Robertson Chiang, a 40 year-old information technology expert, quit as the president of a leading Internet service provider in 2012 to bet on the future of an online payment gateway. Today, Dragonpay Corp., the company he established, handles more than 20,000 financial transactions a day.
Dragonpay provides innovative payment solutions to help merchants accept or disburse payments online. Customers can purchase goods or services online, and pay for it using cash or check at physical, brick-and-mortar payment counters, ATM’s, mobile wallets or through online bank debit.
It is also the only Platinum PayPal Partner based in the Philippines. Its investors include Japan’s biggest and leading online payment gateway, GMO Payment Gateway, through the Global Payment Gateway Fund managed by GMO Venture Partners Inc.
Chiang obtained a degree in Computer Science and graduated with honors from Ateneo de Manila University in 1991. He briefly worked at Citibank Philippines as a systems analyst, before studying for an MBA degree at Babson Graduate School of Business in the US.
Back in the Philippines in 1995, he formed and Internet service provider called Planet Internet Corp., which was absorbed by Mozcom Inc. in 1999. Chiang worked at Mozcom as the head of the technology, before becoming its president. He eventually resigned in 2012 to work full-time on Dragonpay.
“Toward the latter part of 2000, the ISP business was slowly going to the telcos and we were looking for new business models to work on. One of those we looked at is online payment, so we started with the usual, credit card, Paypal and somewhere along the way, I saw the need for a payment gateway which is very specialized that caters to the local market, where there is a very low banking penetration, very low credit card penetration,” Chiang says.
“That’s when the idea of Dragonpay started. Eventually, I left Mozcom and focused on Dragonpay. It started really as a family business, with my wife. So for the first four years, we were really entrepreneurs and were running it from our own pockets. Then in late 2014, we got an investment from a big Japanese company,” he says.
Chiang serves as the chief operating officer and chief technology officer of Dragonpay. He says Dragonpay found its mark by providing low transaction fees and better protection against fraud, encouraging consumers without credit cards to do online shopping.
Chiang says through Dragonpay, consumers can pay online shopping bills even at the nearest convenience store. Customers can buy online from e-commerce merchants and fulfill the payment through non-credit card channels, he says.
It handles around 20,000 transactions a day from over a thousand partner merchants and facilitates payment transactions involving several government agencies, which dramatically increased their sales and transactions beginning late 2014.
“Unlike retail, government services are not susceptible to economic downturns. Unlike traditional retail e-commerce, government services are a need and not a want. The volume is so much larger as compared to retail e-commerce at this point in time,” Chiang says.
Dragonpay is currently working with the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine Overseas and Employment Administration for the payment process in securing NBI clearance or overseas employment certificate.
Chiang says his company has already secured the nod of the Philippine Regulatory Commission and went live a few weeks ago. Dragonpay also indirectly serves the Securities and Exchange Commission as a subcontractor of Pilipinas Teleserv.
“We have been seeing a lot of initiatives and interest actually from the government to go online as of late,” he says.
Chiang, however, still sees road blocks to further develop partnership with the government. “The problem is usually the tech infrastructure is not yet in place to support all these online applications. Dragonpay has been working with various system developers to address this problem by offering our service at no cost to the government,” he says.
Chiang says the fact that electronic commerce penetration in the country remains low actually presents opportunities for growth.
“I would say it’s very, very low at this point in time, which in a way is something good. The opportunity is just so wide. It’s like the early days of the gold rush and I think it’s really the best time right now to establish your market and be the market leader. That’s what Dragonpay was hoping to become and has become,” he says.
“We entered the market very early and pretty much we have become the alternative payment industry. We started the industry and we’re now the better known player focusing on non-credit card payments,” he says.
Chiang says the investment made by GMO Venture Partners has solidified Dragonpay’s reputation as a payment gateway. “A tough thing to do in online payments is establishing a trusted name, because you are holding money for other people. I guess we have resolved the issue over the long number of years we have in the business,” he says.
“One of the reasons why we brought in a venture capital partner is to increase our trust factor. We are now backed by a publicly listed company. They’ve done their due diligence. We’re hoping that would carry over to the merchants,” he says.
Dragonpay will launch new services in the first quarter of 2016 and aims to double the number of transactions it handles to about 40,000 a day before the end of 2016, as more government agencies show interest in online payments.
“We are hoping to double our growth this year. We are very excited with several projects that we have in the pipeline. It is too early to talk at this point in time, but we’re hoping to double it. I don’t think I would be exaggerating to say that the probability of doubling growth is there. I think it’s true for everybody in this industry. We have grown significantly in the past year,” he says.
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