Mobile Banking for the Unbanked Essay

Words: 1517
Pages: 7

In many developing countries it's common for a person to have a mobile phone but not a bank account. In fact, more than 1 billion people fit this description, and the number is only likely to increase. To that end, many companies are considering how to give residents access to banking services via their handsets. The GSM Association predicts that by 2012, nearly 300 million of the previously "unbanked" will be using some form of mobile banking.
"The mistake a lot of us make is to look at the folks at the base of the pyramid and assume that they must need the same types of services we need."
The Harvard Business School case study Mobile Banking for the Unbanked explores two very different examples of mobile financial service models:
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The banking partnership proved problematic in that it was hard for a second-tier bank to compete with its larger brethren, which by 2008 were forced by government mandate to offer low-cost banking options for the poor. But WIZZIT also suffered because the founders failed to recognize the true needs of their target customers.
"WIZZIT essentially took a banking service like the one we have here—depositing salaries in the bank that we draw down to make payments—and decided that this is what the poor wanted, too," Rangan says. "Of course the founders were very creative in bringing the costs down dramatically and improving access, so the poor could afford to bank. The problem is that this is not the way that the poor think of money. They hardly have any savings. Their main need is money-transfer."
The success of M-PESA
In many developing countries, including Kenya, most of the population lives in rural areas, but the majority of bank branches and jobs are in the cities. To send money home, a city worker had to seal his wages in an envelope and pay a courier to travel for hours to the village. Alternatively, the worker could travel to the village himself, but that meant paying a hefty percentage of his wages for bus fare, plus a day of lost work.
Safaricom and Vodafone initially built M-PESA, a money-transfer application that resides