Customers reap loyalty card rewards

Customers reap loyalty card rewards

UTU programme to be launched in Thailand

Asad Jumabhoy is the person behind the successful Scotts Group and pioneer of the value-added tax (VAT) refund for tourists in Singapore.

Mr Jumabhoy is now making a foray into the world of financial technology (fintech), with the debut of his own cross-border loyalty and rewards platform in the middle of this month.

He set up UTU Pte to provide the UTU loyalty ecosystem platform, which enables users to convert, earn and redeem points in real time at any UTU outlet worldwide through their smartphones.

Co-founders include his son Ameer and Jeremy Tan, an expert in fintech, mobile payments and loyalty platforms from Korvac Holdings.

Mr Jumabhoy, 57, brings with him four decades in the tourist VAT refund and payment service, which will be integrated with his cross-border loyalty and rewards mobile app platform.

"I was inspired by the hassle of carrying multiple loyalty cards for consumers as well as the challenge for brands and merchants of winning and retaining customers by using a loyalty rewards programme," Mr Jumabhoy told the Bangkok Post.

"We want to enhance users' experience and connect merchants with users via our innovative cross-border loyalty rewards mobile app."

He said UTU is a response to the observation that a tourist today is a local tomorrow, and a local today is a tourist tomorrow.

The global loyalty industry is estimated to be worth US$20 billion by 2020.

With more than one billion people travelling abroad a year, locals and tourists want integrated loyalty programmes, ease in managing their rewards points and more relevant deals from merchants. With UTU, shoppers continue to be rewarded, regardless of the country they are in, through their smartphones, said Mr Jumabhoy.

Users can download the free mobile app and register up to five credit or debit cards on the UTU app.

UTU consolidates rewards points from multiple credit and debit cards and eliminates the time it takes for those points to be processed in real time from the 1-3 days of the traditional rewards system.

The app also removes the barriers to cross-border loyalty and offers shoppers the chance to earn rewards points now and pay with them at a point of sale.

UTU users can earn reward points when they shop with its merchant partners. They also gain points from their debit and credit cards or can convert those points to UTU points.

Consumers can spend UTU points at thousands of participating redemption outlets. In addition, they can transfer points to other users, opt to receive promotions from their favourite brands and earn extra points through watching merchants' video adverts.

UTU earns revenue from a small fee charged to merchants who use the company's service platform.

The company spent two years developing the app and has an innovation centre to develop and enhance the app in Bengaluru, India.

Mr Jumabhoy said the company chose Thailand to kick-off its service because Thais are quick to embrace new technology. In addition, the Kingdom is one of top tourist destinations, with 30 million visitors a year.

The country also has a strong customer base for debit and credit cards with over 70 million cards as of August 2016.

In addition, Thais carry an average of seven loyalty cards each, he said.

The company will formally introduce the loyalty reward app in Thailand on Nov 14, in collaboration with five issuer banks and brand partners including Visa Thailand, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, RSH Limited and Singapore's NTUC Link.

He said UTU is targeting both locals and cross-border tourists. Ideal local users are mass-affluent smartphone users, tech-savvy frequent travellers in their late 30s, because this group likes to use loyalty points to experience the lifestyle they feel they have earned.

Cross-border tourists fit a similar demographic -- passionate about high technology, early adopters of IT gizmos, heavy social media and smartphone users in the same age range.

Mr Jumabhoy said UTU will expand its service in Asia and Europe from next year and is currently in discussion with operators in 12 countries.

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