Idea Cellular, India’s third largest operator, updated on mobile banking during its Q1 2016 results, one of three business segments it picked out.
While the operator did not offer any financial figures, it did provide a progress report on its money strategy, alongside its conventional mobile services and long distance/ISP business lines.
Idea has two strands to its bank led model. One is a so-called business correspondent relationship with India’s Axis Bank. Its purpose is to acquire and then serve savings account customers for Axis, using Idea retailers. The two partners have been working together since 2012.
The partnership enables customers without a bank account to access basic financial services via their mobile phones. However, Idea said it “is evaluating the existing business model in line with development of regulation”.
This statement could be linked with Idea being among the leading operators who applied to the Indian government to become payments banks earlier this year.
Payments banks are cutdown versions of traditional banks which the government hopes will boost financial inclusion. Vodafone and Reliance Industries are among those also interested.
The second strand to Idea’s banking strategy enables users to send cash to bank accounts via certain Idea retailers. The service was launched in November 2013, and then expanded in April 2014.
Finally, the operator offers a prepaid payment instrument (PPI) service, sometimes called a semi closed wallet. Users can load funds into the wallet, both as cash or via the internet, and then top-up prepaid mobile accounts (both for Idea and rivals), subscribe to Direct-to-Home (DTH) satellite TV, pay bills and make wallet-to-wallet and wallet-to-bank transfers.
So far PPI services have been launched in Mumbai (July 2014), followed by select cities in the east part of Uttar Pradesh (December 2014) as well as Bihar (July 2015). Idea is expanding coverage in “a phased manner”, it said.