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Rakuten Viber expands into fintech on 10-year anniversary by launching payments in Chat Bots

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On the eve of its decade anniversary, Rakuten Viber, owner of Viber, the world’s popular messaging platform announces its expansion into fintech with its Chatbot Payments marking a milestone in the company’s move towards a utility concept.

Ukraine will be the first market for the feature launch and Viber plans to scale it in other markets in 2021. This feature will soon be available for all users in Sri Lanka and the rest of the Asia Pacific region, as roll out plans are scheduled to be announced on a later date. Users will be able to use the platform for buying goods and services and pay with Google Pay or another native mobile wallet.

As messaging and social platforms grow and develop, users are beginning to express a demand for additional features that go beyond emojis, gifs, and video calls. Since early as 2017, 64 % of millennials have expressed interest in P2P transfer solutions in messaging apps. That number has grown since then with the pandemic having accelerated the need for solutions to do just about everything remotely.

With the company developing an end-to-end platform catering to all its users’ needs, it is underscored by impeccable privacy-preserving measures. Recognising this need Viber has announced its expansion into utilities and fintech with a digital payments debut emphasizing preserving user privacy.

Viber’s Chatbot Payments feature will enable users to purchase the products and services of the merchants securely and directly through their authorised chatbots. If the user’s bank support it, the user needs to add a credit or debit card to their smartphone wallet the payment option becomes available for any chatbot built on Viber’s native chatbot application programming interface (API).

On the merchant side, businesses seeking to accept payments simply connect to a payment service provider supporting this type of payments, create a chatbot on Viber, and enable payments on it.

Viber’s chatbot platform is: time-saving as the Chatbot Payments feature enables making the purchase with a few taps directly in Viber. It is all-encompassing with end users can now pay for the services they’ve been already managing via a chatbot (utility bills, deliveries, transportation, etc.). Secure as all confidential payment information is encrypted and not disclosed to chatbots, Viber, or any third party. It is good for business as the Chatbot Payments feature is an easy way for any small, medium, or large enterprises to have a channel on Viber with which to connect to their clients and collect payments and also scalable as quick time to market for any country where mobile wallets are available.

Viber is cooperating with trusted bot developers and payment service providers over the next few months to make this available. In addition to Ukraine, Viber plans to launch the Chatbot Payments feature in other markets early next year.

“We’re thrilled to move Viber beyond messaging and position ourselves on the global stage as an end-to-end platform that actually values its users as people, not ad targets. Privacy and Security are very important. That’s true not only in the transfer of information through messages, but in payments and other aspects of digital communications. We’re here to ensure users have access to a secure alternative to handle their payments,” said Djamel Agaoua, CEO of Rakuten Viber.



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Business

Privatization option being considered for Sri Lankan Airlines – CEO Richard Nuttall

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

The government is planning to restructure the national carrier, Sri Lankan Airlines, and privatization is one proposed option due to the current financial crisis, Sri Lankan Airlines Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Richard Nuttall said.

“We are now looking at the privatization option as well because the government wants to restructure Sri Lankan Airlines, which is now preparing for the in- coming tourist season. So far we have enough bookings, Nuttall said at a press conference yesterday, which was called to announce, among other things, that Sri Lankan Airlines is the official airline partner for the Sri Lanka’s Masters Hockey World Cup 2022 in England, which will be held from August 12-21 in Nottingham. The press conference was held at the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management auditorium.

Nuttall added: ‘We have 24 aircraft in the fleet, out of which three aircraft are not functioning as those engines have been sent to the Rolls Royce Company for overhaul purposes. At present the entire air industry is facing a unique crisis due to fuel issues. The high air fares are also troubling the industry but they will likely come down in the future.

‘Over the last two years, Sri Lankan tourism and the airline sector got badly hit and we are now in the process of putting infrastructure in place to revive the business and coming forward to sponsor the Masters Hockey World Cup 2022 at this critical juncture is intended to promote and attract tourists into Sri Lanka, which would in turn benefit the airline as well.’

Chairman, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chalaka Gajabahu said that they, being the main sponsor for the Sri Lanka team, had seen an opportunity to promote Sri Lanka tourism at the World Cup to boost forex inflows at a desperate time amid an economic crisis.

“These hockey Masters could be the best ambassadors to do and their part to keep the nation’s flag flying high and to continue with their good work, Gajabahu said.

According to the chairman, this year they expect close to one million tourists to Sri Lanka and are now in the process of rolling out a 15 -16 month action plan.

‘Sports tourism can be a major way of creating unity and friendship with other nations and spreading a positive message about Sri Lanka to the world, giving a realistic image and a clear description about the island destination, he said.

“This is not a short term goal but rather a long term one because many of the foreigners who hear about Sri Lanka could visit the country in the future. We see it as a golden opportunity through this partnership, he added.

Sri Lanka’s premier paint company, Nippon Paint Lanka (Pvt) Limited, is a co-sponsor of the team.

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Heed people’s call for new political model

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The people of Sri Lanka in the past few months have declared that there can be no reliance on old politicians and political models any longer, and there should be innovative thinking, while paying prompt attention to global changes.

The Sri Lankan people have made these demands for the past few months in non-violent, peaceful means, but were provoked into violence by the state and the discredited politicians who engineered and provoked violence, to brutally quash the legitimate demands for change in the political culture in the country.

As such, the people should not pay any heed to calls by a President, who does not have the people’s mandate to make any requests, demands or pleas on the people.

The current president may be president in the eyes of the Constitution or law – but he will never be the president of the people in spirit.

Furthermore, the political circumstances which culminated in the current President’s ‘selection cum election’ to office, by the vote of 134 members of parliament, necessitates an urgent and immediate change in the Political Model practices in Sri Lanka.

As such, we the people call on the President to recognise the root cause of the current economic crisis in the country, as indeed a political crisis, and call upon him to play his role in solving both the economic and political problems by resigning immediately, and making way for a new political model. Therefore, his call for a new economic model does NOT make any economic or political sense in the absence of introduction of a new political model as demanded by the people.

Would appreciate it if you would bring this to the notice of your readers.

Dr RUVAIZ HANIFFA

(For and on behalf of people who want genuine change in the political culture of Sri Lanka)

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CSE’s bullish momentum continues; turnover hits Rs. 3 billion for fourth day running

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By Hrian H.Senewiratne

The CSE began on a mixed note due to witnessing profit- takings in certain companies but later the bullish momentum resumed and the turnover reached more than Rs 3 billion for the fourth straight day yesterday. The market was mainly driven by blue chip companies, especially Lanka- IOC, which became the most sought after of stocks due to high profits, stock market analysts said.

It is said that the Lanka IOC and CPC are making heavy profits because the global oil market has come down to US $ 102 per barrel (Singapore Plates price formula) . Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Power & Energy has authorized the establishment of 50 new filling stations by Lanka IOC, the local unit of the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC).

LIOC Managing Director Manoj Gupta toldy the media that advertisements on the filling stations will appear in a week or so. “Sheds cannot be opened overnight. We will put out the advertisements and open them in fifty locations. The Ministry of Power and Energy has given approval. We will put out advertisements in a week or so, he said.

Sri Lanka is in the midst of a fuel crisis triggered by forex shortages. This has resulted in LIOC increasing its share price by 16 per cent or Rs 18.25. Its share price stepped up to Rs 131.25 from Rs 113 yesterday after concluding share-trading on the floor, stock market analysts said.

AgStar and Lanka Lubricants’ share prices appreciated by more than 16 per cent. AgStar is engaged in the business of importing, blending and marketing of fertilizer products. The company’s segments consist of Trading and Processing and there was a share price gain by 16.5 per cent or Rs 1.50. Its share price moved to Rs 10.60 from Rs 9.10 due to the government’s decision to lift the import ban on certain fertilizers, such as, Glyphosate, market analysts said. Lanka Lubricants’ share price appreciated by 16 per cent or Rs 13.50. Its share price moved to Rs 94.70 from Rs 81.20.

Amid those developments both indices moved upwards. The All- Share Price Index went up by 89.6 points and S and P SL20 rose by 86 points. Turnover stood at Rs 3.3 billion, with a single crossing. The crossing was reported in Melstacorp, which crossed 667,000 shares to the tune of Rs 30 million; its shares traded at Rs 30 million.

In the retail market, top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were; Lanka IOC Rs 1.5 million (12.1 million shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 319 million (1.5 million shares traded), JKH Rs 199 million (1.6 million shares traded), LOLC Holdings Rs 132 million (235,000 shares traded), Melstacorp Rs 111 million (2.4 million shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 85.5 million (11 million shares traded) and LOLC Finance Rs 75.4 million (8.7 million shares traded). During the day 85.6 million share volumes changed hands in 28000 transactions.

However, foreign selling intensified last week with a net outflow of Rs. 475 million, thereby increasing the year date figure to Rs. 859 million. July saw net foreign inflow of around Rs. 784 million. According to stock brokers, the biggest foreign selling during last week was in Melstacorp (Rs. 415 million), followed by Expolanka (Rs. 62.2 million) and Windforce (Rs. 16 million), while net buying was seen in Richard Pieris (Rs. 25 million), JKH (Rs. 21 million) and Hayleys (Rs. 14 million).

Yesterday, the Central Bank announced the US dollar buying rate as Rs 357.14 and the selling rate as Rs 368.40. The rupee has begun to stabilize against the US dollar due to the prudential monetary policies adopted by the Central Bank, financial analysts said.

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