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New Utu service streamlines rewards programs

Utu, a crossborder loyalty and rewards platform with its headquarters in Singapore, launches this month.

It enables consumers to use their smartphones to earn, convert and redeem points at Utu merchant outlets worldwide.

Utu is the brainchild of father-and-son team Asad and Ameer Jumabhoy from tourist VAT refund-and-payments technology company The Scotts Group, and financial technology, mobile payments and loyalty platforms expert Jeremy Tan from payment-software company Korvac Holdings.

Utu consolidates and instantly processes rewards points from multiple credit and debit cards, removes cross-border loyalty barriers and offers a fresh consumer model that enables them to earn rewards points use them for immediate payment at point of sale.

For merchants, the platform has a special portal where brands can set up promotions, optimise campaigns and track their return on engagement.

“Utu’s potential lies in its ability to engage merchants with consumers, acquirers with merchants and issuers with their consumers on a single integrated platform,” says Asad Jumabhoy, who helped pioneer digitised global tax-free shopping.

“Real innovation minimises the gap between process and people. With Utu, we’re bringing it all together in the retail, travel and rewards space at home and away, online and instore.”

Thailand launch

Utu launches in Thailand this month, to be followed with further roll-out in Asia. Thailand was chosen for the launch because of its deep loyalty culture. Also, Thailand has more than 70 million credit and debit cards in circulation. Thais carry an average of seven loyalty cards each, and brand rewards programs are the country’s most popular Google search category.

Brand partners at the launch include the NTUC Link (Singapore), RSH Thailand Group, Tourism Authority of Thailand and Visa Thailand. It is expected the service will be available in Europe, the UK and the US next year.

“We are excited to be working with Utu on the expansion of the Plus! Partners network beyond Singapore, which is in line with our vision to provide gratifying experiences for program members” says NTUC Link CEO Tony Tan.

After downloading the free mobile app, Utu users can register up to five credit or debit cards. They will earn rewards points when they shop and be able to convert them through the Utu platform to spend at redemption outlets. Users can also gift points, opt to receive promotions and earn extra points through merchant engagement. Points from other loyalty programs can be converted, and Utu points can themselves be converted to airline miles.

Utu offers a streamlined experience, meaning merchants need not bear the cost of independent loyalty systems that involve front-line education and training, and shoppers need not be burdened with physical cards and have to monitor their points and merchant offers through separate portals.

At the time of launch, Utu users will be able to redeem points at outlets such as Boots, HomePro, Starbucks, Tom N Toms and Zara in Thailand.

Utu’s corporate headquarters are in Singapore, with staff in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Netherlands, the UK and the US, with its technology innovation centre in India.

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