bKash Is Bangladesh’s M-Pesa


You’ve heard of M-Pesa, but what about bKash?

Bangladesh is probably not where you’d expect to see on of the fastest growing mobile payment networks, but thanks to bKash, basic mobile payments and savings accounts have spread like wildfire over the last three years.

Focused on mass-market mobile financial services, bKash – which was launched in July 2011 – reached 11 million accounts by the end of 2013. That’s phenomenal growth in just a 30 month period, and while Bangladesh offers a strong micro-finance industry, bKash succeeded thanks to its ability to offer up something different. Micro-finance primarily focuses on small-scale unsecured credit, while bKash works like M-Pesa and is used to send payments quickly and easily to others.

It’s been estimated by CGAP that bKash was actually the fastest growing mobile financial services business in the world during 2013.

It’s an interesting case too because it’s not led by a bank or a telco. Instead it’s a purpose built company that’s there to provide mobile financial services, operating on a bank subsidiary with minority investors from outside the banking industry. This has helped bKash grow along lines that wouldn’t ordinarily happen if traditional banking mindsets were in place. It gives them focus on growing the business, instead of using it as another revenue stream, and this means that the potential to be plugged into other systems and expand to other countries is definitely a possibility.

Interestingly, Bangladesh’s central bank has been very kind on bKash. While it actually wants to get into the mobile banking and financial services space, it’s been happy enough with bKash’s offering to be flexible with regulation. Because of this, bKash has been able to gain access to the USSD channels of mobile network operators, and thus provide them with 98 per cent of mobile phone users in Bangladesh.

In all honesty, it’s success is really a product of circumstance. Elsewhere it would be limited in its successes thanks to existing conditions being slightly different. In Bangladesh, however, it’s led to an incredibly fast growth of a new mobile payments service in a fast-growing economy.

[Image: minowata - Flickr]

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