FamilyMart has partnered with Taiwanese bitcoin exchange Bitoex to launch a new service that will enable customers to purchase digital currencies in all of its 2,986 stores across Taiwan.
Taiwan has the largest number of convenience stores per capita in the world. Store chains provide a wide range of services for its customers and the number of new offerings is increasing each year. Besides free wi-fi, it is now possible to pay phone cards and bills there. This is a trend that has caught on in Asia over recent years, particularly in Thailand, where customers can use 7/11 convenience stores for the same purpose.
Titan Cheng, Bitoex co-founder, expects the new service will contribute to further adoption of digital currency and ensure its widespread usage. According to Cheng, the company faced some hurdles at the initial stages of the project.
“At first, Family Mart thought bitcoin were like points for online games,” he said. “When they finally understood what bitcoin actually was, they rejected our proposal, as they thought it might come into conflict with the law.”
“In order to mitigate their suspicions and confirm we were abiding by the law, we did lots of extra work and research and continued to communicate with them,” Cheng continued.
In the end, that hard work paid off and Family Mart converted to the bitcoin community of adopters. But it was the gradual process of easing into a cooperation that seems to have paid off, raising the question of whether even very large western firms with big VC backing can really triumph in markets which are more culturally insular but ultimately full of potential customers, such as China and Indonesia.
BitoEx started working with Family Mart in March, after the exchange was officially opened in Taiwan. Their partnership was kept a secret at first, as Bitoex didn’t want to have any problems with regulators. In Taiwan, commercial institutions and banks are not allowed to accept digital currency. After a good deal of political horse-trading, it was ultimately decided that the same ban does not apply to Family Mart and Bitoex, as these companies just sell bitcoin, not accept it for goods and services.
Similarly, while a number of bitcoin ATMs have so far been installed in Taiwan, local governments widely prohibit the establishment of digital currency machines.
Cheng said in a press statement that he is also planning to expand the company’s services to a cooperation with 7-11, Family Mart’s main competitor, which owns nearly 5,000 stores in Taiwan as well as to smaller franchises like Hi-Life and OK Mart in the near future.