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Enabling SME sector in Sri Lanka to digitize payments can accelerate economic growth – Visa

As Sri Lanka focuses on economic recovery, transforming the digital payment landscape for businesses will be a strategic area to consolidate growth, says Avanthi Colombage, Country Manager for Visa in Sri Lanka and Maldives.

Visa, a global leader in digital payments, believes that unlocking the potential that digitizing payments can offer to the SME (Small and Midsize Enterprise) or small business sector in Sri Lanka has the ability to accelerate the economy and drive growth.

While Sri Lanka’s digital payments ecosystem is estimated to reach $7 billion in 2023 , this is a small portion of all consumer spends, otherwise called digital PCE (personal consumption expenditure). While cards have grown to 21.2 million (May ’23), there lies a tremendous opportunity for digital payments to grow and empower communities with their inherent ease of use and transaction safety, says Avanthi.

In the past few years, Visa has enhanced the seamless, cashless transaction experience for consumers everywhere with innovative digital technology like contactless payments and tap to phone.

“Now, empowering the SME sector with the right tools and infrastructure to make and receive digital payments would uplift businesses and help drive the economy in the right direction. At Visa, we continually engage with SMEs, empowering them through our ecosystem partners such as banks and fintech solution providers. For the SME sector in Sri Lanka, enabling comprehensive digital payment acceptance would mean less operational cost, greater efficiency, and a positive customer experience, all improving the potential of business tremendously.” She adds.

Today digital payment acceptance is not restricted to only the entrenched POS and mPOS devices, where one can tap or dip a credit or debit card to pay. In addition to these highly proliferated forms, many emerging payment forms can give small businesses a stimulus towards greater acceptance and engagement with consumers, both domestic and tourists.

Of these, QR code-based payments are a great, asset-light way for merchants (retailers and service providers alike) to take the first step into the digital payments ambit. “Without investing heavily in devices or infrastructure, merchants can use QR codes to accept payments from customers who save their Visa card credentials securely on their smartphones,” said Avanthi. When the QR code is shown to a consumer, they can scan it and use their digitally stored Visa details to pay without any hassle. A few banks in Sri Lanka already offer this facility to their Visa cardholders and this also allows for tourists to use their devices to pay for goods or services.

Tap to phone is another innovative yet simple method that promotes digital inclusivity and reduces the use and need of paper receipts. This allows the merchant to use their own smartphone to accept payments from consumers, enabled by contactless technology. Here, the shopper can pay a merchant by tapping their contactless Visa card on the merchant’s smartphone. There are significant benefits for small businesses with these totally contactless transactions – saving time as there are no cash and change hassles, reducing queues in stores and doing away with printing transaction receipts as the cardholder is intimated through SMS.

As more merchants see the value in ecommerce, they will benefit greatly from giving consumers an array of digital payment options to choose from. Avanthi says that with Sri Lankan consumers increasingly shopping online, some of the top ecommerce categories witnessing growth are telecom/utility bill payments, government and educational services, retail stores, insurance, quick service restaurants, airlines and restaurants. Lodging and professional service providers, ride-hailing services and food delivery are some of the other categories witnessing growth of digital payments across Sri Lankan cardholders and tourists visiting Sri Lanka.

Avanthi also says Visa is working with various partners, both financial institutions and large merchants as well as new age players like fintechs, to harness digital payment opportunities for SMEs. Visa is also making it easy for small businesses and merchants to receive payments through simple integrations like SMS based payment links. Merchants can use this to generate digital invoices and get paid by the customer online and remotely, making for efficient payment collection and reconciliation.

With tourist arrivals increasing in Sri Lanka and the economy looking up, it is only apt that merchants start providing payment options that international travelers are already familiar with, be it tapping a card or phone, scanning a QR code or paying online. With its wide network of partners and clients, Visa is helping uplift businesses through and reinforcing the potential of the SME sector. Visa believes that empowering people and businesses with technology and digital payments can drive the digital economy and create opportunities for the SME sector to grow within and outside Sri Lanka.

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