Vodafone has launched M-Pesa, its mobile banking solution for emerging markets, in India as it looks to bring basic services to the estimated 700 million-plus people in the country that remain ‘unbanked’.
M-Pesa was founded in 2007 and the solution has seen great success in Africa, having been deployed in eight countries, including Kenya. It adopts a simple, text-based approach to enable users to deposit and withdraw from specific M-Pesa outlets, transfer and make payments to any bank from their mobile, make payments at retail outlets and pay certain household items, such as their phone bill and utilities.
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The phased nationwide launch in India is being carried out in partnership with ICICI Bank, and comes after a successful trial period. The first target is to serve more than 220 million people in India’s eastern areas — including Kolkata, West Bengal and Bihar — where 8,300 ‘M-Pesa agents’ will help promote the service and assist users.
From there, it will expand across the country, with Vodafone aiming to reach a sizeable share of the 700 million people who do not use conventional banking services.
Marten Pieters, managing director and CEO of Vodafone India, believes that the solution will simplify lives and provide valuable cost savings:
For millions of people in India, a mobile phone is a bank account, a front door to a micro-business or a lifeline to people in the remotest areas. Research shows that M-Pesa brings real benefits to users in their daily lives, saving three hours a week of their time and around $3 in money transfer costs – a significant amount to people in some areas.
Mobile payment technology is developing strongly in the west, thanks to smartphone-based solutions. While consumers in the US, UK and other markets may not yet be buying items direct from their devices, more simple solutions in emerging markets have the potential to make a more tangible impact.
For example, VC-backed Coda Payments launched a simple, SMS-based payment solution in Indonesia, where fewer than 1 million of the 240 million population are estimated to own bank cards. Indonesia is also the country where BlackBerry is testing mobile-based payments through its BBM messaging service.
Headline image via 401(K) 2013 / Flickr