Indian telecom company Idea Cellular and Axis Bank have together launched Idea MyCash, a mobile banking service aimed at low-income rural and urban customers who are not part of the formal banking system. The service can be used on mobile devices to make cash deposits and withdrawals, find out bank balances, and transfer money. Axis Bank estimates that there are 200 million migrants that can use its money transfer services. The bank also has 3 million rural customers who can access the Idea MyCash services. Taking the first initiative towards financial inclusion on a mobile platform, Idea Cellular has partnered with Axis Bank to launch ‘Idea MyCash’-a facility aimed at providing basic banking services, using the mobile platform.

The partnership for this service began 10-11 months earlier, and has been created keeping people at the bottom-of-the-pyramid in the urban and rural areas in mind, who do not have access to a bank account. Thus this mobile-based financial inclusion initiative, besides providing basic banking services like cash deposit, cash withdrawal, and balance enquiry will also enable money transfer between the migrant population in urban areas to their beneficiaries back home. This comes at a cost of `15 per transaction, and can be routed either through the mobile directly, or via an Idea retail outlet. The remittance facility is currently being offered in the Dharavi-Allahabad remittance corridor and will be extended nationally in due course.Speaking at the launch of this service, Shikha Sharma, MD and CEO, Axis Bank, said, “Axis Bank in association with Idea Cellular is offering a branchless banking solution that provides the elements of security, access, and convenience in a cost-effective manner. In the short-term, it can be estimated that there are approximately 100 mn migrants who need such a product, which adds up to `200,000 crore in remittances, making a viable business proposition. In addition, Axis bank has 3 mn rural customers who can use this service and make it profitable, helping us to retain customers. Moreover financial inclusion is important for India’s growth, and while mobile banking helps to retain existing niche customers, ‘Idea MyCash’ will help us to expand our offerings.”

While m-wallet is like a pre-paid telecom card for all services, ‘Idea MyCash’ is an actual bank account powered by the mobile platform. However Idea also plans to expand its offerings for this service, from just the operation of a no-frills account to one that allows for m-wallet, micro-insurance (with a low premium), credit facilities (small loans, etc), repayment, mutual funds, receiving deposits, and similar products, designed according to the specific needs of the target audience.

“With this service, Idea Cellular-Axis Bank have taken the baby steps, demonstrating how commerce will be a game changing experience in India. For financial inclusion to grow however all banks, cellular operators, and the government will have to work together. Idea MyCash, in association with Axis Bank, will ride on our deep-rooted network to make banking services accessible to millions of Indians and include them in the economic development through financial inclusion. This is thus not an exclusive, but an inclusive partnership,” remarked Sanjeev Aga, MD, Idea Cellular.

Axis Bank and Idea had earlier signed an MoU to collaborate in the domain of financial inclusion whereby Idea would act as a ‘business correspondent’ of Axis Bank and distribute the complete range of financial products and services offered by the bank to the un-banked and under banked population segments. Idea retail outlets will act as Customer Service Points (CSPs), as per the agreement.

There is no doubt that this service will also be extended to the 3G platform. “3G can play a positive role in rural areas, and all these services as part of ‘Idea MyCash’ will be available on the 3G platform once Idea launches 3G,” confirmed S P Narayanan, senior VP, marketing, Idea Cellular.

Clearly financial inclusion via the mobile platform is gaining ground, with Nokia and Union Bank of India also announcing its partnership for m-payments in the NCR.

Beryl M