The telecom operator – banks partnerships are quickly being closed: Vodafone Essar has inked a partnership with ICICI Bank, India’s largest private sector bank, to offer financial services through the mobile phone. This isn’t a joint venture, like the one State Bank of India and Bharti Airtel formed yesterday. Like in case of the Idea Cellular and Axis bank partnership announced last month, Vodafone Essar will become a banking correspondent for ICICI Bank.

One phrase that caught our attention in the release: the companies will offer “a bouquet of financial products such as savings accounts, pre-paid instruments and credit products through a mobile phone based platform.” By “pre-paid instruments”, Vodafone is referring to the impending launch of M-Pesa in India. Earlier reports had suggested that Vodafone was bringing M-Pesa to India with HDFC Bank. M-Pesa will have to be bank agnostic, of course.

ICICI Bank will get access to Vodafone Essar’s retail outreach of 1.5 million retail points for acquiring customers. As per the release, both parties will work out the specific arrangements in the coming few weeks and chart out a go-to-market plan.”

Future ATM’s In The Making: All Banks With All Telcos

Remains to be seen who other two telcos with a large customer base – Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices tie up with. HDFC Bank would be an obvious candidate, given that it is among India’s largest private sector banks. So far, the partnerships inked include:

Idea Cellular – Axis Bank (our coverage)
Bharti Airtel – State Bank of India (our coverage)
Vodafone Essar – ICICI Bank

While arrangements might be exclusive to begin with, we expect this to eventually (within a few years) move in an all-banks-all-telcos direction, perhaps with a nudge from the Reserve Bank of India.

That’s when Telecom Operators will become like ATM’s, and you’ll be able to withdraw money from any bank account from any retail outlet.

Vodafone India ARPU Down 7.3% To Rs. 177 For Q2-11