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Published on October 15th, 2010 | by Arsalan Mir

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Interview: Roar Bjærum, VP Financial Services, Telenor Pakistan





Roar Bjærum, Vice President, Financial Services – Telenor Pakistan

Today marks the anniversary of Telenor Pakistan and Tameer Bank’s joint service easypaisa. The new form of financial service with the tag-line of Badlay Zindigi Aasani Say opened up an innovative product umbrella giving complete convenience and empowerment to individuals.

We got a chance to speak with Mr. Roar Bjærum, Vice President of Financial Service, Telenor Pakistan, where we discussed about the success of easypaisa, the teams approach and their future plans.

TelecomPk: One year of EasyPaisa. How does it feel? Have the team been able to achieve its goals?

Roar Bjærum: The last one year has been a great journey in terms of exploring untouched avenues and setting new standards. As a team, it has been an exhilarating and a challenging course, introducing and establishing the easypaisa product portfolio. We intend on taking it further by reaching a much wider base.

TelecomPk: EP had over 1 million secure transactions worth Rs2 billion in six months. Where does it stand after a year?

Roar Bjærum: With each passing day, easypaisa is increasingly touching the lives of Pakistanis as they transact through our platform. More than a million transactions worth around PKR2 billion have moved through the system in the last month alone. The size of one transaction has now almost doubled from that in the first month of launch, a reflection of our customers’ increased trust in the service. Over the last one year Easypaisa has managed over 6 million transactions worth more than Rs10 billion.

From 2,200 easypaisa outlets last year we have expanded to more than 11,000 outlets in 700 cities across Pakistan. Easypaisa is now available at more locations than the number of bank branches (8,000) in Pakistan.

The services currently offered are:

Money Transfer for  Domestic Remittances: You can send and receive money to and from family, friends, etc from any easypaisa shop in the most efficient, secure and convenient way. You do not have to own a Telenor connection, nor do you need to have a mobile phone at all. Anyone in Pakistan can use it; no registration is required.

International Home Transfer: You can receive money from family and friends from over 80 countries through our Sending Partners. You do not have to own a Telenor connection, nor do you need to have a mobile phone at all. Anyone in Pakistan can use this product; no registration is required and receiving money is completely free.

Bill Payment: This is a hassle-free yet secure solution to pay your Electricity, Gas and Telephone (PTCL) bills. You can easily pay your utility bills from your nearest easypaisa shop, Telenor franchise, Telenor Sales & Service Center, Tameer Microfinance Bank branch or your easypaisa Mobile Account.

Mobile Account: Telenor subscribers can pay bills, transfer money and use many other services from their own mobile phones, anytime, anywhere.

Mobile Top Up: You can purchase prepaid balance and pay postpaid bills anytime anywhere from your own mobile phone. The service is as an alternate recharge channel for customers and is one of its kind in the industry. It is available to all Telenor customers possessing Easypaisa Mobile Accounts.

Donations: These can now be made via easypaisa to Pakistan Red Crescent Society, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust Hospital, SOS Children’s Villages of Pakistan)

TelecomPk: During the initial phase of launch we saw easypaisa ads in regional languages. How effective that approach has been?

Roar Bjærum: Because effective communication with our audience is essential, the use of regional ads is one of the tools we employ to do this. It has been an effective approach, which has resulted in significant impact and extended reach. Also, during the initial phase, although branding of the product was very important, but so was educating customers in terms of usage and socio-economic benefits of the service, to reach audience across urban / social divide, regional language advertisements was one of the tools.

TelecomPk: How do you see easypaisa as compared to other ADCs for UBPs and Money transfers? What makes it different?

Roar Bjærum: Easypaisa stands out from other conventional modes because of its convenience, security, reliability and instantaneity of transactions. More so, it definitely stands out in terms of access throughout the country with agents available at locations far more than total number of bank branches in Pakistan.

TelecomPk: Talking about the use of service. Is it used more in the urban metropolis or in the rural parts of the country?

Roar Bjærum: Easypaisa portfolio consists of products that serve the needs of people across the nation. It is used both in urban and rural areas. Products like Money Transfer, especially, empower domestic immigrants working in urban areas to send money to their family and friends in the rural areas. Although initial uptake was more towards the urban side, with time we have reached high penetration levels in rural areas as well.

TelecomPk: A lot has been said about the complexity and security associated with Money Transfer. What is your observation, are people frustrated by all the steps?

Roar Bjærum: There are certain mandatory requirements from State Bank of Pakistan regarding the Money Transfer product that need to be complied with. We need to ensure that the transactions are reliable and secure for all of our customers and comply to all regulations put in place by State Bank of Pakistan.

TelecomPk: Easypaisa has recently launched an international remittance product – what is it about?

Roar Bjærum: Through the international home transfer product, people in Pakistan can now receive money, free of charge, from friends and family from over 80 countries across the world. No fee is charged to the sending party for remittances equal to or greater than $100, and the service can be availed by anyone in Pakistan, irrespective of a mobile connection. Customers can receive funds at Telenor franchises, sales and service centers and Tameer Bank branches. Currently, easypaisa is working with one sending partner, i.e. Xpress Money; however, more partners will soon be added to the portfolio.

TelecomPk: The EP team appreciated the role of social media played to make users understand the new mode. Has any market research or social media monitoring being done to get first hand user opinions?

Roar Bjærum: Yes, market research is done on a regular basis. A monthly Brand Health tracking tool is used to identify how consumers view the brand; the results have been extremely positive. Additionally, through our strong and active social media presence, we monitor user feedback regularly.

TelecomPk: Although the whole EP concept was new for the consumers. But Mobile Accounts in particular was to serve as a mobile wallet. What is the user response on this? How many of the total transactions done through the mobile wallet?

Roar Bjærum: We regret we are unable to share data related to total transactions as this is business-sensitive in nature. However, Easypaisa mobile account has been well received by customers and its usage is on the rise. From Telenor Pakistan’s perspective, the benefits reaped are not only in terms of people subscribing to the service and using it, but also in terms of increased brand loyalty by the subscribers to Telenor Pakistan brand.

TelecomPk: Easypaisa mobile accounts for other than Telenor subscribers. Is the possibility in consideration?

Roar Bjærum: Easypaisa Mobile Account is only available for Telenor subscribers as a Telenor SIM is a pre-requisite for opening an account.

TelecomPk: Following the one-to-one model as per SBP guidelines. Are you satisfied with the policies? Where do you think improvements are needed? Do you feel that the transaction limits can be revised?

Roar Bjærum: The one–to-one model between Telenor Pakistan and Tameer Microfinance Bank has been a good collaboration in terms of expertise of the two organizations. The transactional limits assigned cater for a number of requirements, such as anti money laundering laws, and are necessary to ensure the requisite due diligence.

TelecomPk: At the distribution/agents front, in particular funds availability with them. What are the difficulties encountered? How are they managed?

Roar Bjærum: Funds availability at the retail level is a challenge. However, various initiatives are helping to minimize the impact. These include a well-thought out selection criteria of easypaisa merchants (i.e. cash-rich merchants) and a strong cash distribution and management.

TelecomPk: Although the deposited fee for Mobile Accounts has been waived off but look at Money transfer, for Rs. 10,000 service charges are Rs. 350. Can service cost be made more economical?

Roar Bjærum: The current service charges have been calculated following consideration of a number of parameters, for example, to make the service available throughout Pakistan, it is important to have an attractive commission model to get reliable easypaisa agents. This is essential to help us maximize convenience to customers.

TelecomPk: 100m mark of Mobile Subscribers to be touched soon. What do you see next in the line for mobile banking?

Roar Bjærum: Crossing the milestone provides us a unique opportunity to reach the unbanked sector of Pakistan and make easypaisa Mobile Account a lifestyle that brings ease and convenience to its customers. We will continue coming up with more and more innovative products because of the flexibility that the bank-led model offers.

TelecomPk: Success factor for Easy Paisa. In one line?

Roar Bjærum: Development of an extensive portfolio, consistent innovation, strong customer focus and the team’s passion for excellence.

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About the Author

is a Telecom enthusiast with engineering background based in Lahore. On professional front, he is the Director Operations at the Target Group. He can be reached at arsalan (at) telecompk (dot) net



6 Responses to Interview: Roar Bjærum, VP Financial Services, Telenor Pakistan

  1. Pingback: World Wide News Flash

  2. Sani says:

    Why can’t we buy from stores, stay in hotels, pay at TCS, eat at restaurants etc. through easypaisa. what use is something that is in your mobile and can only be cased from a retailer???

  3. I hope that they will introduce mobile payment service also soon, where user can use his balance to pay for micro transactions.

    Something like Pakipay.com

  4. Pingback: Interview: Roar Bjærum, VP Financial Services, Telenor Pakistan - BlogOn.pk

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