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Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) is a concept that one could say has taken Malaysia by storm. We’re no strangers to being bombarded by online and offline merchants offering us an alternative way to pay through Atome, hoolah (now ShopBack PayLater), PayLater by Grab, and more.
Typically, these BNPLs claim to charge no interest fees, hidden fees, and more.
Singapore-founded BNPL Ablr is one of the latest to enter Malaysian shores, after operating in our neighbouring country since 2017.
“We are starting off with enabling merchants’ customers to purchase goods and services with customisable and flexible payment plans,” shared Amanda Chin, co-founder and CEO of Ablr Malaysia.
One of their stand-out points is how they offer users the option to repay over a duration that’s anywhere between 30 days up to 60 months (five years).
Fraudulent charges that opened eyes
After witnessing how much interest and late fees were charged on an outstanding balance caused by fraudulent charges to his credit card, it dawned on Ablr’s founder, Ian Ow, that there is an inherent conflict of interest in the structure and delivery of many financial services.
The concept for Ablr was thus born when he couldn’t find any better alternative to his credit card.
Roping in his highschool mate, Zachary, as co-founder, the duo got down to creating a prototype where they could test and validate the demand from users. They also tested the willingness of merchants to use such a platform to accelerate sales.
After receiving positive results, with the team sharing that one merchant saw a “50% uplift in sales in just over a weekend compared to what they receive in a regular month”, the co-founders knew they were on to something, and shifted to focus on Ablr full-time.
Soon after, the team expanded its services to Malaysia where they were introduced to Amanda, who is a veteran in Malaysia’s digital payment ecosystem with experience in TNG Digital Sdn Bhd and Revenue Monster.
Amanda joined the Ablr team as co-founder to leverage her experience in scaling teams and operations to prepare for the company’s next phase of growth.
For merchants & consumers
In the beginning, Ablr focused on further validation of the product-market fit and ensured strong safeguards for consumers were built-in.
“With setting our sights on Southeast Asia as our region anchor, Ablr soon developed a focus on Malaysia as its primary market to establish our commercial operations and scale from there,” said Amanda.
Some of the opportunities noticed in Malaysia by the co-founders was that there is a largely underserved segment for credit. They also wanted Malaysia to be their hub for Shariah-compliant financial services.
Additionally, Amanda shared that Ablr has strategic investors in the country with deep merchant and consumer networks.
“It is in our ethos to encourage responsible and sustainable spending as we strive to create honest financial products that improve people’s lives,” added Amanda.
As such, the team has taken specific actions to achieve that aim, as per the designs of their products and policies.
For instance, the team has a data-driven credit assessment for its consumers. Aside from offering a seamless digital payment solution, the team also has built-in mechanisms for a robust credit assessment engine.
This takes into account the various data points to determine the amount of credit that can suitably be granted to customers.
Naturally, this is done with due consideration of their current financial situation, including existing liabilities.
In return for providing merchants with payments and marketing services, the team is paid a small fee for the total transaction.
“We make it a point to have alignment with our customers’ interests to ensure that credit is provided responsibly and that we do not profit from customers’ failures to make payments,” Amanda mentioned.
To that end, Ablr prides itself on not charging any late fees or hidden fees, and having “no catch”, in essence. This is something we’ve seen other BNPLs do too, in order to attract users.
Spending responsibly is still crucial
However, one thing to note is that Ablr requires users to set a default debit/credit card, and all of one’s automatic Ablr payments will be deducted from that card by default. If there is only one card added in your Ablr account, it will be set as the default card.
This means that at the end of the day, if you’re spending outside of your means in the first place, you’ll still be feeling the pinch when making repayments.
One day prior to the due date of your repayment, Ablr will send you a reminder, but if the auto-deduction fails on the day of, your account will be frozen from the next day onwards.
You will also not be able to make any other purchases with Ablr until you’ve cleared your outstanding payments.
Ideally, all these shouldn’t happen though, as in their credit checks, the team will be able to understand a user’s real financial situation. Through this, Ablr will be able to provide the appropriate access in a responsible and sustainable manner.
For merchants, the platform has various strategies to help ensure that approval and conversion rates remain high without compromise on the customer journey.
Hence, one’s creditworthiness is determined through a combination of factors including an evaluation of the ability and the willingness to pay.
“I would say that our approval process is different from other players in the field. We place our focus on consumer protection by providing appropriate access and limits to the right people,” shared Amanda.
They also work closely with merchants to enact various strategies to ensure approval rates and conversions meet their objectives.
Growing Malaysia’s fintech scene together
Currently, the co-founders are focused on growing their network of partners in Malaysia and developing partnerships within a broad spectrum of established brands and small local merchants.
This move will help Ablr grow its business as well as add value to Malaysians for greater affordability of important products and services.
As of late July, Ablr has a network of over 30 brands in Malaysia and Singapore spanning over 250 merchant points.
In addition to that, the team is looking into adjacent product offerings that can add value to merchants and consumers.
At present, the platform’s core focus merchant categories consist of Health and Wellness, Education and Enrichment, Home and Family, and Travel and Experience.
“While we look forward to deepening our engagement with these sectors, we will stay open to other merchants that can benefit as well as add value to our ecosystem,” summed up Amanda.
Featured Image Credit: Ablr