Update: Airtel has announced the launch of services in Chennai today, but not in Delhi. We called up the Airtel Money customercare, and they said they have no information about when the service will launch in Delhi. As we had reported earlier (read below), the merchant listings for Chennai were available on Airtel Money’s website. The Chennai launch details, from the press release:

– 750 merchants
– Launch offers – Special talktime offers on Prepaid recharge denominations of Rs. 75 and Rs. 99, a 5% discount on Postpaid bill value upon payment and 5% extra value on DTH recharge greater than Rs 500. Airtel is flexing its access business muscle to drive usage.

The interesting thing we learnt from calling up Airtel Money customercare was that a new SIM is issued when you get Airtel Money, specifically because Airtel wants the Airtel Money application in the SIM Toolkit (SIM card embedded application). The new SIM gets activated in 4 hours, while Airtel Money activation takes 24 hours.

In anyone reading this has tried Airtel Money, do tell us about your experience.

May 9th 2010: Bharti Airtel will extend Airtel Money, the telecom operators Mobile Money service in India to the cities of Delhi and Chennai, Sanjay Kapoor, the companys Chief Executive Officer (India & South Asia) said on its earnings conference call. The launch in Delhi is understandable – it is Airtel’s home market, and right next to its pilot market of Gurgaon, where it would have common retailers. Airtel M Commerce Services Ltd was granted a license to operate a prepaid payment instrument license in July last year.

At the time that the service was piloted in Gurgaon, its website did mention retailers in Chennai, but no details were available. We’ve checked again, that it appears that 339 retailers in Chennai are now listed. Note that the Reserve Bank of India recently increased the transaction limit for mobile based prepaid payment instruments to Rs 50,000, thus bringing them on par with other prepaid payment services. Airtel Money is the primary beneficiary of this change in policy, being the only mobile operator owned m-commerce service.

When it launched, Airtel Money had a per transaction limit of Rs 5000, and a monthly transaction limit of Rs 50,000. Note that in India, Airtel Money has to be kept separate from the mobile recharge – though it can be used to recharge mobile talktime, money once loaded as mobile recharge cannot be used to transact. Mobile wallets can also not be used for person to person transfer of value. Much of this does happen informally, with recharge talktimes of many telecom operators.

Airtel Money In Africa

The push for mobile based payment services is being made across geographies by Airtel. On the earnings conference call, Manoj Kohli, Airtel’s CEO for Africa said that the company plans to launch (Airtel Money) M-Commerce services in 8 countries in the next 12 months, and the remaining Africa markets thereafter. They have launched M-Commerce as an independent business in Kenya, and taken Central Bank approvals in the 8 countries planned.

Note: We might get more information on Airtel Money in India before the month is out: we’ve filed an RTI request with the Reserve Bank of India for transaction details.

P.s.: if you’ve tried Airtel Money in Gurgaon, do drop us a line at nikhil at medianama dot com. Would like to hear about your experience.

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