Paypal sets sights on Asia's appetite for mobile shopping

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The Independent Online

US online payment company PayPal is looking to the Asia-Pacific region for growth in mobile commerce as more consumers embrace wireless shopping, company officials said Wednesday.

Figures from industry monitor Informa Research indicate that the region's mobile commerce - buying products via a handheld device - is expected to balloon to 139 billion dollars in 2012 from 24 billion dollars last year

"This market is just exploding like crazy. This is the engine of growth," Rahul Shinghal, PayPal's regional head for mobile products, told AFP in an interview.

Much of it is still in Japan and South Korea, Asia's most electronically connected markets, but PayPal expects wider acceptance of mobile commerce.

PayPal, owned by online auction powerhouse eBay, announced Wednesday it had signed an agreement with Singapore to spur mobile commerce in the city-state.

The deal with the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore aims to make it easier for businesses and consumers to conduct transactions and make payments over mobile phones.

In May, PayPal entered into a collaboration with Malaysia's top mobile operator Maxis that allows subscribers to engage in secure shopping transactions.

The company plans to double its employees in the region to more than 2,000 by the end of the year at offices in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore, which serves as PayPal's international base.

PayPal processed payment volume of more than six billion dollars from the Asia-Pacific in 2009, an annual increase of 38 percent.

Transactions from mobile commerce globally reached 141 million dollars last year and the figure is projected to hit 500 million dollars by the end of 2010.

"This is where we expect a lot of growth to come," Shinghal said of the region's prospects. "Mobile is largely becoming the primary access for the Internet in the Asia Pacific."

Markets such as Australia, Singapore and Malaysia are seeing a huge jump in mobile commerce thanks to the growing popularity of "smartphones" featuring multimedia capabilities, including speedy Internet access.

In Singapore, for example, eight out of every 10 mobile phones sold is a smartphone.

"Because of the high penetration of smartphones and because mobile Internet has become faster, we see a lot of our users and merchants are trying to tap this channel," said Shinghal.

Mobile commerce has also caught on because of the convenience it brings to shoppers, who can complete their transactions instantly.

"It's convenient because if you are sitting in your living room and you just want to buy movie tickets, you don't want to open your laptop and wait for it to boot up," said Shinghal.

The California-based company's payment volume in 2009 rose 19 percent to 71 billion dollars, which constitutes almost 15 percent of global e-commerce.