Past the jargon - what mobile payment peeps actually do

Written by Liz Galpin Thursday, 13 October 2011 07:23
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Having had a spate of meetings last week where people have made the point that they can’t work out from our web-site what EXACTLY PAYG does, I thought it might be wise to put this blog post together, so here goes…..

A year ago, PAYG wrote a product which allowed Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs), who typically disburse small loans to clients so that they are able to grow their businesses, to keep track of their clients and manage their loan portfolio. There are many, many software houses that provide similar software, and our strategy at the time was to provide some unique features, such as :

-          We developed handset functionality, to enable Field Officers to communicate with the back-end system, so that essential information could be stored and retrieved in real-time. In that way, a Field Officer was always able to find out whether a client owed money, or they could record details such as loans disbursements or loan repayments taken
-          The system was hosted ‘in the cloud’, which meant that the MFIs had no need to invest in their own infrastructure (storage, backups, security)
-          In Kenya, where mobile money is a way of life, we provided a ‘Pay Bill’ interface, which meant that clients could make their loan repayments using their mobile money accounts, we would record the loan repayment and send the customer an SMS confirming that their payment had been received – all accomplished seamlessly.
Whilst rolling out our MFI solution, it became apparent that the system was sufficiently flexible to deal with any situations where a handset out in the field was needed to record data and make enquiries. Here are some examples :
-          Agriculture. Many collection and pick-up points for agricultural produce are in remote areas. Typically handwritten slips are handed out as proof of pick-up, which go astray. Being able to record pick-up or produce and thereby keep track of each farmer’s earnings is invaluable.  Empowering those farmers with cash flow, to allow them to borrow against those deliveries, or to link in with the agro-merchants, so that essential items such as feed, seed and fertilizer could be purchased, was provided as an optional add-on.
-          Logistics / Deliveries. Allowing drivers to record their daily deliveries on a handset enabled a lot less paper-work, as well as automatic reconciliation of daily float / payments. The icing on the cake was to link into a mobile payments platform, so that the driver could dispense with handling cash altogether. Carrying cash always means you are more vulnerable to attack, so doing away with cash insofar as possible can only be a good thing. Taking that a step further, if the customer is able to order the delivery using his mobile phone, that is even better, and allows the deliveries to be planned.
-          The Loan Book, written for the MFI solution, was useful in some, but not all instances.
-          A ‘Shopping’ module was also written to handle those MFIs who were disbursing products and not cash
Then – along came MoWoza (Send Goods Home), an opportunity to help a charity record details about orphans whilst out in the field, and the potential to modify our product to deal with microconsignment models.
-          MoWoza made use of the ‘Shopping’ module and just needed a small amount of configuration to deal with voucher SMSs sent to beneficiaries, notifying them of a parcel they could pick-up.
-          The charity Each Inc wanted to record information about vulnerable children and their parents – that solution only making use of a tiny part of the overall functionality, but wanting a basic handset on which to record basic details, or a tablet / smartphone on which to enter slightly more information per child
-          Microconsignment basically used all the components which had been written, to handle the model whereby micro-entrepreneurs are set up with business opportunities, whereby they sell goods to their local communities. Examples would be solar products or reading glasses. The micro-entrepreneurs do not need a loan in order to kick-start their business, and so the model is slightly different to the MFI one. There is a need to keep track of sales, stocks and monies out in the field, which is where our product fills the gap perfectly.

So – there you have it.

All of the above ‘variations on a theme’ exist on a ‘plug and play’ basis. Our focus continues to be in Africa, and in order for the majority of the solutions to work eloquently, they rely on plugging in of mobile money. All of them CAN be linked to cash-based solutions, but they just deliver so much more benefit when coupled with mobile money. It is therefore pleasing to hear that mobile money continues to grow in popularity, and that other countries, besides Kenya, are starting to benefit from more widespread roll-out of mobile money solutions. Prepay cards work as well; but mobile money probably has the edge

Liz Galpin is the author of the report, Will There Be Another MPESA?.
Last modified on Thursday, 13 October 2011 07:38

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