Visa (NYSE: V) announced a commitment to support 10 million small businesses across the Asia Pacific in an effort to get local communities back to business in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Visa is introducing a range of programs and solutions to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) drive efficiency and sales by accepting and making payments digitally to meet increased demand for cashless payments – both online and in-store. Visa also formed the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute (VEEI) focused on economic and societal issues, including pandemic challenges SMEs face and closing racial and gender opportunity gaps.
The 10 million pledge is part of a global program that will see Visa supporting 50 million small businesses worldwide. Small businesses will play a vital role in helping communities recover – they account for more than half of global employment and are among the most affected by the pandemic in the Asia Pacific, SMEs account for more than 90 percent of businesses and employ 50 percent of the workforce.
In addition to the economic impacts, COVID-19 is accelerating the use of digital commerce experiences, from people seeking new ways to pay that do not involve touching a terminal, to a boom in eCommerce, as stay-home orders result in shopping online instead of in-store. In the Asia Pacific, 41% of consumers made five or more eCommerce transactions in the past three months. Three-quarters of consumers in the region have said they will keep using digital payments instead of going back to cash, even after the global pandemic has subsided.
“Commerce across the Asia Pacific, including the Philippines, is shifting further into digital in the wake of COVID-19, from more people ordering essentials online to people looking for secure, touchless ways to pay in person,” said Dan Wolbert, Visa country manager for the Philippines & Guam. “Visa’s role as a payments network means we can help SMEs adapt to these new ways of managing and growing their business, ensuring that these crucial players can recover.”
To help small businesses, Visa is focusing initially on four strategic areas to promote digital commerce and economic growth, with plans to continue to create products and services as the needs of entrepreneurs change over time. These areas include:
• Empowering digital-first businesses: Visa has built localised online resource centres – now available in more than 20 countries and territories – providing tools, partner offers, and information on how to start, run and grow a digital small business. Visa is teaming up with leading eCommerce platforms such as Shopify and Boutir to help local businesses get online. Visa will be expanding its global partnership with IFundWomen to the Asia Pacific, providing grants and digital training to women-owned small businesses in India.
• Encouraging digital payments: Deploying easy to adopt touchless payment technology – rapidly, and at scale – is critical to enabling faster, more secure commerce. Visa is working to introduce low-cost digital payment acceptance, including solutions that do not require point-of-sale systems and can enable a merchant’s mobile phone to become a payment terminal. Visa and its partners have launched tap to phone solutions in Malaysia, with more Asia Pacific markets such as Australia, Hong Kong, India, Taiwan, and Vietnam to follow. Visa is also supporting SMEs to make business-to-business (B2B) payments digitally. By digitalising procurement payments through the use of a Visa Business Card, SMEs can utilise reconciliation tools and benefit from higher efficiency and data insights, in addition to managing their working capital effectively. Visa has curated special partner offers for SMEs using these business cards, which include access to cloud accounting platforms, digital marketing and professional courses.
• Incentivising neighbourhood support: Visa partnerships encourage consumers to shop locally and remind them that where you shop matters. The Visa Back to Business Project – an online tool that helps consumers identify businesses that may be open in the wake of the pandemic or a natural disaster – is now live in Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S., and further expanding globally. Visa has launched its new ‘Where You Shop Matters’ initiative in Australia and New Zealand that champions and enables entrepreneurs while encouraging consumers to support small businesses. Visa will be expanding the initiative to other Asia Pacific markets such as Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam.
• Developing positioning and policy: In addition to the initiatives Visa is undertaking, the company today announced the formation of the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute. This new institute comprises Visa experts and partners who will help address underlying problems and provide insights for SMEs' growth and closing racial and gender gaps. Key projects in the next six months will address topics including post-crisis recovery and resilience, urban mobility, closing equality opportunity gaps, and insights into the gig economy.
The Visa Foundation announced last April, that it will provide US$210 million in COVID-19 relief funding to address the longer-term needs of the small and micro business community over the next five years.
As the trusted engine of commerce, Visa is committed to using its global network to help the world adapt, rebuild, and get everyone back to business.