Let the mobile pay

21 Jul 2006


Mobile shopping in India takes a bold leap forward with the deployment of the first SMS-based mobile payment service. By Probir Roy, co founder Coruscant Tec.

Probir RoyWireless has been one of the most quickly adopted technologies in the world, beating even internet adoption. More so in India where the wireless universe is perhaps more than fixed line phones, C&S, internet and radio. Certainly more than the last three combined. And by end 2007 – more than all of them combined.

Imagine a world where a single device can cater to your communication, entertainment, lifestyle and commercial needs. The proverbial 'third screen's has become the ubiquitous screen of first choice for most people – from just voice, the mobile device has evolved into a multi media and entertainment device, and now as a payment device.

Making transactions with the mobile device otherwise known as mobile payments has always been the ultimate dream for vendors, operators, service providers and financial institutions but has been ridden by many false starts and hype. Globally the industry has split over operator-controlled payments, in which content providers are paid an insignificant share of the sale price and more often than not with a delay of over 270 days.

Some claim that the operators, who tend to act more like 'banks' rather than payment facilitators, are indeed holding the industry back to the point of stagnation. Today we are on the cusp of yet another payment revolution – a heady cocktail of the simple and humble SMS paving the way for "one click" shopping and transaction. No GPRS, no new SIM card or fancy phone or indeed a paid and complicated multipoint registration process.

PayMate, recently launched by an Indian company, PayMate India Private Limited, an m-commerce venture funded by leading global VC Kleiner Perkins, has been developed to serve as a fast, efficient and secure method of conducting such commercial transactions. There are various projections as to the market size; recent numbers by the Informa Telecom & Media Group have estimated the m-payments market in 2006 at around $60 billion, which is estimated to rise up to $180 billion in a few years. Needless to say China, Japan and now India would be the geographical drivers.

PayMate is a cutting edge mobile payment solution that seemingly allows mobile subscribers to make payments for merchant services for travel, entertainment, lifestyle, and shopping, just by using their cell phones in real time. It is connected to merchants and banks to enable such transactions. Keeping in view the three principles upon which this is built — ease of use, convenience and security, the mobile phone and PayMate could soon eliminate the need to carry a heavy wallet with an array of credit cards and various plastics. The fear of disclosing valuable credit card and banking information is also eliminated.

The making of this product or rather translating this idea into reality has taken the best part of over two-and-half years. The last mile – involving months of testing, integration and preparation with partners such as Citibank, Euronet Worldwide and Rediff, have helped to arrive at what they feel is a product and framework for the deployment of a simple, secure, safe and interoperable m-payment system with tremendous potential in the Indian and global mobile commerce market.

Apparently this scale of deployment has not been attempted anywhere in the world. Mobile commerce has the potential for explosive growth and mobile payments are often touted as the next "killer application" for the mobile enterprise.

The famous David Ogilvy slogan of the '70's "Don't leave home without it" has never been so true… Or, perhaps, a slogan looking for a new home?

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