Monday, June 28, 2010

Broadening electronic payments coverage in India

Electronic payments industry requires the government to motivate laying the rails (aka necessary infrastructure).  It is heartening to note that government in India is using RBI's bully pulpit to get there.  Public Sector banks in India have signed up to bank the unbanked over the next 5 years.  I am sure the skeptical readers have been hearing about such good intentions for many years without any perceptible change in ground realities.  I think that this time it is going to be [marginally] different
  • Back to back governments of the same party is providing adequate time to focus on and deploy infrastructure
  • Political parties in India have figured out how to benefit from government sops being distributed electronically.
 Having said that, it will take time (5+ years) and effort to see electronic disbursements and financial inclusion (FI) make a difference in the lives of the poor, and change behavior (reduce use of physical cash).

Reserve Bank of India (RBI is the Indian Banking/Payments regulator) Deputy Governor Dr KC Chakrabarthy, among other RBI officials and Bank management shared their Financial Inclusion plans at the 23rd SKOCH Summit on Financial Deepening in Mumbai:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

King of grand vision and bold strokes

Reliance (RIL) led by Mr Mukesh Ambani re-enters the telecom market in India by acquiring Infotel (source) for about $1B.  Infotel, in the recently concluded auctions, won the pan-India Wireless Broadband license.  Why would a blog about payments and commerce care about this development?

Overview of RIL: As you might be aware, RIL is a major player in India's growing retail space.  RIL has been aggressive in experimenting with different formats of stores, business models, locations...  RIL, under the leadership of the older Ambani, has used a wide canvas and made bold and audacious strokes.  When RIL started Reliance Infocomm (since renamed to Reliance Communication), they were amongst the first telco to have Java on all their handsets.  RIL has been generating a lot of cash (cash surplus of $25B over the next 4 years [Source]) from its petrochemical business and needs new projects to deploy this cash.

RIL and Commerce: RIL's vision in communication is to make broadband-based TV, Internet and Phone affordable and ubiquitous (as they did with mobile phones/service in 2003 [Source]).  They plan on having

Monday, June 7, 2010

It is all about inexpensive convenience

In India, banks are making a serious and sincere attempt at serving the unbanked / underbanked.  However, progress has been slow and restricted to the margins.  G2C not withstanding, domestic remittance is one of the litmus tests of whether formal channels (banks & post office) are relevant in the lives of rural Indians.  Elsewhere in the emerging/developing world, remittances have been the killer app to start the process of digitization of cash in rural settings.

A survey conducted by IFMR, indicated the following as the top reasons (not in any particular order) that drive choice of channel for [domestic] remittances:
  • Lines / queues to send / receive money
  • Time taken [by service provider] to deliver the money
  • Price (fees/commission charged)
  • Proximity of deposit and withdrawal points
  • Business hours of deposit and withdrawal points (should be open during hours when they are free)
  • Minimal paperwork as a significant percentage of migrant workers are marginally literate