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Vodafone to use financial inclusion to tap rural market

Plans to get into government-to-public deals through M-Pesa, its mobile wallet service

Shashikant Trivedi  |  Bhopal 

Eyeing government-to-public business, telecom major Vodafone has planned to go aggressive in financial inclusion in rural market. At present the company has already launched two pilot projects -- in Odisha and Jharkhand -- and is functioning as a business correspondent.

“We are planning to get into government-to-public transactions also through our mobile wallet service, which is, in fact, an out-cash service. A pilot programme has already been launched in two districts of Odisha under which customers can withdraw money from our M-Pesa (mobile money transfer services) outlets,” Suresh Sethi, business head of M-Pesa at Vodafone told Business Standard here.

M-Pesa service of the company, launched in association with ICICI Bank, is available to those who do not have banking access, though it is open to account holders as well.

The company launched M-Pesa today in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. This service will be available in 55 districts in the two states.

M-Pesa service works like digital money that replaces cash or card. A subscriber can make all kinds of payments like fund transfer, mobile and direct-to-home recharge through mobile.

At present, the company has 45,000 M-Pesa outlets that not only offer M-Pesa services registration but also cash withdrawal and transfer services, Sethi said. To open an account, a customer will have to go to M-Pesa agent fill up a form and produce proof of identity and residence.

“All our M-Pesa outlets will be common retail shops in villages. When a customer needs to avail our digital money service, a one-time password is generated through an SMS by the company on his mobile. He can show this SMS and password to our M-Pesa agent and can withdraw money. He also can transfer money from anywhere through similar channel,” he further said, “this way a government beneficiary can also get funds from the government through our M-Pesa agent.”

"We have 2,100 M-Pesa agents in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The number of agents will reach 10000 by March 2015. Unlike other models of financial inclusion, physical connectivity is the biggest problem as bankers have only 5% branches in rural India. While under M-Pesa service, a customer even does not need a mobile phone, he may use SIM only and can withdraw cash from the retail agent who is trained by the company to help him out at every point,” Sethi clarified. The company has plans to move pan-India in coming months. The company will soon make its presence in Southern states where it has yet to start services.

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First Published: Thu, March 20 2014. 19:51 IST