Banking on the Move

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The March Of Mobile Money  by  Sam Pitroda , Mehul Desai , book reviewSitting at his table in Chicago one day, Sam Pitroda watched his wife Anu go through her diary looking for vital credit card details. That was when it occurred to him that a digital form of the diary might be easier to deal with and he began to create one. But then the thought extended to how life would be if one could travel with an empty digital wallet to which banks could beam images of credit cards and these could then be flashed to retailers’ computer screens during transactions.

The book goes on to discuss how cash transactions enabled through mobile telephony can revolutionise banking and change the concept of money in the process. Mobile phones these days are used by an increasing number of young people not just for telephony but for services that go beyond, like surfing the net, or music downloads.

Pitroda spearheaded India’s ICT revolution and his visionary ideas are well known. Here he and his co author talk about how the development of Near Field Communications in every day transactions will finally make the mobile wallet a reality.

Of course, Pitroda points out that for this idea to be feasible, telecom companies, banks and retailers have to work hand in hand, sorting out issues like customer acquisition sharing and cost savings as the technology develops, apart from security and digitization of archives. To work, a digital wallet has to be as easy to use as the conventional one we all carry in our pockets.

Unlike the West which looks at mobile phones as just another marketing channel, in India they are used as a banking tool, since in India the mobile phone has a wide reach spanning towns and rural customers at the bottom of the financial pyramid. Correctly used mobile banking can increase the number of customers for both banks and telecom providers by millions.

Of course, again, in a country like India, this is dependent on financial inclusion. Without a bank account, it is not possible to use a mobile wallet. The onus for this, Pitroda feels, lies not with banks but with service providers who can pinpoint the requisite services or applications, after which the banks can work out the cash flow infrastructure and the whole can then be accessed through a telecom provider.

The benefits from this, Pitroda envisions, are huge. Retailers would gain insight into customer spending patterns; companies could custom design services based on this kind of data while householders, equipped with digital receipts could better plan their domestic expenditure. When fully equipped the mobile wallet could cover, apart from banking a fund transfer, ticket purchases, P2P payment, advertising, shopping loyalty programmes and coupons.

And, of course, the many unbanked people at the bottom of the pyramid would finally become bank customers, since the amounts involved would not necessarily be large. A series of convenient micro transactions dependent on banks would free them from the hands of money lenders and eventually benefit them in many different ways – like giving farmers access to crop prices across the country, for example.

Pitroda details the histories of several telecom providers to point out what has already been enabled and what still needs to be done. He ends the book with a five point wealth creation programme facilitated through mobile money. He also adds that once in place, mobile wallets can be used in the fields of health governance and education.

Whether commerce will actually follow Pitroda’s model remains to be seen, but as laid out in the book, it seems possible.

The March of Mobile Money: The Future of Lifestyle Management by Sam Pitroda & Mehul Desai

Published by Collins Business in India, 2010

Buy book online
Buy book online
March of Mobile Money: The Future of Lifestyle Management, The
by Sam Pitroda and Mehul Desai

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Written by Anjana Basu
Anjana Basu

Anjana Basu works as an advertising consultant in Calcutta. In 2003, Harper Collins India brought out her novel Curses In Ivory. In 2004, she was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship in Scotland where she worked on her second novel, Black Tongue, published by Roli in 2007. In February 2010. her children's novel Chinku and the Wolfboy was brought out by Roli. She writes features for travel magazines and reviews for Indian newspapers.

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