Saturday, December 16, 2017
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HONG KONG – It is a little disappointing that Hong Kong entrepreneurs and retailers do not take e-commerce and electronic payment seriously enough.

Since Alibaba’s Tmall online supermarket officially launched in Hong Kong on June 18 I have already placed five orders and spent more than 2,000 yuan (US$295, or HK$2,300) in total on some small household items, mostly snacks including beef jerky, chili paste and dairy products made on the Chinese mainland which I have enjoyed since I was a little girl.

Usually the package arrives the day after I place the order.

I came from the mainland and have been working and living in Hong Kong for nine years. Finding out that I can finally use my Alipay and buy the snacks I loved, and have them delivered to my doorstep, feels like a special holiday for me.

Then people would argue that Hong Kong already has the Octopus card, which is very convenient; any other payment method may not pay the bill as quickly and conveniently as Octopus. Besides introducing new payment channels may increase the burden on local retailers, particularly small ones.

One popular saying is that if there is real demand in the market, these things will happen naturally.

Under this philosophy, electronic payment systems in Hong Kong have lagged far behind the mainland’s. Apple Pay entered the Hong Kong market months after it started on the mainland, and only in the second half of last year, five major electronic payment operators — including Tencent’s WeChat Pay and Alibaba-backed Alipay — were granted licenses to operate multi-purpose, stored value mobile payment systems in Hong Kong.

One of my friends who recently moved from Beijing to Hong Kong told me she could not believe so many shops and restaurants only take cash, and people must pay cash for taxi rides. In Beijing, you can scan a QR code and pay with your mobile phone in the farmers market.

I’m wondering, when did Hong Kong start to take a back seat when it comes to innovation and trying new things?

When the Octopus fare collection system was officially launched in September 1997, it was one of the earliest forms of electronic money the world has ever seen, it was the same small and compact city as it is today, so what about the innovative spirit? Has it changed since then?

 

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