Client Insights, Consultant, IBM Center for Applied Insights
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In this post, I will explore some interesting facets of the mobile money market in India such as market opportunity, regulatory environment, market participants, and the way ahead for the market.
Market Opportunity: The Indian economy has shown strong growth in the recent years, making it a USD 1.3 trillion economy. It is predominantly a cash economy with more than 65% of all retail transactions (total transactions are estimated as USD 410 billion per year) being conducted in cash. According to Reserve Bank of India(RBI), the central bank of India, more than 57% of the electronic transactions happen through credit and debit cards and the rest through Electronic Clearing Service (ECS) and Funds Transfer.
In India, 40% of the population remains unbanked. In contrast, it is estimated that more than 70% of the 1.17 billion people in India own a mobile phone. Moreover, this subscriber base has been increasing by 20 million customers per quarter. Hence, with a huge mobile subscriber base and a very small percentage of the transactions taking place over mobile, the potential for mobile money to take off and replace cash is immense.
Regulatory Environment: Government and the Reserve Bank of India are the nodal agencies which formulate regulations pertaining to mobile money. The Indian regulatory system has been gradually allowing the expansion of new products and solutions aimed to take advantage of the vast opportunities in this space.
RBI recognizes that individual banks need to work in conjunction with operators, mobile devices and payment technologies. In 2009, it mandated that a bank account is needed to send money but in 2010, it allowed ‘Other Persons’ (non-banks/NBFCs) to issue m-based semi-closed instruments with certain conditions and caps on transfer amounts. As a result, banks started offering mobile banking services. Further in 2010, it allowed semi-closed instruments to be used for bill payments and ticketing services, also, and permitted issue of co-branded instruments.
In late 2010, an interbank system had been set up in India enabling instant money transfers between bank accounts via mobile phones. NPCI's Interbank Mobile Payment Services (IMPS) is India's first instant fund transfer facility in the retail payment sector. It provides an inter-operable infrastructure for the banks and facilitates real time money transfer facility to their customers through the mobile channel. The unique feature of this system is that banks can choose any mobile banking application of their choice. Interestingly, IMPS can be made available in all forms (SMS, USSD, thin client, thick client) and hence it can support the transactions directly from low end mobiles to high end mobiles.
Market Participants: As compared to mobile money deployments in other emerging economies like Kenya, Philippines and Uganda, the Indian market is at a very nascent stage in terms of market consolidation and volume of transactions. The Indian telecom market is quite fragmented with fifteen different mobile operators providing service to more than 900 million subscribers. Among them, BhartiAirtel, Reliance Communications and Vodafone together hold more than 50% of market share.
BhartiAirtel has recently launched its mobile money services across India, offering services like payment of utility bills, mobile recharges, purchase at retail outlets, person to person money transfer, etc. Only Airtel customers can use this service and transfer money to other customers on Airtel.
My Mobile Payments Ltd (MMPL), a mobile payment service provider, had recently announced the launch of ‘Money-on-Mobile’ (MOM). It is a M-Wallet service which permits a mobile phone subscriber to purchase a wide range of goods and services using the mobile phone instead of paying by cash, cheque, debit or credit cards. It offers services like mobile recharge, utility bill payments, purchase of bus and movie tickets, to name a few. It claims to be India's first operator and bank agnostic mobile payment system.
The way ahead: As outlined in my earlier post, though the opportunity is huge and growing, companies need to address security apprehensions associated with mobile payments and build the awareness of the technology and the product.
India’s unique demography is an important factor to consider while taking strategic and marketing decisions during the ‘launch’ and ‘scale’ phases of mobile money deployments. Some of the notable factors are:
- It is estimated that 60% of the 1.17 billion population lives in rural areas most of which suffer from a lack of basic infrastructure and education. Companies generally face significant challenges in building the infrastructure and consumer awareness in these areas.
- Also, more than 50% of the Indian population is below the age of 25 years. This segment of population embraces new technology more readily but at the same time, it is a lot more value conscious and has little loyalty to a brand.
Besides offering regular services like person to person transfer, utility bill payments, mobile recharge etc. other useful revenue streams can be explored too.
- The internal remittance market – The internal migrant population is estimated to be around 100 million people. This market for internal remittance is estimated to be around USD 8 billion to USD 12 billion.
- Government payments market – Government of India offers a number of subsidy and support programs like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employee Guarantee Act (MG-NREGA), fuel subsidy, fertilizer subsidy and public distribution system which is estimated to be around USD 40 billion. A lot of it is wasted due to leakages and fraud in the distribution system. To ensure that the intended recipients do get their payments,mobile payments can play a very crucial role. The Indian government’s ‘Aadhar’ program to provide a unique identification number to every citizen of India would further lend support to the rapid uptake of financial services and transactions over mobile.