印度“移动钱包”的“钱景” M-Pesa’s cautious start in India
Rajasthan seems an improbable setting for a technology revolution. Yet for the past year the historic northern state has provided the testing ground for an idea that some believe could help bring basic financial services to hundreds of millions of Indians for the first time – in the form of mobile money.
In November 2011 just outside Jaipur, a city better known for its hill-top forts and charming pink buildings, Vodafone, the UK-based mobile phone company, announced plans to pilot M-Pesa. This service, pioneered in Africa, lets users store cash on their phones and use it either to shop, pay bills or send money to others.
Since then Vodafone, which is India’s second-largest mobile operator, has been busily signing up agents in nearby villages, who are often simply small shop owners in dusty roadside shacks, who then sell the product to locals. The trial went well, and last month the company announced plans to roll it out nationwide.
Mobile money’s admirers talk up its many benefits, which include the possibility of ending financial exclusion across the developing world. These champions point especially to successes in Kenya, where M-Pesa has become a virtual currency, used by more than seven in 10 adults, who together make more transactions each year than Western Union, the money transfer service company, sends globally.
But even staunch supporters admit that the idea has failed to take off in most of the other countries in which it has been tried – while India is likely to be the service’s biggest challenge yet.
In India the opportunity is clear enough. More than half the country’s 1.2bn population have no bank account, but it is the world’s second- largest mobile phone market, with more than 900m subscribers. If only a fraction of these customers sign on, India could easily become the world’s mobile money leader.