M-Pesa, first launched in 2007, has been a resounding success, enabling mobile-money transfer and payment services to millions in Kenya and other neighboring African countries, including Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo). Vodafone now has announced it intends to bring M-Pesa across the India, where estimates put the unbanked population at nearly 700 million.
“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,” says Marten Pieters, managing director and CEO of Vodafone India.
M-Pesa’s impending India launch is a result of the partnership between Vodafone and ICICI Bank, India’s largest private bank. ICICI is attempting to reach a massive new consumer base.
Mobile payments offer great promise in a country where only 35 percent of the population has a bank account. In addition, only 8 percent of the population has a debit card and 2 percent have a credit card, according to World Bank estimates made in 2011. Pieters ensures that while the spirit of M-Pesa will remain the same, the services will customized to best fit the needs of local Indian consumers:
“We have customized our offering to serve the needs of Indian customers while ensuring [M-Pesa] compliance with all applicable regulations. Financial inclusion is a national priority and we believe that with M-Pesa, we now have the ideal offering to enable this.”
If M-Pesa can successfully navigate India’s notorious bureaucracy, there should be little to stop it from replicating its African and bringing mobile payments to a huge new consumer group.
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