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State run telecom operator BSNL has partnered with Pyro, a telecom, financial and analytics company, along with Andhra Bank and Visa to announce SpeedPay, a semi closed open prepaid instrument, reports ET. This can be used to buy goods and services at any POS machines, which accept cards as a method of payment. It will also let users withdraw cash from ATMs or customer service points. The service is also available as an app on Android and iOS.

SpeedPay is Pyro’s RBI approved mobile wallet

Pyro had actually received an RBI license for its semi closed prepaid payment instrument in July last year. Pyro had then branded the service as SpeedPay which let users load money onto their mobile phones to make payments with it. Note that cash withdrawal was not permitted for this service. Once the wallet was loaded with money, people without bank accounts could pay bills and make over the counter (OTC) transactions through their phones.

Last month, we’d reported that BSNL was planning to launch its own mobile wallet in the next two months, with State Bank of India as its banking partner. The wallet would allow customers to withdraw money through SBI’s ATMs.

SBI has the largest ATM network in the country with 54,560 ATMs the end of March 2015 (pdf). BSNL could take some comfort in this as it would also help the offline withdrawal of cash feature. Perhaps it should also consider offline methods of loading cash into its wallet as in the case of Mobikwik and ICICI Bank.

Withdrawals, money transfers and bill payments

A Business Today report states that SpeedPay users will be able to withdraw cash up to Rs 1 lakh through the mobile wallet service at BSNL or branch outlets and carry out money transfers to other accounts. Users without bank accounts can load money from BSNL outlets and ask BSNL to recharge their mobile wallets and pay for services. BSNL will charge 1% of the transaction amount when users transfer money from the wallet to other bank accounts or in case of a cash withdrawal. There will be no other charges for the services. The daily withdrawal limit will be Rs 5,000 and for full KYC compliant users, it will be Rs 1 lakh.

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There’s no minimum value which needs to be maintained in the wallet and users can send and transact for as low as Re 1. However, according to the RBI guidelines, users cannot store more than Rs 10,000 in the wallet. Two modes are available for transactions: SpeedPay Lite m-wallet will allow transactions of up to Rs 10,000, whereas the upper limit for transactions through the app will be Rs 5,000. The Lite wallet can be upgraded to a regular wallet with a limit of Rs 1 lakh through a KYC submission of ID and address proof and 3 photographs at a SpeedPay retailer. The SpeedPay website states that users cannot withdraw money through it.

Why only South Indian states?

NDTV reports that Pyro CEO Paritosh Reddy said that they were in talks with Punjab National Bank and Bank of India for expansion of its service. Currently, Reddy said that the top up facility was available across 1,000 BSNL outlets in Andhra Pradesh and had plans to expand to 45,000 outlets in the state in 3 months. SpeedPay would also be available in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu by September.

Our take

Since this is the era of mobile wallets, there’s a good chance that Indian citizens without bank accounts and internet connectivity will be able to make transactions through their mobiles without having to sign up for debit cards (in which documentation is also required). This is a good move on the government’s part and is likely to further digital and financial inclusion. However, the rate of adoption will tell us the true use value of the mobile wallet.

BSNL Buzz

BSNL also launched BSNL Buzz, which will provide content, news, contests, subscription packs, coupons and advertising services. Strangely, BSNL had announced the Buzz service in September last year, citing that the launch would take place by the end of 2014. Developed by mobile marketing company Celltick, the service will deliver location based info services in Hindi, English, Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu. BSNL had said at that time that the BSNL Buzz app would be embedded into its mobile SIM cards for enabling cellular broadcast. It had also mentioned that BSNL users would get exclusive benefits through local coupons and info services in local languages, through Celltick’s LiveScreen platform.