How Flow’s flexible platform is changing the business travel game

Leading by-the-hour hotel, workspace and travel marketplace in Asia, Flow, needed the payment flexibility to match their global ambition. Learn how Flow scaled its international growth by using Airwallex to automate payments and tailor local payment methods to their users' needs.

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Flow is a marketplace that allows hourly booking of co-working space and hotels. Shoppers can book flexibly from 1 to 12 hours to suit their ad-hoc holiday plan or travel schedule.

Company size

10 - 50 employees

Location

Hong Kong, Singapore

Industry

Travel & Hospitality

Airwallex Products Used

Issuing
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Joshua Wong

Co-founder at Flow

“Global growth is essential in startups. Airwallex is a tech-oriented company with a strong API, competitive rates and a smooth platform. It offers us tailor-made financial operating solutions.”

Flow was founded in 2018 as a marketplace to help redefine how people stay in hotels. It was an idea that came about organically. Rather than being forced to pay a minimum one night’s stay, Flow challenged the idea. Business travellers don’t always need that time. 

More than a booking system, and with more adaptability than the homesharing economy, Flow is a user-friendly app that’s designed to help regular travellers find the space they need, allowing hourly booking of co-working spaces and hotels. With Flow, users can book flexibly from one to 12 hours to suit their ad-hoc holiday plan or travel schedule.

Every business starts somewhere — even with its payments

When they started the business, Flow was using a manual payout process with their hotel and co-working space partners, making monthly bank transfers from their account to their partners’. It was just as slow and time-consuming as you’d imagine. 

It was costly, too. Some hotel chains didn’t take well to offering credit terms and required Flow to deposit as much as HKD100,000 as security.

This was money and time that could be better spent optimising the app and growing the business.

Airwallex API changed the game for Flow

When Flow’s team was introduced to Airwallex, it was a game-changer. 

Rather than spending countless hours managing, sending and recording bank transfers to their partner hotels, our card issuance API allowed them to instead create once-off virtual payment cards immediately. Each of these cards is automatically tagged to specific hotel reservations, and then used to settle hotel bills instantly when their guests checked out.

The payments infrastructure helps them waive any cumbersome deposit requirements, while the automation makes it a practically hands-off process. It’s the definition of working smarter, not harder.

Joshua Wong

Co-founder at Flow

“Card issuance API allows us to create virtual cards in a second to settle hotel bills instantly when our guests check out. The automation saves us days on monthly manual reconciliation and settlement with hotel partners.”

Reducing friction and gaining momentum

As well as eliminating any steep outlays from their hotel partners, issuing once-off virtual payment cards to their hotel partners (in local currencies) enabled Flow to cut its exchange costs.

Rather than transferring money internationally, Flow’s team can now create digital wallets in the local currency of the countries in which they operate. They’re able to top up foreign currency accounts funds to make direct debits with virtual payment cards. No FX fees necessary, no matter where the hotel is located.

This has made it much easier for Flow to launch and gain momentum in new countries, including Singapore and Malaysia.

Live, but not necessarily local

One of the biggest challenges they faced was technology integration. While some of their app functionality was available in their UI, it wasn’t accessible through external APIs. This caused particular roadblocks when integrating payment gateways and hotel systems.

Their goal has always been to make paying for hotel accommodation as easy and as effortless as possible. So when they planned to launch in Malaysia, Flow’s team wanted to offer local channels to make payment hassle-free, too.

The catch was that their original payment provider only had limited local payment methods, leaving big capability gaps. They weren’t able to integrate Touch ‘n Go, one of the most popular local eWallets in Malaysia. It was crucial to include this in their Malaysian launch, or risk losing a large portion of local business.

With Airwallex’s flexible APIs, Flow was able to integrate with over 10 different payment platforms across Singapore and Malaysia — thankfully, including Touch ‘n Go. These local payment methods are widely used by Gen Y and Z who make up around 30% of Flow’s traffic in Malaysia.

Leveraging local payment channels to streamline their growth

Flow is currently live in Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia and Singapore, and they now see huge potential in other markets.

Currently focusing on expansion, they’re already planning to adopt Airwallex's local payment solutions across different regions. This means that their users can pay for their accommodation directly in their home currency, where it travels through local channels. At the same time, Flow's hotel partners receive payment within the same business day with Airwallex's virtual payment cards. No unnecessary security deposits needed.

Airwallex is helping Flow look confidently to the future

Flow has already experienced the pitfalls with technology and integration. But with Airwallex, they get peace of mind their payment methods are backed by round-the-clock, trustworthy support. They know their APIs are set up accurately, that their partners get paid on time, and they’ve got a replicable process to expand into new countries.

Together, we ensure their local and international payment methods operate without a hitch, enabling a seamless pathway to future growth.

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Danielle Goodwin

Director, Hawkeye Vintage

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