When I launched YouTrip in late 2018, it was a breakout success. It was the first mover in Southeast Asia to offer a payment app enabling payment in over 150 currencies with no foreign currency (FX) transaction fees. It also supported in-app exchanges of ten major currencies at the lowest rates. It meant users no longer had to research exchange rates, queue at money changers and pay transaction fees overseas. The year before the pandemic, 2019, was also a golden age for travel, especially among our millennial customer base. Our revenue multiplied ten times within a year.
But the Covid pandemic in 2020 meant we lost a substantial part of our business overnight. It was a real shock to the system, but I eventually realised it was important to focus on what we did from that point on.
Finding the "a ha!" moments amidst crises
As an entrepreneur, adapting to change is the single most important business lesson for me. Over the last 18 months, we transformed our business to become pandemic-resilient. For us, that meant broadening our offerings into e-commerce and insurances, and launching YouBiz, our corporate card that provides SMEs compelling cashback offers and overseas transactions at no FX fees.
YouBiz came about because of two “a ha!” moments we had during the pandemic. The first came about a year into the pandemic, when we noticed that some YouTrip users remained extremely active—even regularly maxing out their transaction limits—when no one was traveling. They turned out to be small retail and trading businesses that were using YouTrip to pay their overseas suppliers, taking advantage of our zero FX fees. And because they hit the S$30,000 annual limit quickly, they would even get their friends and family to sign up for our cards.
The other realisation was that we ourselves weren’t harnessing YouTrip’s favourable rates for our company’s payroll and business transactions, which involve multiple currencies including USD, SGD, HKD, and THB. Not only did 95 per cent of my corporate expenses involve FX, there was also the inconvenience of having to open new bank accounts in every country we operate in. This has become a more far-reaching issue as many employees now work in hybrid or remote arrangements. As companies become more geographically dispersed to capture new opportunities, their cross-border and transaction needs are only going to increase.