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bKash eyes to be the largest m-banking service provider company in the world

Muhammad A (Rumee) Ali  Chairman, bKash Ltd.

Muhammad A (Rumee) Ali
Chairman, bKash Ltd.

bKash Limited is looking to become the largest mobile banking service provider company in the world within the next few years, chief of the company said.

“Branded itself as the world’s second successful venture, bKash having stronger customer base in Bangladesh is now in position to exceed ‘the most successful mobile financial service provider’, operating in Kenya,” Muhammad A (Rumee) Ali, chairman of bKash Ltd, told the FE in an interview.

Evaluating achievements of bKash in its about two-and-half-year activities, Mr Rumee Ali expressed his satisfaction saying that “We have been able to achieve a lot of progress during this period.”

With 76,000 agents and 180 distributors, bKash accounts now stand at close to 8.0 million across the country.

Mr Rumee Ali expected to achieve the bKash accounts to nearly 15 million at the end of 2014 by exploiting the huge business-expansion opportunity in Bangladesh having over 110 million cell phone users, and 60 per cent unbanked people out of 160 million population.

Mr Ali, former deputy governor of Bangladesh Bank (BB), strongly laid stress on making the mobile financial service (MFS) here successful because “It is another form of empowerment of the unbanked people.”

Till now, around 20 banks launched the MFS. As of November 11, 2013, mobile banking subscriber base crossed 10 million-mark, according to recent data at the Bangladesh Bank.

bKash is not only to create mobile financial services and make money, rather also to increase inclusivity, which is the way of sustainable and quality growth of a country, he said.

“To increase the inclusivity, the unbanked people will have to be brought under the economic system. To do so, you need something like mobile banking,” Mr Rumee Ali said, and expressed happiness as bKash by its service could contribute to the national priority.

He also thanked the BB for giving such opportunity, and encouraging and helping the banks work to create inclusivity by the MFS.

Integration of large portion of the population to the financial system can also help development and increase GDP and efficiency, he added.

bKash, a subsidiary of BRAC Bank, is one of the two first MFS providers in Bangladesh. It is a joint venture between BRAC Bank and Money in Motion LLC of USA. In April 2013, International Finance Corporation (IFC) also became an equity partner of the company.

Citing that the MFS is basically for the rural unbanked population, he said, “If the 60 per cent unbanked population is not brought under any formal financial system, they will have to face discrimination.”

Mr Ali suggested that the government can use MFS system to disburse small agri loans, different government allowances or financial assistance such as VGF to the right people in the remote areas under the safety net programme more easily and transparently compared to any other system.

The payment can be disbursed under the public private partnership (PPP) as it will reduce cost and simultaneously ensure transparency, he added.

In a question on the debate whether MFS be led by banks or telecom companies, he opined, “The bank-led model is safer.”

Because, MFS is a different kind of service than cell phone, and the rules and regulations needed to protect the rights of MFS customers is pertinent to the financial service. In this connection, BB is the best regulator and thus the banks are the best institutions to lead the MFS, he said.

However, the banks should embrace the technology and work together with the telecom companies in this connection so that we don’t unnecessarily put burden on the MFS receivers.

In a question on possibility of reducing MFS charge, he said, “The more the business volume and competition will rise, the more the cost will go down.”

Assuring the customers of taking stern action against the agents, who overcharged, Mr Ali urged the customers to lodge complaints, if have, to bKash anytime.

He also laid stress on need for creating awareness more among the people regarding the charging system and other relevant things.

He further said that work is going on to make the bKash text in Bangla language for the convenience of the rural people.

Mr Rumee Ali was also the country head and general manager of ANZ Grindlays. His banking experience includes stints in India, United Kingdom and Australia.


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