TARGETING MIGRANTS

Shanthi, a native of Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, working as an assistant in the famous retail shop Rathna Stores, is excited that she can now instantly send money to her family back home using her mobile phone.

The telecom operator Aircel has joined ICICI Bank to help thousands of migrants like Shanthi to send instant money through the Mobile Money banking service.

There are nearly 10 lakh migrants in Chennai from Tirunelveli. They work mostly in major retailers such as Rathna Stores and Saravana Stores. Traditionally, these people used to send money to their family through friends and relatives. However, in case of an emergency they even send it through truck drivers and bus drivers who charge a commission.

13 outlets

However, through Mobile Money, Aircel and ICICI Bank have jointly set up 13 outlets in Chennai’s T. Nagar (a busy business locality where most of the people from Tirunelveli work) and around 30 centres (business correspondents) in Tirunelveli. “A person deposits the money with the ‘business correspondent’ in T. Nagar and transfers it to a relative or a friend back home through mobile,” said Geoff King, Head, Mobile Banking, Aircel.

An SMS is sent about the money transfer to the recipient, who collects the amount from the ‘business correspondent’ on showing the message and through a secured password. On an average, a migrant sends around Rs 800 a month, he told newspersons.

The service was launched today to connect Chennai with Tirunelveli. Aircel plans to launch the service across the country during the year. It will identify places in West Bengal, Bihar and Assam that send a large number of workers to other places, he said.

Mobile Money, which is run on Visa's mobile managed service, has been launched with a range of financial services such as cash deposits, cash withdrawals and money transfer to third parties, he said.

Mobile Money aims to meet the financial needs of India’s ‘unbanked’, a majority of whom face many hurdles in managing their finances. This includes reliability of intermediaries, distance of banking infrastructure and financial illiteracy.

On signing up, customers will be able to use Mobile Money service instantly on any mobile phone even without a data connection service. A customer need not have an account with ICICI Bank. Once signed on, the customer will be automatically directed to the bank, he said.

Commission

The commission on each transaction will be 1-1.5 per cent while in other forms, including post office, it is nearly 5 per cent. In fact, sending through a truck or bus driver can even attract a commission of nearly 10 per cent, said King.

All the necessary regulatory permissions, including Reserve Bank of India, have been acquired for the new service. A person can send a minimum of Rs 100 to a maximum of Rs 50,000 through Mobile Money. However, the maximum limit is Rs 2 lakh a year, he said.

raja.simhan@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 5, 2013)
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