(By Nikhil Pahwa & Vikas SN)
Its looks like Vodafone and ICICI Bank is slowly ramping up the coverage of M-Pesa, their mobile money transfer and payments initiative. The alliance has now extended the service to Delhi-NCR (National Capital Region), Mumbai and Uttar Pradesh (East).
Both Delhi-NCR and Mumbai are important regions for M-Pesa, since it accounts for a significant migrant population, the kind that is being targeted by most telecom operators for money transfer services; the other hub would probably be Bangalore. The service has so far been rolled out in Delhi, Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh (East), Kolkata, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Rajasthan.
In Delhi, M-Pesa will be available via 1,400 authorized agents and across 130 Vodafone exclusive retail outlets, while in Mumbai, the service will be available via 1,400 authorized agents and in Uttar Pradesh (East), it will be available via 5,500 authorized agents, as per a Business Standard report.
It’s worth noting that M-Pesa is bank linked (with ICICI Bank), and will allow consumers to deposit and withdraw cash from outlets, transfer money to any mobile phone in India, and remit money to any bank account in the country. Apart from transferring money, there are consumer payment services as well, allowing mobile account recharges, utility bill payments, and apparently even shopping at select shops.
Note that until users are verified and KYC norms complied with, cash withdrawals and money transfer services are not allowed. Vodafone currently has a license for a semi closed wallet from the Reserve Bank of India, through its subsidiary MCSL (Mobile Commerce Solutions Ltd) and the company offers the service through this subsidiary. 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 through its subsidiary Airtel M Commerce Services Ltd (AMSL).
M-Pesa Integration with Vodafone Mobile Billing API?
Remember that Vodafone was planning to launch a platform which was expected to allow service providers and application developers to integrate with Vodafone’s payment mechanism, opening up the billing API. Jonathan Bill, the then Head (Business Development and Innovation), Vodafone India, had said that the platform will integrate M-Pesa payments. The current status of this platform is not clear at present.