It’s been five months since they announced the partnership, and now Vodafone India today announced the official launch of its M-Pesa mobile money transfer and payment service in India, in partnership with ICICI Ban. The service is initially being launched in Eastern India, and is being offered in Kolkata, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand through over 8300 authorized agents.
The national rollout will be in a phased manner, and M-Pesa will allow customers to deposit and withdraw cash from designated outlets, transfer money to any mobile phone in India, remit money to any bank account in India, make payments to recharge mobile, clear utility bills, DTH service subscription, shop at select shops and use it for e-commerce/m-commerce. In response to a query from MediaNama for a list of merchants for e-commerce/m-commerce, a Vodafone India spokesperson said that they can’t yet share a list since this is a work in progress.
It’s worth noting that m-Pesa for Vodafone India is essentially bank led – unlike Kenya, where it began as an alternative to banking, in India, it’s had to go through regulatory compliance requirements which essentially mandate that it be backed by a bank account. Back in 2009, Vodafone had mentioned difficulty in launching M-Pesa in India because, as Nick Hughes, then Vodafone’s head of mobile payments had said, “Regulators won’t allow any mobile payment scheme. India has said you have to be a licensed bank.” Customers will have to visit an M-Pesa agent outlet, fill up a form, provide identity and address proofs for their m-Pesa account.
Interestingly, after the customer signs up and deposits money in her account, the MCSL Mobile Wallet gets “activated immediately and the customer can do a variety of transactions like cash deposit, transfer money to any bank account, money transfer to any other ‘M-Pesa’ customer, recharge mobiles & DTH, pay mobile and utility bills.” These appear to be transactions similar to what a prepaid wallet from the RBI allow. Once, and only once the documents are verified and approved by MCSL and ICICI Bank, can the customer do other transactions like cash withdrawal and sending money to any mobile number. Vodafone India has confirmed to MediaNama that they have license from the Reserve Bank of India, through MCSL, for a semi closed wallet.
Note that having a separate company (MCSL) to run the payments business also allows Vodafone to avoid payment of government license fee charges on telecom revenues. Airtel did the same with Airtel Money, for which they also got a prepaid payments license.
It’s been two years since Idea Cellular launched MyCash mobile payments with Axis Bank. Anyone knows what happened to that?
Vodafone Mobile Billing API Will Integrate M-Pesa
Also note that Vodafone India is launching a platform which will allow service providers and application developers to integrate with Vodafone’s payment mechanism, opening up billing API. In response to a question on Twitter, Jonathan Bill, Head (Business Development and Innovation), Vodafone India, had said that the platform will integrate M-Pesa payments.
— Jonathan Bill (@jonsonbill) April 15, 2013