Banking for the Unbanked – Mobile Banking Steps up!

By Syed Ammar Faheem

I have been talking about mobile commerce and mobile banking for quite some time now. My recent article on the topic had been on the possibility of the telecom companies posing a challenge to the traditional banking industry in the mobile domain.

And now, this week, we will be witnessing mobile banking taking a new turn. As, we will see heads joined together to figure out innovative ways to cater to the mobile banking needs of today’s tech-savvy customer and easy to use services for the unbanked populace of Pakistan.

I spoke of stats earlier: Pakistan has 20 million bank accounts as opposed to over 90 million mobile subscribers. All of whom are potential mobile banking customers. There seems to be a race to tap in to this market.

If it happened as per schedule, this week, we will witness the launch of “EP” by Telenor Pakistan. EP will be a unique experience altogether. We might also be seeing something coming in from one of the leading banks in Pakistan in collaboration with one of the most famous telecom brand-names in Pakistan.

With that said, October 14th and October 15th will be very important days for the years to come as I believe our banks and telecom operators might be setting benchmarks for the way things will work in the future.

There seems to be, I admit, a sense of secrecy around this particular post. It is to preserve the right of the marketing teams of the banks and telecom operators to keep the launch ‘special’ for everyone.

We cannot, however, rule out the element of confusion that exists over the many ways mobile-banking can be implemented. Everyone has different ideas and more importantly, differing interests associated with this business. The PTA and the State Bank of Pakistan could ease this problem by stepping in with a standardized model to be followed at all costs for basic banking while allowing banks and telecom operators to experiment with value-added services.

It is indeed delightful for me to see, like I had spoken about it earlier, a unique collaboration between banks and telecom operators to tap in to a market which has remained more-or-less unexplored throughout the world and especially in Pakistan.

What is to be seen, however, like Telenor has decided to cater to the unbanked and rural areas of Pakistan (just as they focused their core telecom operations on rural areas) – how other banks and operators develop business models to allow those who don’t have bank accounts to use their handsets for basic financial services.

For now, mobile-banking is hot. We can assume sustainable growth in this domain with concerted efforts to increase awareness and educate the masses on the use of these services. How the banks and operators make it a ‘need’ for their customers is just about to be unveiled.

Tech reporter with over 10 years of experience, founder of ProPakistani.PK