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Today, I’m going to take a different approach to, hopefully, give you a glimpse into how mobile money can change users’ experiences. This is an imaginative piece (all characters are fictitious) where I’ll try to highlight the concerns, joys and satisfaction of a mobile money user from the hinterlands of India in the year 2015. It highlights the importance of an effective and trained agent network, importance of sufficient face-time for new customers, interoperability issues, and benefits of mobile money for a typical user.
Today, I woke up late at 5 am, startled to already be a half hour behind schedule. My mobile phone in hand, I kept checking the time and rushed to get ready. I can’t afford to lose half a day’s wage, US$6, if I report late to work even by half an hour.
At work, Sultan, one of my best friends, asked me for a loan of US$15 which he needed to pay the school fees of his daughter. I checked my Airtel mobile money wallet balance and instantly transferred the amount to his mobile money wallet. For a nominal fee of 10 cents, it was worthwhile to help a friend.
Thinking back, I remember the last time I loaned Sultan US$10. I had to walk down 2 Kms to the nearest branch of State Bank of India to transfer money to his account. That was when we met Harpreet, the sales agent of BharatiAirtel mobile money services at the bank. He introduced us to the new mobile money services. Until then, I had a basic feature phone and could not understand much of technology or features of mobile money in the first go. Harpreet was patient; he explained the service, its features, its tie up with banks, charges and benefits for us for about 30 minutes. I was particularly wary of the notion of holding money in mobile – how secure could it be? What if I lose my phone/SIM or someone else makes use of PIN delivered to me? Harpreet demonstrated everything and explained it in detail to clear our apprehensions. This convinced both of us, me and Sultan, to subscribe to the service on our Airtel SIMs. He even gave us the contact details of two local agents in our locality who can help us cash-in and cash-out, as required.
The first few days in using this service were difficult. I forgot some of the steps of using various services; user interface of the application was not so convenient, etc. I remember approaching the local agent and was so relieved to see that he could help. He was very well trained and he helped me from time to time in using the services more efficiently. One challenge I faced in the beginning was that the agent used to run out of cash. This was a major let down for me and I had to walk a Km to get cash from another agent. Over the last two months, though, I feel the service has improved a lot.
Since then, I have been using this service quite frequently. I have used it to make recharges on my cell phone, make and receive money transfers to/from my friends, send money to my family, check bank account balance, withdraw and deposit cash at the agent and even pay my electricity bill. The list keeps on getting longer! Here again, the agent is proactive enough to let me know of the new services and discounts offered by the service providers.
For me, it’s a hand to mouth situation, given my meagre salary. I work in New Delhi but my family lives in a distant village in Orissa, more than 1000Kms from my place. With this service, I can transfer money to them on a real time basis and with minimal charges. Earlier, I used to transfer money through post office or hand it over to someone who would be travelling to my place. It took a few days for the money to arrive and I was charged about thrice as much. I am quite happy that this service enables me to send money to my family as and when they need it.
One challenge I faced initially, while transferring money to my family, was that my family was using the mobile services of Vodafone and Airtel was not allowing money transfers to non-Airtel subscribers. Sending remittance to my family constitutes 80% of my transactions and this was a major handicap for me. Either, I had to take the services of Vodafone or my family had to take the services of Airtel. Due to this, I was not able to transfer money to them for a couple of weeks. I consulted some of my friends and they advised a workaround solution they had been using. However, I was not convinced and instead, asked my family to take Airtel connection.
I have genuinely recommended this service to my fellow workers at the construction site and taken four of them to Harpreet to sign up for the services. For this, Harpreet gave me bonus talktime on my cell phone. It is a nice incentive for sharing my experience.
I finally got free from my work at 7 pm this evening and received my daily salary. I transferred the entire amount to my family since the monthly rent was due on their house.
Though it is tough for me to survive in this salary and work condition, mobile money has surely made the journey a bit simpler and convenient.
I look forward to your comments and observations. Please click “Add a Comment” below or “More Actions” to share this with others.