Indian bank ICICI Bank has partnered with Vodafone to launch M-Pesa, the mobile payment service, in India before the end of the year.
M-Pesa allows users to send and receive money on their mobile phones, without the need for a traditional bank account. The service has already gained widespread traction in Kenya, where it currently has an estimated 15 million users.
In India, the service will be provided by Vodafone India through its subsidiary Mobile Commerce Solutions and partner ICICI Bank. Under the M-Pesa brand, MCS will provide a mobile wallet service, while ICICI Bank will provide the mobile money account.
As in Kenya, the service will hope to draw on the ‘unbanked’ community in India, which consists of millions of people who do not have a bank account, but do have a mobile phone. The service will be launched initially in the eastern part of Idnia, via Kolkata, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand, before being rolled out to the rest of the country in phases.
“We have now launched M-Pesa TM, a unique and innovative offering wich will allow us to provide basic banking services to millions of customers spread across the country,” said Chanda Kochhar, chief executive at ICICI Bank. “This will help us reach out to segments that currently do not have access to banking services, towards our objective of achieving greater financial inclusion.”
Although mobile banking is not new in the country – it began in 2002 with SMS banking – the arrival of the M-Pesa brand is a signal of the potential international providers see in the service. Mobile phones had achieved a 74.2 per cent market penetration in India by September 2012, a figure equivalent to 937 million handsets, according to statistics provided by Informa’s World Cellular Information Service.