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The Sim and the Bank

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An untapped Rs. 150 billion market with 2 million merchants are figures that most definitely spell opportunity in many different versions. Omar Moeen Malik, head of digital payments of Telenor Bank has some experience with these numbers.

Telenor Pakistan’s first foray into digital payments was back in 2009, when they offered EasyPaisa mobile banking to customers through Tameer Bank. At the time, the offering allowed customers to pay their bills and transfer money locally and internationally. The company realized early on that most of the unbanked population needed a way to send domestic remittances to their family. EasyPaisa allowed relatively simple transactions through SMS.

Within just a few months of the service’s launch, Telenor recorded 420,000 remittances.

“Change is happening as we speak all thanks to the economical smartphones in the market,” says Omer. Cheaper, more innovative smartphones have resulted in a growing population to gain access to a powerful service device. 3G/4G only created new opportunities for mobile networks to offer digital payment solutions.

By this time, Telenor was in the perfect position to do what was needed. They already had a 51% stake in Tameer Bank, the next logical step was to provide a full range of banking services. Telenor finally acquired Tameer Bank in March 2017, renaming it Telenor Bank.

If internet levelled the playing field back in its early days, 3G/4G has only accelerated the excitement further. Banking regulations had no choice but to follow the change by allowing internet banking to be done with more lax KYC regulations. “With the inclusion of the mobile phone into the internet banking ecosystem, the biometric verification has already been taken care of. That is the KYC!” exclaims Omer.

Today, Telenor has 75,000 shops digitized today. Compared to the 30,000 shops for plastic cards, the race to acquire the remaining 2 million merchants is on its way. While it the customer base continues to grow as the need is realized, regulatory bodies still need to simplify and reduce the time it takes for a merchant to be approved. That’s where the real challenge resides as of now. “A year ago, we only had a hundred transactions a day on our platform. Right now, we’re touching 2000 per day.”

The saying is true: build it and they will come. Smart Banking is about convenience, speed and integrity. Build it, prove it, and they will come.. and keep coming back.

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