LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE MONEY SUMMIT 2011: Mobile operators in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Philippines are implementing programmes aimed at incentivising their dealer networks to begin offering more mobile banking services. Representatives from Afghan operator Roshan, which operates the country’s M-PAISA service, Telenor Pakistan (easypaisa) and Globe Telecom of the Philippines (GCASH), outlined at a session this morning how they were all looking to leverage the reach of their agent networks to push their respective mobile money schemes.
“The agent networks are the entry point for our customers, and they have the relationship,” said Roshan’s Zahir Khoja. “We want them to be the ambassadors for mobile money, and we want them to educate our customers.”
Launched in 2008, Roshan’s M-PAISA is targeting the estimated 95 percent of Afghans without banking relationships. According to Khoja, recent market research has revealed that the service is perceived as the lowest-cost, fastest and most private way to move money around the country. However, he admits that rolling-out the service has proved challenging in a country where “cash is still king.”
It was a similar story in neighbouring Pakistan, where Telenor has built-up an agent network of over 150,000, compared to a bank branch network of only around 8,000. “We have a more widely recognised brand than any bank,” claimed Telenor Pakistan’s Arif Abdul Qayyum.
Telenor’s easypaisa is offered in collaboration with local microfinance bank Tameer (in which Telenor owns a majority stake), and uses franchise partners to manage its dealer network. Qayyum said that the scheme uses an ‘over-the-counter’ model where agents process easypaisa transactions on behalf of the customer. This model has helped the operator avoid the ‘chicken and egg’ problem in rolling out a new service, but Qayyum admitted that there was still work to do in incentivising and educating its agents. “We have made our GSM dealers rich, but we need to sell them a new service and we need to encourage them to invest,” he said.
This was a theme also taken up by Globe’s Paolo Baltao. “We must educate agents and prove to them that [mobile money] means business profitability,” he said. ”If it’s not profitable they won’t be engaged.”
Baltao said that Globe currently has 18,000 GCASH outlets nationwide. He noted that the scheme has been boosted by a recent regulatory change in the country, which has allowed more of Globe’s airtime distributors to act as GCASH outlets.