In light of the announcement of Nokia Money, I would like to analyze this development in the context of mobile commerce in India.
Nokia Money is an attempt by the world's largest mobile phone vendor to deploy mobile commerce commercially. Before we dive deep into this post, let's have a quick background on this topic. Nokia invested $70 million in Obopay (analysis). Leveraging their investment in Obopay and the infrastructure that Obopay offers, Nokia brings Nokia Money to market. Also, you may recall that Obopay powers MasterCard Mobile MoneySend (link).
I suspect that Nokia Money will be available on every Nokia mobile phone. Considering that the mobile operator does not subsidize handsets (and consequently control mobile phone configuration) in India, Nokia will be able to take its mobile payment product to market directly.
Financial regulations are a critical piece of any mobile payments puzzle. It is no different in India. RBI, India's financial regulator, unvieled their policy on mobile payments (link). They allowed a fund transfer limit of INR5000 (approx $100) and a daily transaction limit (for goods and services) of INR 10,000 (approx $200). Considering that the biggest sector in India's ecommerce is Online Travel (over 2/3 of ecommerce market), the mobile commerce industry was up in arms claiming that these limits were too constraining [to buy air tickets?].
mChek is the leader in mobile payments in India. Airtel, India's largest mobile service provider, is mChek's first partner. mChek has been used for bill payments, charging airtime (mobile topup)... mChek crossed a million subscribers in January 2009 (link). Airtel SIM cards have mChek on its menu. Other Indian telcos are following this trend.
Obopay does not seem to have crossed the critical 1 Million subscriber mark (otherwise we would have heard about it, right?). By that measure, Obopay / Nokia Money is the challenger. Other service providers in this space include PayMate, ITZCash and NGPay.
A study (June '09) commissioned by Paymate and AC Nielsen estimates the mobile commerce market in India at 5 million users, and is primarily urban and male-centric.
Now that you are updated on history, let us look at the future. How does Nokia Money change the landscape of mobile payments in India? Is the entry of Nokia Money going to change the dynamics of mobile commerce and create a thriving marketplace for small payments (similar to what Nokia did for mobile phones in India)? Are operators better positioned to offer mobile payments?
Will this competition create confusion? For example, to an Airtel subscriber using a Nokia phone, there will be two mobile payment choices and the user can't differentiate the subtle differences between a phone offering and an operator offering. How will the message be packaged in such cases? Will Nokia Money choose to go rural and Aitel/mChek focuses on urban audience? For all the promise of mobile payments in emerging countries, 5 million users in a userbase of over 350 million is dismal.
Who and where will the mobile commerce battles be fought in India? What are your thoughts?