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Vodafone m-Pesa can be used for Mumbai bus rides; How many use the wallet, anyway?

Vodafone’s m-Pesa wallet will now allow customers to pay for Mumbai local bus rides. Users can pay for both daily bus tickets and for monthly bus passes. For this, Vodafone has partnered with public transportation aggregator Ridlr. Note that Vodafone does not have any direct tie up with the Mumbai transportation department, instead the telco is making use of Ridlr’s already existing deal with the Mumbai state transportation departments.

The m-Pesa wallet app can only be used for rides on Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport Undertaking (BEST) buses. Vodafone claims to have 26 lakh m-Pesa users in Mumbai alone with over 5000 offline cash-in points. Vodafone users can also use their feature phones to pay for rides via the USSD short-code *400#. On a pan-India basis, m-Pesa claims to have 16.4 million users, with over 140,000 offline cash-in points. Vodafone, however, doesn’t mention whether these are 16.4 million app downloads, or registered users, or active users.

Apart from bus rides, M-Pesa has tied up with UP government for allowing citizens to pay electricity bills online. It also has a partnership with Government of Madhya Pradesh to facilitate mobile-based distribution of financial aid under various rural schemes. In April this month, M-Pesa also tied up with various non-banking finance companies for allowing customers to pay their monthly EMIs.

Vodafone app users forced to download M-Pesa

My Vodafone app, which allows subscribers to manage their bills, recharges and usage, was forcing customers to create an m-Pesa wallet in a January app update. Before the update, Vodafone users were allowed to use My Vodafone app without any access restrictions. However, the January update, provided no recourse if a customer does not accept the terms and conditions which would create an m-Pesa wallet by default with their phone numbers.

The move came after several telecom operators including Airtel and Idea started launching or readying their payments bank operations. Vodafone received in-principle approval from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to start a payments bank in 2015, but a launch date is yet to be provided. The mandatory m-Pesa linking exercise, seemingly borrowed from the Indian govt’s forceful Aadhaar linkage, only looks like a frantic effort from Vodafone to add new customers before it launches a payments bank. Note that Vodafone also has a wallet license from the RBI. Wallet licences given by the RBI can also be folded into the payments bank, according to guidelines.

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