Two giants partnering: the State Bank of India (SBI), the largest commercial bank in India, has tied up with Western Union, probably the largest money transfer service to India, to offer cross-boder money transfers to SBI account holders on their mobile phones. According to Anil Kapur, Western Union’s Senior VP (South and Southeast Asia), India is the world’s No. 1 remittance recipient country, and according to World Bank figures, received US$52 billion in 2009. Currently, consumers can send Mobile Money Transfers from nearly 70,000 Western Union Agent locations in 25 countries.

Western Union has 61,000 agent locations in India, and the mobile transfer partnership will allow it to expand its distribution within India using SBI’s network; Western Union already has a partnership with SBI, with over 12,000 SBI branches offering Western Union Money Transfer service. Most importantly though, this partnership will allow SBI customers to transfer money from Western Union into their accounts, using mobile phones, online banking, ATMs and bank branches. In July, Western Union announced the introduction of the Account-Based Money Transfer (ABMT) service, to be launched in early 2011, which will enable SBI customers with online bank accounts to pull a Western Union Money Transfer directly into their accounts via the Internet or an ATM. According to the release, SBI has 110 million accountholders, of which more than 4 million are registered for online banking.

Western Union also offers the Mobile Money Transfer service in the Philippines with Smart Communications and Globe Telecom; in Kenya with Safaricom; in Malaysia with Maxis; and in South Africa with Absa Bank. The company also recently announced an agreement with EnStream in Canada and has agreements with Tunisian Post and Bank of Commerce & Development (BoCD) in Libya. In addition, Western Union previously announced an alliance with Zain (now owned by Airtel) in Africa.

MediaNama readers should be aware, though, that mobile money transfer and banking pilots and services have been announced, but there’s been very little of note in terms of deployment.

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