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Vodafone, ICICI Bank enable mobile wallet to tap rural east India

By BS Reporter , afaqs!, Kolkata | In Digital | April 18, 2013
Customers can now remit money to rural villages via text message

You can now remit money to your family members in remote villages through a text message, even if they do not have a bank account.

Vodafone India and ICICI Bank on Wednesday launched a mobile money transfer and payment service, M-Pesa, which will allow customers to transfer money to any mobile phone in India, remit funds to bank accounts, deposit and withdraw cash from designated outlets, pay utility bills, and shop at select merchant establishments.

M-Pesa (a trademark of Vodafone) service will initially be offered in West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand through 8,300 authorised agents. It will be available across India in next 12-18 months.

"Mobile technology has a critical role to play in servicing the unbanked and underserviced sections of the society. Using M-Pesa, we will provide people in remote areas 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," said Marten Pieters, managing director and CEO of Vodafone India.

Using the M-Pesa service, a customer can send up to Rs 5,000 at a time. In a month, he can use this service to send up to Rs 25,000.

To open M-Pesa account, Vodafone customers will need to visit a designated agent outlet, fill up a form, submit identity and address proofs, and deposit a minimum amount. The mobile wallet will be activated immediately and customers can deposit cash, transfer money to any bank account, recharge mobiles, and pay utility bills.

Once the documents are verified and approved by ICICI Bank and Mobile Commerce Solutions (MCSL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vodafone India, customers can do other transactions such as cash withdrawal and money transfer to any mobile number.

"We are very happy with the partnership with Vodafone as the tie-up will effectively leverage the security of financial transactions provided to customers by ICICI Bank and the strengths of Vodafone's significant distribution reach. This launch is in line with the bank's objective of achieving greater financial inclusion. It also enriches the bank's existing suite of mobile banking offerings," said Rajiv Sabharwal, executive director of ICICI Bank.

According to Suresh Sethi, business head of M-Pesa at MCSL, Vodafone will initially target migrant workers who need to send money home every month. He estimates that currently there are about three million migrant workers working in metros and large cities.

Mobile banking is already gaining popularity in India. The number of mobile banking transactions doubled to 5.6 million in January 2013 from 2.8 million a year ago. The value of these transactions increased three-fold to Rs 625 crore during the month from Rs 191 crore in January 2012.