The Way It Be­gan…

Consumer Voice - - Mobile Wallet -

Like it is with most other in­ven­tions, ne­ces­sity is the pri­mary rea­son be­hind the cre­ation of the mo­bile wal­let. About a decade ago, it had be­come im­pos­si­ble for peo­ple in Kenya to deal in cash due to the high crime rate – rob­beries and thefts had be­come com­mon across towns. Then, a pri­vate tele­com ser­vice provider in­tro­duced mo­bile ‘money trans­fer ser­vice’ un­der their so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity pro­ject. The pro­ject was suc­cess­ful and within a decade it was adopted by al­most all African coun­tries.

The num­ber of peo­ple do­ing fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tion on the phone is con­sis­tently grow­ing. In­dus­try es­ti­mates tell us that in 16 coun­tries, mostly in Africa, there are more peo­ple with mo­bile money ac­counts than bank ac­counts. The ser­vice is not so pop­u­lar in the de­vel­oped world, but it is a game changer in emerg­ing economies. While in 2012 there were 30 mil­lion ac­tive users of mo­bile money around the world, the num­ber grew to 60 mil­lion in two years. In May 2015, the fig­ure had breached the 100 mil­lion mark.

Bank­ing the Un­banked in In­dia

In­dia first tested the ser­vice in Ra­jasthan in 2010, when a lead­ing mo­bile ser­vice provider used it to dis­burse money di­rectly to their so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity pro­ject ben­e­fi­cia­ries. The ser­vice be­came pop­u­lar as mo­bile wal­let, or m-wal­let, and ex­panded its reach across states.

A few years ago, when three poor women in a non­de­script area near Ranchi, Jhark­hand, gave birth to healthy chil­dren, their joy was marred by ex­as­per­a­tion as they did not know how to avail of the money due to them un­der Janani Surak­sha Yo­jana (JSY), a fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance plan un­der Na­tional Ru­ral Health Mis­sion (NRHM). The scheme pro­motes in­sti­tu­tional de­liv­ery and gives Rs 1,400 to the mother on the birth of ev­ery child, but these new moth­ers did not have a medium to re­ceive their money. At this junc­ture Voda­fone in­ter­vened; these women were en­rolled un­der their mo­bile money ser­vice, and the money reached them via m-Pesa, a Voda­fone ini­tia­tive in tie-up with ICICI Bank.

The m-Pesa is a USSD-based (an SMS-based ser­vice that does not need In­ter­net) tech­nol­ogy that helps peo­ple send and re­ceive money over the mo­bile phone, re­mit money to any bank ac­count in In­dia, and make pay­ments to recharge pre­paid mo­biles and for util­ity bills like elec­tric­ity as well as DTH ser­vice sub­scrip­tion, apart from us­ing it for online shop­ping trans­ac­tions.

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