(By Nikhil Pahwa & Vikas SN)
Added more information on USSD and forthcoming mobile apps below
It’s taken them around an year and half to do this, but Movida, the joint venture between Visa and UK based mobile payments solutions provider, Monitise, has closed a second deal. The timeline isn’t very impressive: Movida was launched in May 2010, signed an agreement with HDFC Bank in Feb 2012, and now, in July 2013, has inked a deal with ICICI Bank.
On a positive note, Movida now has two of India’s largest private sector banks as partners, and offers their customers the ability to pay bills, top up prepaid airtime and buy movie tickets via USSD (only for GSM customers) and a voice portal. While Movida is backed by Visa, it supports all mobile networks, and both Visa and non-Visa cards.
Earlier this year, Uttam Nayak, Group Country Manager for India & South Asia, Visa, had alleged that its mobile payments service was been restrained by Indian telcos and had claimed that telcos were selectively offering USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) service to a few banks while they were refusing the same service to Visa since the service competes with its own services like Bharti Airtel’s Airtel Money and Vodafone’s m-Paisa service.
Nayak had then claimed that telcos had blocked USSD access to them for one year, while COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India) had denied these claims, saying none of its member companies had blocked the USSD channel. We have contacted Visa on the current status of this issue, although a new deal with ICICI indicates that Visa has probably resolved its issues with the telcos. Update: Visa has informed Medianama that it currently has access from four operators for USSD mode, which includes Loop Mobile, Aircel, BSNL & MTNL and if the customer intends to use USSD as a payment option, he needs to be a subscriber of any of the above mentioned telco. However, the IVR mode is operator-agnostic.
Why USSD And Why Not Mobile Web? That being said, we are not quite sure as to why in the age of mobile Internet, companies are still considering services through old-world channels and further more, limiting themselves to these channels only. While this method may allow companies to reach out to really basic handsets but we feel its severely hampers the user experience of these services, which is already quite tedious due to the “one time password” (OTP) method mandated for mobile payments.
Why doesn’t Movida consider launching a mobile web version of this service, considering that a majority of the handsets available in the market now feature some sort of Internet connectivity on their phones? Update: Visa has informed Medianama that it will also be adding an SMS option and launching smartphone apps for this initiative shortly. However, it didn’t disclose any specific information on whether the company plans to launch mobile apps across all the platforms or it will be limited to any specific platform.
Other players: Online payment sites like Paytm and MobiKwik also offer online recharge and utility bill payment services, while other sites like Freecharge.in and Rechargeitnow currently offer online recharge services. Online payment providers like BillDesk and Bill Junction have been in the utility bill payment businesses for several years now.