Bank of Bhutan (BoB) launched CHHARO, an e-wallet application (App) to make online payments for goods and services in Thimphu yesterday.

Chief executive officer of BoB, Pema Nadik said that with technology there was a major shift in communication. For instance, he said, with WeChat App, those who cannot type text can communicate through record functions to send and receive messages.

“Technology has become all-pervasive and affected our lives. The way we travel and get directions. Everything is moving towards a cashless economy.”

CHHARO is an e-wallet App that is a kind of pre-paid account where a user can store his or her money for future online transactions such as making payment for utility bills and online shopping.

BoB officials said that to use the App, the user does not need to have a bank account. However, the user needs to go to a BoB agent or a counter to load (fill) money in the App.

Pema Nadik said that about 200,000 people do not own any bank accounts in the country today.

An official said that the money couldn’t be withdrawn from the App at the moment.  “Money can be transferred between e-wallet users. The person can add money only from the user’s bank account. A feature to transfer money to any bank from CHHARO will soon be available.”

Any bank or telecommunication company could use the App. It was learnt that tourists could also use the App when they are in the country.

The App also includes feature where merchants can sell their products and services, and link buyers and the sellers.

Services such as bus ticket and movie ticket booking, payment of traffic offences, and bill payments will soon be introduced in CHHARO.

Royal Monetary Authority’s (RMA) Governor, Dasho Penjore, said that to achieve the national objective of equitable and inclusive economic growth, one of the prerequisites is financial service. “RMA’s e-money rules and regulations 2017 facilitated BoB to work towards CHHARO.”

CHHARO App is connected to RMA’s Bhutan Immediate Payment Services (BIPS) gateway enabling the transfer of money to any bank in the country.

Dasho Penjore said that payment and settlement systems rules and regulations were prepared this month, which empowers RMA to govern operations. “Without this kind of rules, and sound legal framework, it would have been difficult. It would also provide confidence in customers as well as to service providers.”

He said that RMA is also working on connecting Bhutan financial switch with the Indian financial switch to mark the 50 years of friendship between the two countries.

All financial institutions are working towards mobile banking, upgrading their co-banking solutions and services, he said. “While we are bringing lot of innovations in the country, we should also be mindful of the risk that we are exposed to.”

Rinchen Zangmo