2025, up from US$620 billion in 2020.

“In the past few years, we witnessed strong growth in gamers in Southeast Asia,” Limeng Lee, chief strategy officer at Razer and CEO at Razer Fintech, said. “However, we also noticed that while gaming activity was on the rise, monetization by our gaming partners did not see similar growth. We identified as a gating issue the ability for the young gamers to make digital payments for their gaming and entertainment needs, especially in countries where a large proportion of the population was still unbanked.”

One example of how Razer has moved quickly to fill the financial inclusion gap can be seen in the launch of the Razer Visa card, a virtual prepaid service that doesn’t require users to have access to a bank account. Instead, card owners can top up or cash out at a network of offline touchpoints.

As well as regular card benefits such as cash-back rewards, the Razer Visa also allows users to access an in-app gamified rewards system. Razer and Visa completed the first trial of the card late last year in Singapore and expect to roll out in other countries during 2021.

“Razer’s main business model is still focused on selling hardware products and based on what we see from the cooperation with Visa through their Razer Card, it seems that they want to specialize in providing rewards, cash backs, and even gamified-based bonuses for using Razer’s fintech services to buy hardware products,” Candra said. “This would be similar to how Sea, Grab, and Gojek’s fintech products are all connected to their respective ‘traditional’ businesses.”

Focus is firmly on the youth market

While Razer’s fintech ambitions are not exclusively targeting gamers, they are nonetheless focused heavily on Gen Zs and millennials – a demographic where the Razer brand is already well established.

Razer famously attracts a cult-like following. Tattoos of the company’s three-headed snake logo are especially popular. One Razer devotee even went as far as having his leg tattooed with Min’s face in return for a free Razer gaming smartphone. It is unimaginable that any of Razer’s competitors, such as Switzerland-based Logitech, could inspire similar brand devotion.

Looking to the future, this brand awareness and customer loyalty, combined with a huge customer base in the region, could be a key differentiator for Razer’s fintech plans in what is becoming a crowded and competitive market.

Says Razer’s Lee: “We are constantly in discussions with partners on potential collaboration who either want access to our 50,000-plus online merchants where we can help upsell their services or want association with the Razer brand to gain access to our 125 million-plus user base. These partnerships will be a win-win for both parties.”

At the end of last year, Razer unsuccessfully bid for one of Singapore’s two virtual banking licenses under the brand name Razer Youth Bank. While a setback for the company – local fintech rivals Grab and Sea were part of the winning consortiums – the bid nonetheless showed both the scope of Razer’s ambition, as well as its clear market position as a youth-focused fintech.

“Moving forward, Razer Fintech intends to aggressively scale up our core B2B business which has been driving the growth of our business in the past couple of years,” Lee said. “We will invest in further geographical expansion in the SEA region and other high growth emerging markets such as Latin America and the Middle East.”

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Led by CEO Ian Watson, Cellcard is building on its rollout of Cambodia’s first 5G use case by tapping into the country’s youth-driven mobile market

IAN WATSON   Cellcard
Ian Watson, CEO of Cellcard

  • Led by CEO Ian Watson, Cellcard is one of Cambodia’s largest and most innovative telco firms
  • Cellcard is tapping into the youth market — and gamers in particular — to help drive mobile penetration
  • This year the company launched its dedicated esports division, hosting competitions and live-streaming events
  • In a short time, Cellcard has already increased its proportion of the youth segment among its customer base by more than 50%
  • Because of his work, Business Insider named Watson to our annual list of the 10 leaders transforming consumer tech in Asia.
  • Visit Business Insider’s Transforming Business homepage for more stories.

Despite the ongoing impact of COVID-19, 2020 was a historic year for Cambodian telco Cellcard. Led by CEO Ian Watson, Cellcard rolled out Cambodia’s first 5G use case – a telemedicine service introduced across four key health facilities in the capital of Phnom Penh to help cope with the pandemic. 

This was a significant milestone for both Cellcard and Cambodia, a country with one of the least developed digital infrastructures in the Southeast Asia region. When Watson joined the company in 2012, Cambodia was still very much playing catch up to some of its more developed neighbors. However, by 2018, and with an investment of over US$300 million, Cellcard had established a 4G LTE network that covered 90% of the country. 5G will be the next stage of this evolution.

Technological development aside, 2020 has also represented a transformation in Cellcard’s business strategy, with more emphasis being placed on the large Cambodian youth market to help drive digital adoption, with a particular focus on growing and supporting the country’s young gamer community. 

Cambodian demographics favour the youth market

The attraction of the youth segment in Cambodia is clear. Out of a population of roughly 17 million, it is estimated that close to 50% are under the age of 25. As these young people start to come online and access the internet, mobile is the dominant platform. Cambodia now has roughly 21 million mobile connections, with over 14 million enjoying 3G or 4G broadband access. 

Cellcard has launched various youth-focused initiatives over the past 12 months. In May, it brought together a number of its musical ambassadors for a Cellcard 4U Virtual Concert to entertain Cambodian families at home during COVID-19. More than 1.7 million viewers watched the concert live on the night on the local MYTV channel, with an additional 5 million online video views of the concert highlights. 

In July, the company announced its support to local education infrastructure by establishing an e-learning platform for continued education in a joint collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) and Ministry of Posts (MPTC). The app allowed students across Cambodia to continue their studies online, with Cellcard providing free data access between select hours.

But it is one youth demographic sub group in particular where Cellcard has been concentrating its marketing and customer engagement activities this year, and that is gamers. Over the past three years, Cellcard has been investing in promoting and facilitating a mobile gaming culture, and these efforts were ramped up significantly in 2020 with the formal launch of an esports division 

“In a market where 48% of the population are under the age of 25, operators and  brands have to be youth focused,” says Watson. “There is enormous growth potential for Cellcard in the youth segment. Previously it has been known as the operator for the older business and professional segment, but this is changing as we evolve our digital offerings to be youth centric, especially our move to lead esports in Cambodia.”

Using gaming and esports to drive smartphone penetration

Cellcard’s gaming legacy began just three years ago, with the launch in 2017 of Super Data Race, a Pokémon-style mobile game. Several other popular mobile games followed, but what really transformed Cellcard’s youth appeal has been how it has tapped into the emergence of a hugely popular esports community. 

Cambodia has seen a rapid rise in demand for gaming and esports among its youth, not only domestically but also internationally as gamers connect with their peers in the wider region through regional competitions and livestreamed matches. Cellcard was Cambodia’s first telco to stage an esports tournaments back in 2018 and since then has been nurturing the gaming community across the country.

Earlier this year Cellcard launched PlayGame, Cambodia’s first gamer platform, supported by PlayGame Unlimited, a data plan created exclusively for gamers. PlayGame, which partners with leading global game developers such as Tencent, Netease and Moonton, gives customers access to a full range of gaming experiences including online esports tournaments that offer cash prizes and in-game incentives. This year, Cellcard has held almost 200 esport and arcade tournaments and live-stream events, garnering 75.9 million impressions on the PlayGame platform

The company is also working closely with gaming influencers, with 20 dedicated gamer influencers on its roster. Leveraging these relationships, the company this year developed its own esports-focused TV Show called PlayGame TV. The show is dedicated to celebrating and sharing the gamer lifestyle in Cambodia and  features its influencer talent pool as hosts.  The first season of eight episode aired simultaneously on local free-to-air TV and Facebook and reached over 9 million viewers.

“We have some of Cambodia’s best performing social media channels including one million-plus fans on TikTok,” says Watson. “Our engagement rates are high as we are very active with social influencers and content creators which is driving more youth customers to Cellcard.”

Youth engagement  is already delivering results

The investment in youth and in particular the promotion of esports and gaming is already having a positive result on Cellcard’s business. The company says that gaming helping it drive smartphone penetration and data usage, particularly in provincial areas. Cellcard has increased the mobile data traffic over its network by 32% this year, while the proportion of young consumers on its customer base has grown from 26% to 40% 

Cellcard says it is confident it is on the right track and will continue to lead the esports agenda and grow the gamer and Esports community in the country. The company says it will continue to add more billing and payment choices to give gamers more convenient transaction options. 

At the same time Cellcard is continuing to expand its 4G LTE network – as well as beginning to open its 5G network – which it says will further improve speeds and counter latency and jittering issues for gamers. Ultimately, Cellcard argues that increased digital access will benefit not just gamers or young people, but Cambodia as a whole.

“We have entered the digital age, and telecommunication companies such as Cellcard are playing a key role in driving transformation of the people, of companies and of the nation,” says Watson. “Digital empowerment will transform people’s lives for the better by advancing education, health, agriculture and manufacturing, and deliver to all Cambodians, access to the world.”

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Our cities are turning inside out – micro-mobility is the key to connect us all

RICHARD CORBETT   Voi
Richard Corbett is the head of UK, Ireland, and Benelux countries at Voi

Almost everything we thought we knew about city life has changed. What was normal is now nostalgia. 

Across the UK, Europe and beyond, our capitals and major cities are virtually unrecognizable from a year ago, having been turned inside out. The once-bustling heart of each is now largely a ghost town. Once-frenzied transport hotspots are quiet. Large, corporate retailers are faced with fewer customers per pound spent on business rates. 

All the while, our cities’ suburbs are buzzing. Shopping, socializing and eating out has shifted to local communities, green spaces, independent coffee shops, and small retailers and specialist stores. 

Covid has changed every aspect of our lives, and this includes what we now need and want from our transport networks. Not only do e-scooters provide the possibility to travel with social distancing, but micro-mobility, in general, offers a solution for our changing needs. 

At Voi, we’ve been championing the benefits of micro-mobility for years. Its affordable, convenient and personalised nature – alongside the multitude of environmental benefits that it provides – are at the heart of why the company was formed. These are also the reasons why it’s now so well suited to the change in city life – where suburbs have become the focus and city centres relatively quiet.

City centres are well served by transport networks. London, alone, has 270 stations across 11 tube lines but around 90% of these stations are found in Zones 1-2. But this means that places outside central London lack in the sort of fast transport links seen a mere mile or two away. Those with lower incomes, who live further from the center, are often relegated to less convenient forms of mass transport. 

Unfortunately we also see transport blackspots on the outskirts of other cities too, and particularly in non-metropolitan areas. According to the Campaign for Better Transport, 56% of small towns in the South West and North East of England are found to be ‘transport deserts’ with poor provision.

As people slowly start to return to streets, offices and shops, we see that they are reluctant to return to public transport and are preferring to use their cars to get around – if this trend persists it will be disastrous for air quality and emission.

Micro-mobility solves many of these problems. Take South London as a prime example. The lack of tube lines south of the river means people rely on buses and cars to get around. A journey on a bike or e-scooter, which can take 10 minutes, takes half an hour or more on a bus or in a car because of congestion. Independent research has shown that under normal circumstances, e-scooters can cut commute times by up to 70% – and that’s in areas where there aren’t as many transport gaps as there are in the suburbs. 

Travelling by car or by bus forces you to go directly from A to B. Travelling on an e-scooter gives the rider more freedom to stop and explore new places en route.  This way, small independent businesses can benefit from having a slightly bigger catchment area and increased footfall. 

If we go further and free up road space to cut journey times – by for instance introducing low traffic neighborhoods, restricted to residents – people living in the suburbs will have more time and opportunity to get to their local amenities, to buy from their local butcher and support their local restaurants. At the same time, local businesses will be able to use e-scooters to offer deliveries or help support vulnerable residents. 

We believe e-scooters can revolutionize city living. But in some ways, they have the potential to be even more life-changing in the suburbs. We don’t expect them to become an alternative to busy buses, trams and trains but they can help people connect to transport infrastructure, who might be tempted to take a car and they give a whole new choice to those who don’t want to cycle or walk so far. 

Around the world, as lockdowns have eased, people have favored their local high streets, rediscovered during months of restrictions. With e-scooter schemes to help people get around, we can help people to stay local and shop local. It’s good for the planet, for businesses and local communities. 

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