After launching a ‘Semi Closed’ prepaid cash wallet system in India, Airtel gives us a hint of what may perhaps follow later: in Africa, the telecom operator tied up with Standard Chartered and Mastercard to launch a virtual shopping card on the mobile. Called the Airtel 1time Shopping Card, the service will be rolled out in Kenya, and subsequently launched in multiple markets across Africa.
What’s worth noting is that the launch is in Kenya, a country which made Vodafone’s mobile money initiative M-PESA famous, and where mobile payments are well known. Airtel Money would offer consumers an alternative service, in case they want to switch from Vodafone, thereby addressing the challenge posed by M-PESA as a service which aids customer retention.
How It Works
The card will allow airtel Africa customers in Kenya to use their mobile phone to make online purchases from MasterCard merchants around the world, including online, through a one time transaction number – similar to OTP system in India: each time an Airtel customer is shopping online he or she will be able to request a single use shopping card number. Airtel money services will generate a special 16 digit number that enables the completion of the transaction. On completion of the transaction, a confirmation message will be sent to the consumer’s handset.
What’s not very clear from the announcement, is whether Airtel Money is being provided only to Standard Chartered customers – if that is the case, Airtel should probably look at making this service bank agnostic. Additionally, it’s not clear whether this is a prepaid system (in which the customer adds money to his Airtel Money account, a credit card system, or a direct debit system. We’ve requested Airtel for more details on what has been rolled out. If nothing else, this rollout indicates that Airtel is looking to become a dominant global player in the digital payments business. They have something which other service providers want to leverage – access to customers.
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