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Social impact e-commerce firm helps migrant workers take control of their money

SINGAPORE — BeamAndGo, a social impact e-commerce start-up, has helped thousands of Fillipino domestic workers in Singapore — and elsewhere — gain more control over the remittances they send back to relatives at home since its launch in 2015.

Social impact e-commerce firm helps migrant workers take control of their money

BeamAndGo chief operating officer Albert Christian Go (left) and chief executive officer Jonathan E. Chua (far right) with some attendees at a LearnAndGo conference, which is designed to improve financial literacy among foreign domestic workers.

SINGAPORE — BeamAndGo, a social impact e-commerce start-up, has helped thousands of Fillipino domestic workers in Singapore — and elsewhere — gain more control over the remittances they send back to relatives at home since its launch in 2015.

Now the firm is looking at expanding to other South-east Asian markets including Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam — and could do so as soon as 2022. Many foreign domestic workers in Singapore are from Indonesia.

The Filipino foreign domestic workers who use the service can buy SMS codes through the website and send money back home in the form of vouchers, which can be used by their relatives to redeem groceries, medicine and gas, among other necessities.

The website also has pre-packed packages with groceries, such as rice and canned food, that users can choose to have delivered to their families.

This gives the workers the certainty they long for that their hard-earned money is, for example, putting food in the mouths of their children back home — and not being siphoned off for some other use.

The site has already partnered with about 800 supermarket branches, 800 pharmacies, 2,000 gas stations and 2,500 convenience stores in the Philippines, which accept the vouchers the workers send home.

Foreign domestic workers told TODAY that BeamAndGo has changed the way they spend and save their money.

Madam Mylen Clay, 34, a foreign domestic worker who has worked in Singapore for over three years, is a single mother and used to worry that her children back in the Philippines never got to enjoy the remittances she sent back.

The divorcee explained that her two kids live with her mother-in-law. “I work so hard for my kids and live so far from them and it makes me upset when they tell me that their grandmother doesn’t allow them to buy the things they want.”

Having been apart from her family for so long, she said that it was stressful not knowing how her money was being spent.

But after finding out about BeamAndGo on Facebook two years ago, she said: “I can ask my kids what they want to buy and my eldest daughter will write the price so then I can send over the vouchers to buy them.”

Another foreign domestic worker Ms Maria Salome Castillo, 46, said that she uses BeamAndGo to send back her salary every month.

The mother of four said: “(Previously) I sent money to my mother and I didn’t know if she would pay the bills so the electricity and water would get cut sometimes. But I didn’t have any choice and I still needed to send the money back.”

Ms Castillo, who has been working in Singapore for 10 years, said that she can now organise her money better as she knows how much is allocated to groceries.

A recent study, commissioned by information services company Experian and Hong Kong charity Enrich, found that almost half of foreign domestic workers here do not have access to a bank account and a third are in debt.

BeamAndGo has 170,000 Fillipino users working around the globe in places such as Hong Kong, Japan and the Middle East. Singapore accounts for 6,661 registered users.

FINANCIAL LITERACY 'KEY' TO TAKING CONTROL OF MONEY

The start-up’s chief operating officer Mr Albert Christian Go, 35, explained that a lack of financial literacy was the root of the problem.

He told TODAY in an interview on Thursday (27 June): “When you teach financial education, you should teach not just the migrant worker, but also their families. You might be just teaching the migrant worker, but the problem is the whole family unit.”

The firm also has a branch, LearnAndGo, which conducts workshops on financial literacy and cultivating better spending habits.

The service is growing by 3,500 registered users a week.

But Mr Go believes the business still has room to help more than just Fillipinos.

He said: “We are currently prioritising the market in the Philippines as our core market to create a blueprint for us to expand to other regions. This blueprint will include rolling out newer technologies for a third party marketplace and stored value facility, to name a few, which are crucial to us being able to launch to other markets.”

But Mr Go, who is Filipino, foresees cultural differences and language barriers as the main challenge. He said: “The Philippines is very Westernised and people can speak English. So it's easier for us too, and we're also from that same background, so it was easier for us to understand that market.”

He said they expected to launch in other countries in three years.

For now, it is currently studying markets in South-east Asia. He said: “This would include discussions with convenience stores, supermarkets, and other retailers as well as with customers. The results of our study would determine which region to expand to.”

 

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BeamAndGo Filipino cash remittance

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