A 99, known for its individual urban transport application, will expand its digital wallet throughout Brazil by the end of the first half of 2021. Still in April, the service called 99 Pay will reach the main markets of the company: the cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The digital wallet is aimed at passengers, since drivers have another application, called Conta 99.
Rival Uber has also created a similar service, in partnership with fintech Digio, to allow instant payments to drivers after each race. 99’s mission with its digital wallet, however, is broader: to reduce the use of physical money in the races and to provide facilities for day-to-day users, such as the payment of slips or the recharge of credits on the cell phone.
The company has the stated objective of ending the year 2021 as one of the three largest digital portfolios in Brazil. In six months, 99 says it has generated 22 million reais in savings for users in the first nine cities where it launched the service in a pilot test phase. The amount saved is a sum of offers through discounts, profitability in the digital wallet, coupons and cash back (cashback). The money saved in the account has a return of 220% of the CDI, that is, more than the savings currently pay.
Maurício Orsolini Filho, director of 99 Pay, tells in an exclusive interview to EXAM that the company is preparing a series of novelties for 2021, reveals that 99 Pay already has 1.3 million active users and rules out the internationalization of the service. Check it out below.
EXAMINATION: Why was 99 Pay created? How does it fit with the 99 transport app?
Maurício Orsolini Filho: We started working on the project in mid-2019. We had the product for drivers, but not a wallet like 99 Pay. Digital payment methods had a great boost in Brazil and it made sense for us to create a wallet to generate more value for users, including because of 99 Food, our food delivery service. Security is another important point in the digital wallet. 99 Pay is an alternative to using physical money. With that, we expect drivers and passengers to reduce the use of money in races. In 2021, it is more important than ever to have alternatives for unbanked people.
How has the acceptance of the new payment service been?
We launched the portfolio in July and the results exceeded expectations. We were able to reduce the percentage of races in cash, about 70% of races are paid in cash, which is a market behavior. We have reduced approximately 10% of cash payments since the launch of the portfolio. As we are in 1600 cities, with 20 million monthly active users, we had a great acceptance of 99 Pay. In the 25 cities where we already have the digital wallet, we have 1.3 million active users.
99 decided to anticipate the plans to launch 99 Pay and expand the service to more cities in the first half of 2021. What motivated the acceleration?
We understand that digital payment methods are becoming popular, in part, because of the pandemic. With our presence and brand power, which help to break down the service adoption barrier, people have been using our wallet a lot. The pandemic showed more the social distortion of Brazil. People with higher purchasing power reduced the use of runs in the app by 41%, but the number of trips increased by 36% among the public with lower purchasing power. The data are from a survey by 99 that compared February 2020 to the same month in 2021. Because of the change in the profile of use of transport by applications and the savings that we generate for users, we decided to anticipate the launch planning. Transport is often used out of necessity. Especially because it has fewer people than on public transport or as a way to travel safely and comfortably the last kilometers of a route.
When will 99 Pay be released to all users?
By the end of the first half of 2021. Our internal goal is to launch in all cities by April, which is when the service will arrive in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, but by the end of June the general launch will certainly have happened.
What are the main challenges for a mobility company to bring its digital wallet to more users in Brazil?
The main thing is to be able to offer the convenience to the user who needs it most: those who do not have a bank account or have been poorly served by banks and have stopped using them. We want to reduce cash payments and increase 99 digital wallet membership among people who are not familiar with digital payment services.
Are there plans to take the 99 digital wallet to other countries?
For now, we are not going to internationalize the portfolio. Each country is at a different stage of using digital wallets. Despite the purchase by the Chinese Didi Chuxing, the DNA remains Brazilian. The solution was created for Brazil.
In digital wallets, services such as recharging a public transport card and even selling gift cards are offered to consumers. Does 99 have similar expansion plans?
Yes, there are many things we can do. But our differentiation is to focus on our services. We seek to offer discounts and cashback to our users. The biggest challenge is to educate users. Therefore, the launch of a simple and intuitive interface was made to minimize barriers to adoption. Once this barrier is overcome, we allow payment of boleto, mobile phone recharge and we are integrating with Pix to unite most of the digital services. We believe that it may even replace, in part, the debit card. We have continuous improvement and we have new features on our radar. We have an evolution timeline to gradually launch new features, such as the recharge of public transport tickets, scheduled for the middle of the second semester.