Business

Crypto is no longer limited to big investments

  • MTB.LK: Adapting new technology to appeal to new generations

By Shenal Fernando

Cryptocurrencies, which were a few years back viewed as volatile and fringe digital assets, have since emerged as viable competitors to fiat currencies due to the widespread recognition of its immense potential to facilitate cross-border trade and global financial inclusion. The market capitalisation of the cryptocurrency market has expanded to $ 2 trillion from around $ 260 billion just a year ago. While critics argue that cryptocurrency is a financial medium for fraudsters, the increasing market value, greater public awareness regarding blockchain technology, and increasing mainstream acceptance of crypto as a viable financial investment has resulted in the acceptance of cryptocurrencies as an alternate payment method by many corporations such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Tesla. 

With this shift in global perceptions regarding cryptocurrencies, the emergence of MTB.LK as the first commercial entity in Sri Lanka to accept payment via cryptocurrencies is an important milestone in Sri Lankan commerce.  

MTB.LK is an “experience company” providing uniquely curated outdoor cycling experiences to tourists and locals alike. Their principal business activity involves providing guided mountain bike tours for tourists who visit Sri Lanka. They are one of the key players in the niche adventure tourism and cycle tourism industries in Sri Lanka, which are expected to expand over the coming years due to the increasing global demand for sustainable forms of special interest tourism.  

MTB.LK, under the guidance of its founder Shanith Muhandiramge, has emerged as arguably the premier cycling tours services provider in the island due to the unique product it offers and the high quality of its service. The innovative thinking and adaptability of the company has influenced the adoption of new technologies and avenues without being limited to the traditional ways of working, leading to MTB.LK emerging as the first commercial entity in Sri Lanka to accept payment via cryptocurrencies. Therefore, the future of MTB.LK is bright, and they will play a key role in the development of the niche adventurer tourism and cycle tourism sectors of Sri Lanka. 

It possesses a compressive off-road trail network with over 90 trails spread throughout the island, ranging from simple trails for novice riders, to gruelling mountain climbs for the avid cycling enthusiasts. The “Warrior Series” they host is the longest continuously-running mountain bike race in Sri Lanka. The company also provides consultancy services to luxury hotels for the creation of value to their tourism product by the introduction of cycle tours and has, for such purpose, assisted the hotels in the development of cycle trails, and trained the hotel staff on the conduct of such tours and the maintenance of the trails.   

Further, MTB.LK has identified the maintenance of relationships with the local community as a key feature of its business model and has sought to incorporate local vendors and entrepreneurs as part of its cycle tours, establishing symbiotic relationships to ensure the diffusion of the economic benefits of tourism. Similarly, they also conduct an annual training camp for the armed forces to provide training for international cycling competitions as a CSR project. Further, MTB.LK has been involved in numerous charity rides for various causes.  

The trailblazing move by MTB.LK to introduce the facility to pay for their services through cryptocurrency on their website (www.mtb.lk) will provide the company access to the new generation of tourists; Gen Z and Gen Alpha, who are firm believers in the potential of cryptocurrency and will demand new forms of payment and seek alternative ways to purchase travel. This new strategy implemented by the company to capitalise on the new avenues created by technology development is primarily due to the influence of its founder,  who is an avid mountain biker with over 10 years of cycling experience as both an athlete and a guide, and who himself is a firm believer in the potential of cryptocurrency. 

Muhandiramge points to the fact that cryptocurrency transactions take place on a one-to-one basis, and on a peer-to-peer networking structure. It takes out the need for paperwork, brokering fees, commissions, and other conditions. Cryptocurrency usage limits and can even eliminate transaction fees. This is because the data miners, who carry out the number crunching required for transactions, are paid by generating cryptocurrency for the work they do. Therefore, you do not have to incur a cost. While you may still have to pay a fee for the third-party platforms that maintain your wallet, these costs are likely to be lower than your regular transaction and stamp fees. Therefore, cryptocurrency represents an attractive payment method for customers.    

Prophylactic measures such as travel restrictions and social distancing norms introduced in response to the prevailing Covid pandemic have affected MTB.LK as a business involved in tourism and whose primary product involves providing outdoor cycling experiences. However, the lean organisational structure favoured by the company, together with the relevant arrangements implemented by the company to face the seasonal nature of tourism, have proved to be helpful in assisting the company face the adverse circumstance created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Explaining further, Muhandiramge stated that due to the current lull in tourism arrivals, the mountain bike inventory of MTB.LK was liquidated, thereby strategically positioning the company to emerge out of the pandemic with an updated inventory. 

MTB.LK is a fully distributed company with no fixed office space, and its inventory is divided between locations in Colombo and Kandy allowing the company to offer its services to customers located throughout the island. The initial investment of the company was largely towards the acquisition of the required inventory of mountain bikes and for the identification, development and maintenance of the cycle trails, which represent a key asset for the company.   

Commenting on the future plans for MTB.LK, Muhandiramge stated that the business will seek the vertical integration of other services in demand for the tourism experience and shall also seek to merge other forms of extreme sports. Explaining further, he stated that, in his opinion, the business has not yet scratched the surface of its true potential and that the industry as whole is still in its infancy and shall require greater regulatory support to achieve its true potential.