For most consumers in Spain it would be inconceivable not to have a bank account. Given that it is essential to receive salary payments, a pension or benefit, not having one would feel like social exclusion. China is different. There, few citizens had a bank account until recently, and even now many still have no relationship with any type of traditional financial institution: they have gone directly for digital banking, bypassing the usual type completely. The Chinese do everything via mobile phone: pay in shops, take a taxi, book a hotel, buy cinema tickets, pay for public services, make an appointment with their doctor.... so what is the problem? Well, when they leave China, they find themselves with no way of paying for things.
This is where the Momo Group has found an opportunity. Some may remember that in 2012, in Malaga, they launched an electronic wallet which was a pioneer in Europe and enabled people to pay in shops with their mobile phones. However, there can be downsides to being a pioneer: sometimes the market is not ready for what you are offering. That is what happened with Momo Pocket, as it was called, admits its CEO, Mariano de Mora.
As a result, the firm pivoted its business model and became an electronic money company recognised by the Bank of Spain. This means it can offer almost the same services as a bank, but can aggregate different methods of payment including via mobile phones.
"We make it possible for shops to accept cards or mobile payments with Alipay or other apps. We aggregate different methods of payment so a business only has to deal with us. That makes it easier for them," says De Mora.
Today Momo Group is the principal ally in Spain of Alipay, the biggest mobile payment platform in the world, a subsidiary of the Chinese eletronics giant Alibaba, which is used by around one billion users. It acts as a link between the firm and the Spanish businesses so that tourists from China can pay for purchases through their mobile phones.
A few weeks ago an initiative was presented whereby Ronda, one of the most popular tourist destinations for visitors from Asia, became a friendly enclave for Chinese consumers who are used to paying by mobile phone. The company is providing shops, restaurants and hotels in the Ronda area with the technological and financial ability to accept payments via Alipay. They can also advertise via the app.
Other electronic wallets
As in Ronda, Momo Group facilitates payment by mobile phones for establishments all over the country, not only via Alipay but also other electronic 'wallets': Bluecode, ePassi, Pagaqui, Pivo and Vipps. These platforms have agreed to use a unified QR code format to facilitate the inter-operability of digital payments in different countries, to make things easier for tourists. Mariano de Mora says the company is now associated with 10,000 business in Spain.
The Momo Group began in Malaga in 2012 as a university spin off. Rafael Morales, a professor in IT Language and Computer Studies at Malaga University, is one of the founding partners. The president is Ramón Martín, the former CEO of Caja Granada. The company's head office is currently in Granada, where it employs around 40 people.