Bangladesh warming to m-banking
Mobile banking services in Bangladesh are gaining popularity by the day, having impressively clocked in over six lakh subscribers in only a year.
Mobile banking, or m-banking for short, enables banking services like balance checks, domestic and international fund transfers, credit applications, bill payments and so on through mobile devices.
Dutch Bangla Bangladesh Ltd (DBBL), with support from Citycell and Banglalink, first introduced m-banking in Bangladesh on March 31, 2011.
A maximum of Tk 10,000 can be sent at a time and Tk 25,000 a month via mobile banking.
Das Gupta Asim Kumar, an executive director of Bangladesh Bank, feels m-banking has great potential in bringing in unbanked and rural populations under the banking umbrella.
There are more than nine crore mobile subscribers in the country, while only 15 to 20 percent of the population use banking services.
“So if the unbanked people, who happen to be mobile users, are drawn in through the m-banking channel, it would be beneficial for all,” said Asim Kumar.
He said that 22 banks have been given the approval to run mobile banking, of which 14 have already introduced the service to their customers.
BRAC Bank and DBBL have done very well, while Bank Asia is catching up fast, said Asim Kumar.
“We are encouraging banks to sign agreements with corporate offices and garment factories to provide workers' salaries through mobile phones.”
Md Badshah Alam, a professional car driver in Dhaka, said he often sends money, especially to his village, by mobile.
“When I send money it takes no time at all. The money goes with the SMS and the charge is less than courier services,” said Alam about the efficiency of m-banking.
He further said a friend of his even uses m-banking to pay restaurant bills.
Kamal S Quadir, chief executive officer of bKash, an m-banking service of BRAC Bank and Money in Motion, USA, said they have more than 10,000 agents countrywide to serve the 425,000 registered subscribers. However, 20 percent of the subscribers actively use the service.
“bKash is handling 30,000 customers a day on an average,” he said.
The bank charges Tk 2 per transaction when the receiver encashes the money, while the average per transaction is Tk 1,120, said the bKash CEO.
bKash has signed corporate agreements with seven organisations, including Robi, to provide salary to the their local officials, Quadir said.
The country's many mega shops, too, have introduced the service.
“All kinds of utility bills can be paid through the service. But people are still apprehensive of using their devices for anything beyond the core mobile services,” Asim Kumar said.
“Educating people about the security and efficiency of m-banking is the biggest challenge.”
The Daily Star/Bangladesh/ 20th June 2012