India’s unbanked population now have access to Vodafone’s M-Pesa service, which the operator group has launched in conjunction with the country’s largest private sector bank, ICICI Bank. The mobile money and payments service aims to provide financial empowerment to the roughly 700 million Indians with no access to conventional banking.
M-Pesa was launched by Vodafone in 2007 and is now available in eight countries, including Kenya, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The service allows customers to send and receive small amounts of money via their mobile phones as securely and simply as sending a text message. Prior to M-Pesa, many people in developing markets had no choice but to move cash around in person or by public transport, exposing them to delays, personal risk and loss of money in certain cases.
Following a successful trial, the service will be offered initially through more than 8,300 specially trained and authorised M-Pesa agents in eastern areas of India, including Kolkata, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand, covering a population of around 220 million people. The service will be rolled out across the rest of India in a phased approach.
M-Pesa opens up a range of banking services which were previously out of reach for a vast number of customers, particularly those living in rural areas with little or no banking infrastructure. It will also allow users working in cities to securely send money home to family and friends living in villages.
Marten Pieters, Managing Director and CEO of Vodafone India, said: “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.
“In partnership with ICICI Bank, we will provide people in remote areas with a convenient way to bank, transfer money and make payments in a safe and secure manner. We have customised our offering to serve the needs of Indian customers while ensuring its 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.”
Rajiv Sabharwal, Executive Director, ICICI Bank, added: “ICICI Bank has been at the forefront of technological innovations in banking. With the launch of M-Pesa, we now offer an innovative service that provides basic banking facilities to millions of Indians who still depend on informal channels for their banking needs.”