Money Mover
    Category: E-Conomy By : Aastha Saboo Read : 1055 Date : Friday, February 09, 2018 - 14:17:39

    Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

    American Max Liu had a stellar Wall Street career, working in high-profile jobs in firms such as Goldman, Citadel and his own boutique investment firm. Yet he decided in 2014 to venture out and start an online remittance firm called EMQ Inc., based in Hong Kong, first focusing on the roughly 330,000 migrant workers in Hong Kong to allow them to send money home, including Indonesia, through various platforms.

    EMQ has a simple business model: offer remittance services that allows anyone to send money through the app from Hong Kong to Indonesia, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Vietnam. “Simply send money,” is the company’s tagline. EMQ’s service is either free or at affordable prices.

    “We are trying to build a low cost settlement network that bypasses other networks,” says Max, whose title is chief executive and co-founder. The target market is huge: more than $600 billion in remittances is sent worldwide every year.

    However, Max and EMQ faced a big uphill battle to get his startup off the ground. First off, he had to struggle for three years without any revenue just to develop his network, including finding banks willing to partner with him, regulatory and legal approvals and various other issues. The banks were naturally reluctant to work with an unknown startup. “Many banks are skeptical about working with us because they are unsure of whether young companies like us understand compliance and regulation. So while the process of getting approvals for us was a long-drawn process, at every step we have been able to successfully convince each bank,” Max says.

    A second issue is the competition. The market for many years was dominated by banks, and the two well-known global brands—Western Union and Moneygram. Yet that $600 billion plus market has attracted a huge number of other players, all looking to grab even a small slice of that enormous pie (just 1% market share would be $6 billion revenues). There are now many remittance firms around the world, including dozens of fintech startups—not to mention remittance being a typical service offered by many banks worldwide. Even in Hong Kong, EMQ has competition such as Toast, which claims to make sending money as easy as making toast. The big boys are not standing still as well, as Western Union, Moneygram and online giant PayPal offer online remittance services.

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