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Grameen Phone aims to go big on mobile financial services

Tine Wollebekk

Tine Wollebekk

Telenor Group, which owns the majority stakes in Grameenphone, is eyeing a stronger footing in Bangladesh’s mobile financial services landscape in its quest to become a regional market leader in this field.
“We have an ambition to become the market leader in Asia in mobile financial services,” Tine Wollebekk, Telenor’s head of financial services, said on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress that ended in Barcelona on March 5.
Telenor believes mobile financial services can act as a catalyst in helping connect the large unbanked population across much of the developing world.
“Our vision is not merely aimed at making money by boosting financial inclusion, but serving poor people as part of corporate social responsibility.”
For that end, the global telecom service provider is looking to introduce new mobile financial services models.
“We are now looking for different models to reach more people who have no access to cash machines or bank branches. We want to make entire mobile financial service processes much easier to reach more under-served remote population,” Wollebekk said.
To further explore the market opportunities, Wollebekk is due in Dhaka next month, where Telenor’s largest subsidiary already runs a mobile financial service, “Mobicash”.
Launched in 2007, Grameen-phone’s Mobicash has so far dealt with Tk 780 crore in transactions and 65 lakh of utility bills.
Grameenphone, which has more than 5.1 crore subscribers, has ample opportunity to bring more and more people under its umbrella as it has taken its network to every part of the country, she said. Less than a quarter of the country’s 16 crore people are using the normal banking system in their monetary transactions. “We will work more closely with banks, financial institutions and relevant authorities to reach our ambition.”
Referring to the traditional banking system where a customer needs two to seven days for the bank account to become functional, she said agents of mobile operators can complete the registration process much quicker such that the account can be used for transactions within hours.
“We have partnerships with six local banks in Bangladesh. But we need to think more in partnership, as banks will be benefitted,” Wollebekk said, adding that they have the ability and tradition to handle large volumes of customers at very low cost.
Formal economy as well as banks can be bigger by increasing the mobile financial services in a society, as the money will flow into the banks, she said.
“We are working with banks to get a better model to increase the mobile financial services and I am very encouraged that the regulators and banks are willing to form partnership with us to roll out mobile money services.”
Apart from Bangladesh, Telenor has also a strong and growing footprint in the mobile financial services area in other Asian markets such as Pakistan.
Launched in 2009, its Easypaisa scheme in Pakistan handled around $4.2 billon in transactions last year. Telenor also runs a similar service in Thailand and will introduce it in their newest market — Myanmar.
With operations in six Asian countries — Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Malaysia, Pakistan and Thailand — Telenor is the only European telecom company that reaches across the region and has 16 crore subscribers.

Report: Sarwar A Chowdhury
Source: Daily Star

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