Brazilian ride-hailing app 99 launches digital account

99's main rivals, Uber and Cabify already have digital wallets, but do not offer the service in Brazil. 99Pay's director talked to LABS about the new service

Maurício Filho, Director at 99Pay. Photo: 99/Courtesy
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The Brazilian ride-hailing app 99, owned by the Chinese giant Didi Chuxing since 2018, when the app became the first Brazillian unicorn, is entering the digital wallet market. The company started 99Pay operations in four cities in Brazil and is the first in its industry to offer payment solutions in the country.

99’s main competitors, Uber and Cabify, already have digital wallets, but do not offer the service in Brazil. Founded in 2012, under the name of 99Taxis, 99 currently has more than 20 million users and 750,000 partner drivers and, since last year, has been aggressively betting on the diversification of its services.

In November it launched its food delivery service 99Food, and last month, a delivery modality – similar to Uber Flash, also launched by the competitor during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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With the digital wallet, the user will be able to pay for trips and orders from 99Food, make transfers, and besides recharge prepaid mobile phones. The digital account comes with a debit and a credit card.

Photo: 99Pay/Courtesy

Maurício Filho, director of 99Pay, told LABS that, as in the case of other Latin American fintechs, the focus of the new service is on the unbanked population, that is, people without a traditional checking account.

He also says that new features should be added soon to the digital wallet. “We chose to start a little bit simpler,” he stressed. Campinas, Curitiba, São José dos Campos, and Uberlândia were the cities chosen for 99Pay’s debut.

“We have already done preliminary tests, but now it is more than a testing phase. We want to personalize the product and improve the user experience, understand how our customers perceive the product and improve, bringing new features,” he told LABS. The idea is to promote user loyalty and recurrence through discounts and cashback, in addition to being an alternative to payments in cash – currently, 70% of 99 users pay for the company’s services with cash.

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The company, like others that have mobility as its core business, saw a reduction in the number of trips during the quarantine period, but, according to Filho, 99Pay did not appear to compensate for the economic crisis. “We were already starting to design these initiatives even before the crisis. It only made us more willing to launch, so that we can promote an ecosystem of greater value giving back benefits to our users. This is our main objective “, he says.

Photo: 99Pay/Courtesy

Although there are plans to make the new service independent in the future, for now, it will work through the 99 master application, just as 99Food works today.

According to Maurício Filho, 99Pay will be part of PIX, the country’s instant payment system controlled by the Central Bank with an official launch forecast for November, through partners.

Although it does not have a date set yet, 99 intends to expand the digital wallet service in Brazil by the end of the year. “We want to be sure that we are able to scale up the operation, we want to start a national roll-out gradually.”

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Partner drivers will also be able to use the 99Pay account. Since 2017, they have been able to receive for services provided to the app by bank transfer or by the “99 card”, made in partnership with the payment company Bepay and under a Visa label. Now, with the 99Pay account, drivers will also be able to check balance, make transfers, and pay bills in general.

It is in the company’s plans to offer the digital account to 99Food deliverers as well. “We want to start bringing this solution to them, there is no date yet, but today we are starting very gradually,” says Maurício Filho.

Data from the British investment consultancy Buyshares indicate that Brazil is already the world’s fourth largest market for mobile wallets, and transactions on them are expected to reach $22.3 billion in 2020 in the country. 

In June, a survey by Globo’s market intelligence area showed that almost two thirds of smartphone users in Brazil (61%) use one of the new payment services in the country. Brazil has about 600 digital wallets available, Ame, from Lojas Americanas retailer, RappiPay, from Rappi, MercadoPago, from MercadoLibre, Paypal, and PicPay are some of the most popular in the country.

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