Is Bharti Airtel’s ‘semi closed wallet’ the next big thing?

New developments have been made in the mCommerce market in India where Bharti Airtel became the first mobile operator in India to get a license from the RBI to begin with mobile payment services, reported Hindu Business Line.

Semi Closed Wallet-The service

• The service called a Semi Closed Wallet will for now allow only the Airtel subscribers to exchange physical cash for virtual money.
• A user can store his phone with prepaid cash and pay for goods and services but only for transactions of value Rs 5,000 or less.
• Also, the service would work with only a specified number of merchant locations .
• Users would not be able to withdraw cash or redeem it through the service.

Some keytakeaways

Where Bharti Airtel is still evaluating its options and has not announced an exact time for the launch of the service; marketers are busy weighing the pros and cons. The model might or might not work in India for now. With the creation of mobile payments as a category in India, the model if wisely imparted to the remote and rural areas of India can be of amass importance.

But on the other hand, the service would only work in outlets that have a tie-up with Airtel. For these outlets to make inroads into the rural markets can also pose a challenge. Also, from a perspective of a rural consumer these outlets might not only be far but also out of the reach of this section. Though big retailers are more likely to invest in their mobile sites post this announcement, the small retailers may still shirk away. With over 600 million mobile subscribers in India, the concept of mobile money can generate a lot of business as 46% of these mobile users don’t have a bank account and could be targeted for these services.

The Game of mCommerce

Bharti Airtel might be the Big Bang for the mcommerce market in India but over the last two years, there already are a lot of companies exploring this segment in one or the other way. Players like OnMobile and MChek offer mobile ticketing, bill payment and shopping services to the consumers while JiGrahak Mobility Solutions offers a mobile commerce service called ngpay which is essentially an eBay on your mobile. Nokia partnered with Yes Bank to offer utility bill payment services while Visa recently announced its plans to launch a joint venture with Monitise for India.

The concept of mobile coupon is also catching fast and tells a different story than the redemption value of paper coupons. What we need to watch out for is how and if Bharti Airtel would combine all the services already available to give a boost to their new venture or would ride alone in the virtual money lane.