Vodafone India and ICICI Bank have announced the launch of M-Pesa - a mobile money transfer and payment service - in India saying it is "a move to help approximately 700 million of the country's population who previously had no access to conventional banking."
Following a successful trial, the service will be offered initially through more than 8,300 specially trained and authorized M-Pesa agents in eastern areas of India, including Kolkata, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand, covering a population of around 220 million people. The service will be rolled out across the rest of India in a phased approach.
Marten Pieters, Managing Director and CEO of Vodafone India, said:
For millions of people in India, a mobile phone is a bank account, a front door to a micro-business or a lifeline to people in the remotest areas. Research shows that M-Pesa brings real benefits to users in their daily lives, saving three hours a week of their time and around $3 in money transfer costs - a significant amount to people in some areas.
M-Pesa was originally launched by Vodafone in 2007 and is now available in eight countries, including Kenya, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The service allows customers to send and receive small amounts of money via their mobile phones as securely and simply as sending a text message. Prior to M-Pesa, many people in developing markets had no choice but to move cash around in person or by public transport, exposing them to delays, personal risk and loss of money in certain cases.