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“Mobile Payments Only Sustainable With 20-25 M Customer Base”

“Our business model is sustainable only with a customer base of 20 million to 25 million. We expect to breakeven in three years”, Abhishek Sinha, CEO of Mobile Payments company Eko India Financial Solutions tells Mint. Now 20-25 million is a fairly large customer base, so are mobile payment companies waiting for a miracle?

While unspecified estimates quoted by Mint say that there will be 50-100 million mobile banking customers over the next two years, to expect 1/5th of the expected mobile user base to transact using the mobile phone would be far too optimistic. Also, even if that 50-100 million user base is going to be divided among MChek, Paymate, Obopay, Eko, CSam, Jigrahak, and maybe even Billdesk, it’s unlikely that any will have 20-25 million subscriber base, hence be sustainable.

In two years, Obopay is targeting 5-10 million customers, while MChek looking at “upto” 2 million. Going by Sinha’s reasoning, sustainability is a long way away. Eko is looking to raise $10 million in funding, with a target of 5 million customers in 2 years, and revenue of Rs. 50 lakh.

Another thing to bear in mind is that one may talk about revenues of Rs. 50 lakh, but like in the case of the Online Travel business, these are essentially pass-through revenues, and the service providers will get a small fraction of this. Banks are going to be an integral part of this system because mobile operators don’t want pass-through revenues added to their books, since it will result in an increase the license fee they pay to the government.

Do also take a look at some systemic issues pointed out by Ravi Shankar, EVP and Country Head-Cash Management & Direct Banking for Yes Bank at the IAMAI MVAS conference last month.

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