Indonesia’s Version of PayNow: Unleashing The Next Wave of Fintech Opportunities

Eugene Liang, Director of Digital Mobile Banking at Standard Chartered Bank, shares insights into how Indonesia’s introduction of QRIS – thereby standardising QR codes for payments – is a game changer.

2 June 2021 / By Eugene Liang

It’s another typical workday for Hadi, a modern Indonesian consumer in his late twenties who, just like his peers, often has meals with his colleagues during lunchtimes as a means of mingling and socializing. They decided to have mee goreng at a nearby roadside store operated by Fitra, a mother working hard to support her three children.

“One plate of mee goreng and kopi, please,” Hadi said as he made payment by scanning a QR code using his phone. 

“Sure, let me bring your kopi first,” replied Fitra with a smile as she checked her phone to see if the payment went through.

Introducing QRIS: standardizing QR codes for payments

With QRIS, consumers and merchants can finally adopt a standardised QR code for payments across platforms. (Image source: Doku)

Before standardization, consumers and merchants had to grapple with multiple platforms and QR codes. It was common to see consumers changing apps to make payments and get various rewards from different platforms. Similarly, merchants select the platform where they receive the most subsidies as their platform of choice to boost their revenue. From both the consumer and merchant perspectives, this creates a confusing experience. 

With the introduction of QR Code Indonesian Standard (QRIS), Indonesians like Hadi and Fitra can now make or receive payments using any platform they like —  marking Indonesia’s first step towards nationwide digitization. 

QRIS is similar to Singapore’s SGQR/PayNow in that it is supported by all major banking and payment platforms and has already been adopted by banks and internet companies such as GoJek, Tokopedia, and Bukalapak. Even new fintech startups in Indonesia have adopted QRIS.

Leveraging Indonesia’s rapidly growing digital industry

Indonesia’s fintech industry is enormous in terms of market size and growth rate. One-third of Indonesia’s population remains unbanked – over 83 million people in Indonesia lack access to traditional banking services1. Over 60 million micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises in Indonesia do not have reliable access to financial loans and services2. Yet just as recently as five years ago, the number of unbanked population was twice what we see today.

When Google asked people what would drive them to use e-money apps, an overwhelming majority of respondents (87%) said they wanted more food-related discounts and promotions from e-money brands, and 85% wanted more store partnerships, both online and offline. (Image and information source: Google/GFK, “Digital Wallet Study,” November 2017)

Dominant technology platforms in Indonesia played a significant role in driving the adoption of digital payments and fintech solutions. E-commerce platforms like Tokopedia and Bukalapak encourage consumers to use e-wallets to make digital in exchange for discounts and rewards points. Over time, consumers have become accustomed to using digital payments for e-commerce transactions.

The gradual shift in consumer behavior extends to offline and retail contexts as well. Ride-hailing and food delivery platforms such as Indonesia’s GoJek embedded digital payments (known as GoPay) as part of the customer journey – customers are encouraged to make payments using GoPay while booking a taxi ride or when getting their food delivered. 

Indonesia’s biggest internet companies Gojek and Tokopedia announced an US$18 billion merger to create ‘GoTo Group’, making history as Indonesia’s largest-ever business deal as of 2021. (Image source: Tech Crunch)

GoJek is a particularly unique case – as Indonesia’s homegrown champion, it provides over 18 types of products and services ranging from logistical services, food and shopping, and payment service all within its app. As Indonesia’s super app, Gojek is to Indonesians what WeChat is to those living in China. 

Why standardizing digital payment matters

New opportunities arise as major players adopt the QRIS standards. With the increasing adoption of standards such as QRIS, consumers become more educated and become accustomed to digital payments and using digital financial products.

Similarly, merchants dependent on incumbent technology companies also adopt these embedded financial offerings as part of their onboarding process into these platforms. Inevitably, we see a positive cycle where both consumers and merchants are moving their shopping, payments, and operational behavior to a digital format.

The mass adoption of QRIS also removes interoperability issues. Startups now no longer need to acquire merchants and convince them to use a proprietary QR code format to accept payments. New entrants can focus on building solutions and concentrate on solving specific use cases. 

A typical example is group buying, where consumers are encouraged to form group purchases to qualify for group discounts. By leveraging on the QRIS format, there is no need to worry if members of the group are using the same platform or not.

Launched in 2019, bookkeeping start-up BukuKas announced it had raised US$ 50 million in Series B fund in May 2021, attracting investment from prominent angels including Gokul Rajaram and Taavet Hinrikus, Co-Founder of Wise. (Source: Fintech News Singapore)

The benefits of QRIS extend to business use cases as well. An example is bookkeeping. BukuKas, a bookkeeping app startup for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). BukuKas recently launched BukuKasPay, which adopts QRIS standards — by doing so, BukuKas customers can thus pay their suppliers on time and facilitate digital debt collection through methods ranging from e-wallets to virtual bank accounts.

What QRIS adoption means for foreign players 

With the adoption of QRIS in Indonesians daily lives, we can be sure that the pace of fintech adoption will continue to pick up over the next few years, opening up new opportunities for consumers, businesses, and startups.

By facilitating interoperability between digital payment platforms,QRIS removes what was often the final obstacle for consumers in their purchase journey. We can expect new products and services to leverage on QRIS to maximize their revenue. Many opportunities abound in the case of Indonesia in terms of specific use cases or industry verticals, ranging from microloans, e-wallets for particular industries such as logistics, freelancers. 

The implications for foreign players, startups, and companies are huge. Now that payments are interoperable, incoming players can bring along their experience and design solutions for growing fintech verticals ranging from lending, cross-border payments, credit scoring, insurance, and personal finance. 


  1. SEA Internet Economy Report 2019 by Google, Temasak and Bain & Company 
  2. Big Data UKM Dianggap Mampu Dongkrak Lini Usaha Lebih Besar, Warta Economi.

Eugene is a speaker at our upcoming Coffee Connections event on 29 June

He will be drawing on his rich experience as a former employee at start-ups such as Grab, Lazada and Love Bonito in speaking about his experience building products from zero to one.

About Eugene Liang

Eugene enjoys building products from zero to one, from ideation to go-to-market whether it’s in established companies or startups. He is experienced with gaming/gamification, e-commerce, bike-sharing, and ride-hailing related industries. 

After nearly 10 years in tech, Eugene joined the banking industry to work on digital banking products, where he applies his tech experience to a different industry – banking.

Besides banking, Eugene is also highly interested in both the Indonesian and Chinese market. He is currently learning the Indonesian language in his spare time.

Connect with Eugene on LinkedIn here.

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