Hong Kong-based Bitcoin firm Bitspark recently announced the launch of its end-to-end remittance service from Hong Kong to the Philippines that leverages the low fees associated with Bitcoin. The service “is the first bitcoin remittance solution in the world” that is cash-in-cash-out, quick, cost-effective, and scalable, said the company in a news release sent to CoinReport.
In the weeks since CoinReport last spoke to Bitspark founder George Harrap, the company had been busy at work developing its remittance service, ensuring that everything was secure at both ends.
“We have to have a physical location here in Hong Kong,” said Harrap in an interview. “We have to have the means to transfer Hong Kong dollars into Bitcoin and we partnered with Rebit.ph at the other end to handle the disbursement in the Philippines.”
A service of Satoshi Citadel Industries, a Philippines-based holding company for Bitcoin-related ventures, Rebit.ph supports remittances powered by Bitcoin. Under its partnership with Rebit, Bitspark offers its customers a choice of more than 30 destinations in the Philippines where recipients can pick up sent funds. Bitspark is very happy to work with Rebit, said Harrap, describing the service as “the connector” that understands the market.
Bitspark debuted its remittance service on Sunday, November 16 at a booth in World Wide House, a building located in Hong Kong’s central business district that is home to a proliferation of remittance shops, including the “usual suspects” Western Union and MoneyGram, said Harrap. He told CoinReport that Sundays are typically when many overseas workers in Hong Kong send money. Given its foot traffic, World Wide House is the place where Bitspark want to be.
Harrap added, “Many overseas workers from the Philippines get paid in cash so they may not have a bank account in Hong Kong, so we wanted a solution where somebody could walk up with their paycheck in cash and be able to send money back home to their family back in the Philippines and World Wide House was the best place for that.”
Harrap told CoinReport that Bitspark received positive feedback from visitors to its booth at World Wide House at the launch of its remittance service, especially on how the company deals with small transactions, which many of the other vendors do not process or their fees are not competitive. Bitspark’s rate is less than one percent (though it might vary depending on the transaction size) compared to 2.5 percent charged by other vendors.
“People were pleased to see that our pricing mechanism made it very useful for even small transactions so people could send small amounts as well as large amounts and that was something that couldn’t be achieved elsewhere,” said Harrap.
To process remittances, Bitspark collects the necessary information about senders and their recipients. The company then issues an invoice and locks in the price, taking on the risk of any currency fluctuation. Bitspark keeps in contact with customers through SMS and email.
“We like to keep to process very easy for the person so that they have the knowledge of what is happening on both ends at all times,” said Harrap.
What customers do not need to know about is Bitcoin itself; they do not need to have any prior knowledge of the digital currency in order to remit with Bitspark.
The company’s service is “reducing barrier to entry for using Bitcoin, where you don’t necessarily need to know how to use a Bitcoin wallet in order to reap the benefits of Bitcoin,” said Harrap.
He added, “Bitcoin does have a steep learning curve still, although that is coming down every day. It also requires a few things to get Bitcoin generally. Usually you need a bank account in order to transfer into an exchange. Many of our customers may not have a bank account here in Hong Kong as well. In terms of barrier to entry, we want to bring that down.”
Bitspark also wanted to make its remittance process familiar.
“People are already familiar with going to World Wide House and shopping around and finding the best rate…Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel we’re doing exactly what people are familiar with and just giving a better rate and Bitcoin just happens to be behind the scenes,” said Harrap.
In an earlier conversation with CoinReport, Harrap acknowledged Indonesia as a target market for remittances. In the recent interview, he noted that the Indonesian market is ready for disruption and that is something Bitspark is working toward. At the moment the company is focusing on scaling up the Philippines end, but as for the longer term, “Bitspark plans to be a remittance destination by Bitcoin for many of these remittance channels all around Asia.”
Images courtesy of Bitspark