BSNL has partnered with Itz Cash to launch a co-branded prepaid payment card called Trust Card, which will allow customers to make payments on web and mobile, including for utility services like electricity, telephone, cooking gas etc, as well as recharge and make payments for BSNL’s mobile services, including bill payment, purchasing VAS, reports The Financial Express. By the looks of it – judging by media reports (here) and the FAQs on BSNL’s website, it appears to be just a rebranded Itz cash card that can be used for payments.
What is not clear is whether it is something like Airtel Money, wherein the money is saved in a users account, linked to the mobile number, and can be used for merchant payments without the need to refer to a scratch card. Neither the FAQ, nor the PR clarifies this, and we haven’t been able to locate a site specifically for Trust Card.
What this partnership does, though, is point us towards an opportunity in mobile payments where a prepaid card licensee can tie up with multiple telecom operators who do not have a prepaid card, link the account number to the subscribers mobile number, and enable the creation of a virtual (mobile) wallet that can be used for payments. For Beam, Itz Cash etc, the virtual mobile wallet is an important means of enabling mobile payments, especially micropayments, since they already have an installed base of users. Airtel Money still has to spend money creating that market, and by the looks of it, it will be limited Airtel users.
Of course, the political question is that if telecom operators don’t see eye to eye with banks on customer ownership issues – don’t take my word for it, the RBI appears to think so – will they tie up with prepaid card licensees? For all the lip-service paid to mobile money and mobile payments, no one seems to committing enough money to give it a significant push and create awareness.