Tony Fernandes launches BigPay officially, with plans for remittance and money-lending services

Fernandes aims to transform AirAsia into a digital company, starting with the introduction of BigPay, its new cashless system.
Business Insider/Jessica Lin

Tony Fernandes, Group CEO of AirAsia, has officially launched his latest fintech project BigPay.

Speaking to fintech leaders at the Money 20/20 conference in Singapore on Thursday (Mar 15), Fernandes confirmed that the implementation of BigPay, a new cashless payment system, would allow the low-cost carrier to go completely cashless in future.

Soft launched earlier this year, BigPay is a prepaid card that functions as a normal credit and debit card and can be used for transactions on the airline. Users can also transfer digital cash to each other for free, making budgeting more convenient for group travel.

The co-founders of BigPay, Salim Dhanani and Christopher Davison, had initially approached Fernandes with their idea of building up a disruptive financial product using  AirAsia’s massive amounts of data.

 

Fernandes said during the presentation: “80 per cent of our business is still done on AirAsia.com and we’re very protective of that. And as for the past few years, we thought there is a huge amount of value in the data that we have built up and that’s why I’m transforming our company into a digital company.”

Being an avid believer in innovation, Fernandes plans to replicate his success with AirAsia’s “Now everyone can fly” philosophy with BigPay in the next few years, and even speculates that BigPay might become more valuable than AirAsia itself, according to The Malay Mail Online.

The cashless wallet is just the first step in AirAsia’s plans to move forward as a digital company.

In future, Fernandes plans to also eliminate exchange rates for AirAsia passengers using BigPay, enter the remittance market and last but not least, to go into the money-lending business for entrepreneurs.

“Right now, anyone who wants to borrow has to mortgage their son and their daughter to get a loan from the bank,” Fernandes joked.

“We believe we need to disrupt (the market) and create more entrepreneurs going forward.”

With a focus on ASEAN and what he calls “high-resolution data”, Fernandes said he hopes to see collaborations with more e-commerce companies around the region in future.

The 53-year-old chief of AirAsia Group is known for bringing the airline to previously unimaginable heights, buying it at 25 cents (RM1) while it was millions in debt.

Since then, it has won the Best Low-cost Airline award by Skytrax nine times in a row.