Apps I Live By

This Bill-Splitting Idea Was A Game Changer In USA—Then These 24-Year-Olds Brought It To M'sia

A breakfast meetup between childhood friends was all it took for three 24-year-olds to jump into the startup world.

“We had just finished uni and were looking for regular desk jobs,” said Hannah Daud, COO and co-founder of Bayar. “Then one day we met up for breakfast and Pav told me about an idea he and Emmanuel had inspired by Venmo in the US.”

They eventually decided to go for it. Four months after funding, the platform Bayar hit the market. Its goal? To socialise payments in Malaysia.

Bayar is basically Venmo for Malaysians. 

Image Credit: Bayar

Bayar is a mobile wallet app that wants to help Malaysians with one of our biggest #firstworldproblems—splitting the bill after a meal.

It’ll even automatically calculate service charge and GST for you, if applicable.

While Hannah ended up in the UK to study, the other co-founders Pavithran Nair (CEO) and Emmanuel Frank (CTO) were actually present for the rise of Venmo in the USA. They used it religiously among their friends, which helped them to decide on which features to emulate on Bayar.

To serve their core purpose, the platform has introduced an additional feature specifically for it, slated for release next week.

Using the Tong-Tong feature, users can snap a photo of the meal receipt, and the app will automatically digitise the bill using an Optical Character Recognition Software.

Once digitised, users can allocate items to people around the table to settle.

Occasions on Bayar / Image Credit: Bayar

The next feature is called Occasions, meant to split the cost of a group activity—movie night, road trips, birthday bashes, a futsal match, etc. The function should help organisers collect money from the group for shared expenses like petrol, tickets or even a cake.

The Bayar app can be linked to your Facebook profile so that you can easily search for their name, but the app does offer the option to search using phone number or username if they’re already on the app.

Isn’t this all a little familiar?

We wondered whether they could survive in Malaysia, particularly because there are other bill-splitting apps that have failed in our market, not to mention other mobile wallets that are gaining traction.

Nevertheless, Bayar is able to tout a 300 user signup on their platform from just being on the market for a month and a half.

“Currently the majority of our users are college students and young adults who tend to use this mostly for meals, judging by their hilarious descriptions!” mused Pavithran.

The team thinks that they have other advantages up their sleeve.

At the Bayar launch party / Image Credit: Bayar

“None of us come from a payments background,” said Pavithran. “So far, this has unexpectedly worked for us because it lets us see things from a fresh perspective.”

This informs everything they do on the app. Even A/B testing for new features are said to be “efficient” since they can understand and respond to pain points of their generation.

Pavithran continues to say that “The e-wallet industry in Malaysia is increasingly competitive but we try not to let that bother us too much.”

This is because their go-to market strategy is “markedly different”. By focusing on peer-to-peer in an age where others are zooming into on-boarding merchants, Bayar hopes that this would help differentiate them in the current Fintech tapestry.

To that end, while the team always has monetisation on their minds, they never want to charge users for the app. 

So they’re now levying a small fee on merchants, while looking into alternative revenue streams to implement later this year.

That’s right, merchants.

Having merchants will mean that users can pay for products directly through the app too.

Bayar wants to primarily focus on users splitting bills, but they do see monetising potential in merchants. Hometaste and Dobybox are already on board organically, but the team takes a different approach towards getting merchants on board.

Other e-wallet players will be on-boarding merchants through their big-name parent companies or a sales team. Meanwhile Bayar hopes that merchants will naturally join the platform once users are already there.

It’s a little bit of a reverse approach.

“It also helps that we have experienced first-hand the growth and virality of similar services abroad and we use our experience as users to inform how we position Bayar here in Malaysia,” said Pavithran.

A mantra repeated throughout the interview was: They are a team of millennials running a company for millennials.

So they added a social element to Bayar too. 

Users trying out the app at their launch party / Image Credit: Bayar

“In this digital age, the action of liking and commenting is second nature to millennials,” said Hannah. So on top of making payments or collecting dues back and forth, the team has added a socialising element to the app.

Serving as something of a Foursquare for payments, users can see what their friends have done on the app, like and comment on their friends’ transactions.

For users who aren’t happy about having their information out there though, Bayar allows you to keep those transactions private.

Is there a reason to interact with someone else’s transactions? 

We couldn’t help but wonder, so we posited this query to the team.

“If there is anything Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, or Twitter has taught us is that there is a desire among people to interact with each other,” said Hannah. “Be it by sharing a photo on IG, a gif on FB, retweeting or liking a post on Bayar, people love to tell the world what they’re up to.”

“So on that point, yes we do believe that creating a Bayar community is important, because it is the spirit of the app.”

Only time will tell if Malaysians will embrace the social aspect of Bayar that made Venmo so popular in the USA. After all, we might be more reticent to share our social finances for the whole world to see.

But hey, if Malaysians are good at anything, it’s adopting things that are popular in the USA.

As for the future, the team is now developing their latest feature designed for Malaysians who find it difficult to save their money.

Dubbed the Coin Nest, the function will help users save spare change by rounding up amounts to the next Ringgit with every payment. That extra cash will go into a user’s savings.

Perhaps coming in at a more opportune time where mobile wallet knowledge is increasing will help this bill-splitting app succeed where others failed. Having a successful model to emulate and adapt is an advantage too.

If you’d like to download the Bayar app, you’ll need to key in the Bayar18 code for both Android and iPhone. 

  • Bayar is a social mobile wallet modeled after Venmo. It’s designed to help split the bill after a meal, and will even calculate GST and service charge.
  • It’s available on both Google Play and the Apple App Store
  • Other features to be launched include Tong-Tong, which will automatically scan and digitise a paper bill to be split. Occasions, will help users split the cost of a group activity ie: parties, futsal match, etc. 
  • While other bill-splitting apps in Malaysia have failed, Bayar leverages off an existing successful platform overseas, while being able to tap into the millennial thinking to their advantage. 

 

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