In an expanding and increasingly crowded payments landscape where each actor fights for a chunk of a growing pie – one player in particular sticks out. With a profound trust in cash, Sonect has chosen to use digital tools to improve the accessibility to something as tangible as cash.
A snow-kissed inspiration
Conceived in the city most often associated to finance, the Social Network of Electronic Cash Transfer – Sonect – was established in Zurich, Switzerland in 2016 by payments expert Sandipan Chakraborty.
After forgetting to pass by the ATM on his way home one snowy night in 2014, Sandipan was compelled to go back out into the cold to get the required cash to pay his babysitter. As he made his way out, he enviously looked at the patrons at the corner pizzeria enjoying a convivial meal in a warm place. That’s when the inspiration fell upon him, like a chunk of hale amidst the flakes: “Why couldn’t I simply walk into the restaurant and exchange a card payment for cash?” As he ventured out 1,200 meters to the ATM and back, his idea developed into a more concrete business plan that would eventually become Sonect.
What is it exactly and how does it work?
The Uber of ATMs, as Chakraborty likes to define it, Sonect is a mobile app that connects cash-holders to cash-seekers. More specifically, the app automatically connects merchants wanting to get rid of cash to people that are looking for quick access to it without going through the hassle of finding the nearest ATM.
Simple and user-friendly, the Sonect app goes beyond a simple cash-exchange platform. It also allows users, mostly merchants, to present their shop to cash-seekers. Because it’s a location-based service, it provides shopkeepers access to new leads while also helping them empty the till by the end of the day (and therefore lower cash-handling costs).
But the app’s cash-recycling attributes are also intriguing commercial banks who are incessantly seeking ways to minimize costs. Although Sonect is yet to launch a full-blown marketing strategy, banks have already expressed their interest in the solution. And it’s not surprising: with the Sonect model, banks can save up to 50% of their cash management costs.
Having cash is having freedom
As ApplePay’s market penetration statistics show, users are not particularly catching on to new payment methods, and it’s not surprising, explains Chakraborty. Consumers are unsure of the added value of the multitude of payment methods, particularly given that they are built upon existing ones – i.e. you need a credit card to access any mobile payment app.
So why complicate things when the existing – cash and cards – already do the deal? Why adopt other payment tools when it’s unclear where each one is accepted? At least with cash, we are certain that we can pay with it anywhere we go, even in the most remote corners of the globe.
Improving accessibility while lowering costs – for all
Sonect seeks to reduce expenses for all stakeholders. Its greatest advantage come from its capacity to lower the handling costs of cash for banks, retailers and even consumers who might be charged to swipe their card or when withdrawing cash from a non-affiliated ATM.
Chakraborty is convinced that cash has a bright future as long as innovative ways are developed to improve its accessibility – and Sonect seeks to do just that: “easy cash, everywhere”.