Telco Singtel and gaming product firm Razer are coming together in an e-payment tie-up that aims to connect as many 50 million users - which could make it the largest in South-east Asia.
The two companies signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) yesterday to link their respective e-payment systems to create an interoperable network that will allow credits from one system to be accepted in another - potentially letting users pay with any supported e-wallet at more than one million retail payment points in the region.
"Think of it as the Star Alliance of e-wallets," said Mr Arthur Lang, chief executive of Singtel's International Group, in reference to the airline alliance of which Singapore Airlines is a member.
Razer chief Tan Min-Liang described the partnership as one that allows the two firms to tap each other's strengths. "We have meshed together what we are both good at to create the largest e-payment network in South-east Asia. We will (turn) not just Singapore, but Asia also, into a cashless economy."
The tie-up also signals Razer's firm intention to make a play for Singapore's cashless system - following up from last year's proposal to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to deliver a system that would unite the hotchpotch of uncoordinated e-payment systems here in 18 months.
Since then, rivals ride-hailing firm Grab and e-payment stalwart Nets have also stepped up efforts to recruit users to be the unifying force in Singapore's cashless race.
Yesterday, Mr Tan declared: "We have already achieved this with the announcement today... I'm way ahead of the 18-month deadline."
While observers say it is too early to say if the alliance will work, they noted that the deal brings together two parties making aggressive moves in the e-payment space.
Singtel brings to the table its Dash e-wallet, which has more than 500,000 users, many of whom are foreign workers using the app for remittance.
Through its regional associates - Thailand's AIS, the Philippines' Globe, Indonesia's Telkomsel and India's Airtel - Singtel can also potentially fold in some 50 million e-wallet users and one million acceptance points in the region, expected to take place in the second half of this year. Singtel is connecting Dash with AIS' "my AIS e-wallet" service so that both can be used by the same merchants in the third quarter of this year.
While Razer said it plans to launch its RazerPay e-wallet app only later this year, it recently announced its buyout of MOL Global - whose e-payment gateway is used by e-merchants Lazada and Expedia.
Razer's acquisition of MOL, which processed more than US$1.1 billion (S$1.5 billion) worth of transactions last year, is expected to conclude next Thursday.
Mr Ramakrishna Maruvada, a regional telecoms analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets, said the success of the partnership could depend on Razer's ability to break out of its niche: "The gaming segment could be exploited but scaling beyond this niche segment is where the challenge lies."
Mr Michael Yeo, research manager at market research firm IDC, said: "It's highly likely that there will be winners rather than just a winner. The open networks are more likely to stay."