Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Mobile banking : an urban myth ?

Banks have come a long way from the days of smiling staff to ATM’s to internet and now on to the mobile. The furious mobile subscriber growth in last few years in India has meant that finally an electronic device other than television remote has found its way into the hands of Indians.  I mean hundreds of millions of Indians.

India also has one of the lowest penetration of bank accounts. I would guess less than 100 million individuals in India have bank accounts. Access to credit can be a big enabler for getting out of poverty as the experience of micro-finance  has shown in Bangladesh ( Mohammad Yunus and Grameen bank) and now in India. However, banking is not only about credit. It can dramatically increase the efficiency of government projects in rural areas . For example, NREGA can be much more successful if the workers have bank accounts. The government can transfer the money directly to their account with no middlemen keeping their cut.

So, marrying the two should mean that hundreds of millions of people can get access to banks, right? Wrong!

Here’s why.

1) Most of the phones where mobile banking can really be useful are owned by people who already have alternative channels to access banking like internet/ATM/bank branch. By all means , these alternative channels score much higher on user experience today.

2) Most of the people who *really* need mobile banking do not have phones which are capable enough. Also, we are talking about people who can barely read English. And can barely learn to open and read an SMS.  And they want to change their mobile phone and prepaid SIM every time there’s a new deal in the market. ( India may soon have the biggest mobile resale market).

*Result* : All mobile payment solutions ( paymate/mchek/banks) in India are only serving folks who already have bank accounts. There are only 25 million mobiles registered for any form of mobile banking. And only 7% ( about 1.5 million) are active users. No wonder, I have not heard anyone in my circle ever hear checking their bank statements on the mobile.

September 2009

Monday, 14 September 2009

The Indian mobile wars- Part 1 : The Intro

The Indian mobile battles are fast turning ugly. Given the declining call rates and increasing competition, the picture on the mobile landscape is changing every minute.  We are beginning a series of posts to give you an idea of where mobile market is going and what it means for you , the end customer.

Here is a short intro and strategy of each mobile carrier :

1. Airtel - India’s number 1 mobile operator. Focus on staying at Number 1 with rural additions. Not too much emphasis on new plans or offers. Perhaps best overall network quality across India. Leverage their vast distribution network to the hilt. Planning a merger with MTN of South Africa.

2. Vodafone – Number 2 GSM player. It has the highest ARPU ( average revenue per user) for all mobile operators in India. High postpaid customer base. High ratio of urban versus rural.  Focus more on quality of plans/cute marketing ( doggy ad/zoozoos etc etc) and new VAS services. Not too strong in South India.

3.  BSNL – 3G launch was a big flop , as expected. The network which goes where no one else will go ( since it is a PSU). Dud as far as technology, new plans or VAS services is concerned. Very absymal marketing.

4. MTNL – smaller sister of BSNL in lucrative Mumbai and Delhi circles. Its a big hit amongst school/college students due to plans with ultra low SMS and call rates. Not much otherwise to write home about. Launched 3G along with BSNL, but no one noticed.

5. Reliance – Number 2 overall, and Number 1 CDMA player.  Recently launched GSM and clocked up 5 million in 1 month mainly through free plans.  CDMA players have very low ARPU ( nearly 50% less) compared to GSM. So, GSM is their next big thrust forward.

6. Tata Indicom – Number 2 CDMA player, launched GSM recently in partneship with Docomo of Japan. Pretty hefty marketing since then, including the 1 second plan. Traditionally big in western part of the country.

7. Idea – Backed by the Aditya Birla group, Number 3 GSM player after Airtel and Vodafone. Also known as  ‘The common man’s telco’. Very powerful in semi-urban and rural areas thanks to their plans and marketing ( What an Idea Sirjee, starring Abhishek Bacchan) .  Strong in UP and Maharashtra and catching up elsewhere.

8. Aircel – The dominant GSM player from TamilNadu. Maxis group from Malaysia recently invested in Aircel.  Most flexible plans and vouchers in the country that I have seen. They have a tariff voucher for everything! I think they were also the first to launch vouchers for mobile internet ( Recharge for Rs 35 and get GPRS access for 20 MB free etc) , which now Airtel has also followed. They have expanded in all circles since getting the All India license. Showing strong performance in North East ( traditionally neglected by bigger players). They are also one of the fastest growing in relative terms. Innovative marketing/sales  as well with Aircel DIY kiosks.

9. MTS – CDMA arm of Shyam Telecom backed by Etilasat of UAE. In the process of expanding across India.

10. Loop Mobile( earlier BPL Mobile) – Strong player in Mumbai with very high ARPU.  Very Loyal user base. In the process of expanding across India.

11. Virgin Mobile – Use Tata’s network and Virgin’s famous customer service to create an MVNO kind of model. Appeal directly to the urban youth with cheap plans but have not yet got the traction they expected, despite spending a lot on marketing. Only prepaid and handsets are mostly cheap Chinese makes ( ZTE) bundled with SIMs.

12. Unitech wireless – Telco owned by Unitech group. In the process of launching.

13. Datacom – Telco owned by Videocon group. In the process of launching.

With urban penetration at 80% already, the new players will need to be very innovative with their marketing. However, all is not lost for them with 3G and Mobile Number Portability in the offing.

August 2009

Monday, 31 August 2009

KwikPlan aka Mobile Freedom

One of the problems prepaid users constantly face is running out of talk time. This is the single biggest reason post paid users enter into silly contracts which do not suit their needs. Mobikwik has created a solution to this problem.

Our product KwikPlan allows a prepaid user to select a monthly recharge/top-up  according to his/her budget.  There are 3 categories of kwikplans we have identified :

1) basic – Rs 400 per month

2) value – Rs 700 per month

3) premium – Rs 1000 per month

You could sign up for 3 months or 6 months. Every month we ensure you get full talk time for the topup plan you selected.

Value and Premium customers get some additional benefits like emergency credit through sms/phone call.

And once you sign up, you dont worry about what to do, when to do ,  where to go for recharge. We take it up from there. We ensure you never run out of talk time, especially during emergencies.

For the first 100 kwikplan signups , we will not charge you, the user, anything extra to provide these services. So, hurry up and be free!

Friday, 28 August 2009

Why use Prepaid?

One of the questions I keep getting asked is why anyone should use mobile prepaid. In India, somehow, people perceive prepaid as belonging to the worker class, to the poor, to the labourers and rickshaw drivers.

I think the masses are smarter. Here’s why

1) Prepaid help you control your mobile budget.

2) Using prepaid avoids surprises in your bill and fighting with customer care of carriers. You know what you are paying for.

3) There are always some special tariff vouchers and sms packs to lower call rates or sending cheap sms. These keep changing. In postpaid, you get locked into a fixed rate.

Infact, in USA, prepaid has become more popular since recession started.

What do you think?