Airtel gets RBI nod for the mwallet

Today’s announcement is big news for not only the mcommerce folks in the country but also for people in Telecom, Retail and Payments industry. This approval allows Airtel to act as a semi-closed loop operator for pre-paid transactions. The Customers can now deposit upto Rs5000/- with Airtel (not to be clubbed with talktime) and can then use this money to buy goods and services at Airtel partner stores.

While its too early to say how this would grow, its very clear that there are certain pockets which might show early adoption tendencies

– Customers without debit or credit cards & wishing to transact online

– Customers concerned about the security of carrying cash or plastic in the wallet

– Parents wanting to give some financial freedom to their kids but not comfortable with just cash or add-on cards

– Impulse purchases by consumers when they are not carrying enough cash or cards in their pockets. This will definitely be the preferred way to promote impulse buying in young spenders

The critical thing to note is that the RBI has not yet allowed peer-to-peer payments through this channel. While some say that the current mobile wallet is the first step in that direction, globally it has been seen that P2P mobile payments help increase the adoption. For the simple reason that P2P payments are inherently viral whereas C2B are not.

One more aspect is that aggregators are not allowed currently- or so I am told. Which means that a retailer who wants to accept mwallet payments from Airtel, Vodafone & Reliance customers would need to deal with 3 different players and systems. There will be no VISA or MasterCard equivalent (atleast for now) making their lives easier. When they allow this, its a space we would be very interested in.