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How Was mBanking Successfully Embraced in Bangladesh?

By Guest Writer on February 20, 2015

mBanking

Bringing mBanking to Bangladesh has had many bumps along the road. Before introducing mBanking to Bangladesh, 87% of the population didn’t have a bank account even though many individuals were subscribed to a mobile device. These statistics represented a huge untapped market for commercial banks.

Several years back, establishing bank branches across rural area was not an easy option because of the costs and regulatory constraints the central bank (Bangladesh Bank) only granted maximum of 15 new branch-opening licenses each year.

To address the issue, the country inaugurated mBanking services in 2011. Dutch Bangla Bank Limited (DBBL) and “BRAC Bank Limited” (bKash), enabled millions of banked and unbanked people for different financial services. To get this service individuals had to dial a number for specific service provider (ex: *247# or *322#) from a mobile device, and then they would get different service options on to their mobile screen. By selecting preferable options people could then easily access those services.

There was no need to have an Internet connection to register the mobile number with national ID & user photo to any service provider agent. Within a short amount of time mass amounts of people used this service because it was fast, reliable, and easy to access.

Now in 2015, 19 banks provide mBanking services. Several banks including DBBL, Bangladesh Islamic Bank Ltd, Mercantile Bank Ltd., and BRAC Bank Ltd. has already made strategic alliances with different international money exchanger organizations for receiving remittance from foreign countries.

Existing mBanking Service 

Today a total of 10 banks in Bangladesh are licensed to provide mBanking service, and eight banks have already launched their services. From 2011-2013 there were 442,269 mBanking accounts opened with 9,093 appointed agents. And total value of transactions up to June 2014 has been an astounding $11 billion.

What does modern mBanking service in Bangladesh offer? The services include:

  • Air-Time Top Up – By this service any mobile user can recharge their balance for calls or SMS. To get the service they have to dial specific service provider numbers, select an operator, mention a mobile number, and take several other steps. Within a minute the individual will receive their required balance.
  • Utility & Institutional Payments – People can pay their utility bill or other bills by this service. In addition parents can also pay their children’s school or university tuition fees, and the schools will just charge the individuals an additional fee.
  • Fund Transfer and International Remittance – People can also transfer money from their mobile account to another mobile, but obviously the user has to have sufficient balance in their own mobile account.

Conclusion

Some conventional users don’t felt that they should use it, and they are happy to continue using a traditional banking system. But in a marketing perspective, we can say that those who did not open a mBanking account yet are still potential customers for the future.

mBanking started with the idea to bring the unbanked people under the umbrella of the online banking sector, especially for rural areas as there are not enough physical banking facilities. And this project of doing so has been rather successful. Since Mobile Banking is a new technology in Bangladesh, it needs promotional activities and greater awareness to inform potential customers.

In addition, to make mBanking service sustainable, I’d advise the following:

  • Revise the service charge for facilities
  • All the facilities should be in native language (Bangla) as well as in English
  • Identify rural areas where telecom network is yet not sufficient
  • Introduce a service monitoring team
  • Establish a separate call centre for questions
  • Create a more efficient ICT policy for all banks

Mobile banking has gradually made life easier in Bangladesh, and not only for people in urban areas, but especially those in rural areas. It is a growing service people are learning to trust in over time, and I’m excited to see what the future has to offer.

Written by Mehdi Hasan, a Monbukagakusho Scholar who earned his Master of Science in ICT4D at the Kobe Institute of Computing in Japan. He is a former Software Engineer for BRAC and a former IT Specialist for ICT Policy Evaluation at WHO. You can reach him by email here.

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