We are pretty much into the latter half of 2016 now, past most of the tech announcements and releases that typically start off a year, and are in the lull right before the close of the year’s announcements.
In tech news, however, a National Payment Platform has been finally approved by the Cabinet with the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) and the Central Bank leading the initiative. Hopefully, this will facilitate digital commerce among government bodies and maybe make it easier to make payments online to government institutions. It is supposed to be released in a month. Unfortunately, there’s still no talk about PayPal being made available in Sri Lanka.
There are also some companies who have timed their launches for the middle of the year, or who are just getting into their stride about now. Here’s our list of some great new startups for the month of July.
E-commerce is one of the faster growing parts of the tech industry in Sri Lanka. Some of the biggest and best funded startups in the country are all focused on online commerce, and BizPay.lk wants to make things easier for companies setting themselves up online as a sales platform.
BizPay aims to help companies accept payments online through a multitude of methods. Through BizPay, your website can accept payments via Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Sampath’s Vishva, ezCash and mCash. That’s a pretty wide array of payment methods, especially since it includes ezCash and mCash. BizPay also integrates with several online shopping cart modules, to make it easier for you to integrate in your website.
There may be some confusion with what BizPay actually is, however. It calls itself an “Internet Payment Gateway Service”, but it is not really a Payment Gateway, as such. Further, in their website, they call themselves a hosted payment gateway, which is probably a more accurate description of what they are since they actually use the Sampath Bank Payment Gateway to process payments. What Bizpay really does is sit between the merchant and the online payment gateway: a sort of intermediary that helps you process payments. Overall, they are a cheaper option to setting up your own payment gateway through one of the major banks, though they do charge higher transaction fees, with a 0.5% increase over the usual 3% commission charged by banks plus a fixed charge of Rs. 15 to Rs. 25 depending on the type of transaction.
If there’s one issue that needs a solution in Colombo, it is trying to find skilled services like plumbing or carpentry work done on your property or your office. Usually you try to find people by word of mouth, but it is often hit or miss.
Idama.lk seems to try and address this issue by being the “first platform” that will allow you to find and order services related to your property. They promise to help you find anyone from a lawyer to a plumber through their database of 1,100 service providers.
Their website is still in beta, but their call centre is up. Well, it is technically up, but we’ve not been able to actually speak to anyone human yet. If they actually do manage to get up and running, it would be an awesome service to have.
Keeping in the vein of e-commerce, Box-Up adds a slightly different tack to the usual online shopping system. Launched earlier this month, Box-Up up allows you to shop for consumables straight from Melbourne, Australia. You go through their website’s catalogue of over a 100 items, add them to the cart, pay, and they will ship it to you. They promise to dispatch the package 72 hours after receiving payment and it usually takes 4 to 7 weeks to arrive. You could collect it directly from customs or have it delivered to your doorstep. You can choose from their readymade hampers or assemble your own box of stuff through their website.
The brainchild of Vanessa Rudolph and Poorni Fonseka, Box-Up aims to provide Sri Lankans with products either unavailable in Sri Lanka or too expensive to afford here. The rationale here is that Australia will have something you want and Box-Up will get it to you.
“Some products were generally very difficult to find, and we remember our families having to wait for family and friends to arrive from overseas to bring high-quality goods including chocolates, wine, and toys for many years” said Fonseka. “We are so excited to offer this service to Sri Lankans. They no longer have to wait to access the best for their homes.” says Rudolph.
One does wonder, though, what toll the Customs Department will have on the hampers.
So far, all the items listed are consumables, with plenty of sugar-free and gluten-free stuff to choose from.
4) Hikka Music
Sri Lanka doesn’t have any real locally-created music streaming service. We either depend on Soundcloud, local radio stations or Apple Music at a stretch. But the strangely named Hikka Music aims to change this by being Sri Lanka’s first music streaming service along the lines of Spotify or Deezer. Hikka Music aims to become a community platform for Sri Lankan artists to connect with and have conversations with fans while providing a streaming service for locally-created music.
The service will have deals with record labels to licence local artists’ music on their site. Musicians who are signed up with those labels can have their songs streamed on the website, and part of the profits will go towards paying royalties to the artists. Record artists can also directly contact the service to publish their songs on the Hikka Music catalogue. Currently, the music streamed by the site will be Sri Lankan only, but they have plans to publish international music later on. The site is online now, but does not seem fully functional yet. Hikka Music is also working on an app for their service.
5) The Squad
Sri Lanka has quite a number of delivery services operating in the country, and added to that is a growing number of specialised concierge services promising to do a whole lot of things for you, from laundry pick ups to paying your traffic fines. The new kid on the concierge block is The Squad. With their almost superhero themed logo and name, The Squad promises courier services, delivery, shopping, license recovery, and even cake delivery if you are feeling peckish.
They have a pretty active Facebook page, a website and even an Android app. They charge a set fee depending on the delivery location and generally won’t deliver outside city limits. All their deliveries are made by bike, so your requests have to be 5 kg or less and should be able to fit on a bike.
The good thing is that there is no membership fee unlike some of the other services out there, so you pretty much can use them whenever you want to, and the app makes things a whole lot easier too.
So there you have it: a list of great new Sri Lankan startups for the month of July. As you can see, e-commerce and the service industry still dominate, but it’s also great to see an experimental music streaming site for local talent. Here’s hoping for more new and exciting startups in the coming months.