Published on November 23rd, 2010 | by Arsalan Mir6
A Tribute to Pakistan
In October the Mobile Financial Services industry saw the announcement if the MMT Award Winners at the MMT Conference in Dubai. Despite the event’s global coverage I was amazed at the countries that made up the majority of the short listed nominations. In the majority of cases Pakistan and Bangladesh were represented, in some cases by two MMT operations. Given my belief in the South Asian markets, I found this quite pleasing. Bangladesh and Pakistan both share similar population, mobile subscriber and banked statistics, both have 160 million plus population. Both share historical similarities for rural and poorer economic innovation. It’s no huge secret that Microfinance was born in Bangladesh with Grameen Bank. All this pointing to ideal markets for Mobile Money to thrive and show the world that Mobile Money doesn’t only work in Kenya. A nation that has continued to be the hot topic, but has continually proven difficult to replicate around the globe.
My personal connection with the markets in South Asia run deeper, as I frequently visit the countries, continually encouraged by their understanding of the market and ability to innovate with entrepreneurial flair and a genuine enthusiasm for doing good for their country. Something that their common neighbour has struggled with for years. Last mile innovations throughout the region, continually look to include everyone by bridging gaps in distribution and logistics that previously prevented big brands from reaching some of the remotest parts of the world. For example, Wikipedia defines Microfinance as “ the provision of financial services to low-income clients or solidarity lending groups including consumers and the self-employed, who traditionally lack access to banking and related services.” But don’t get this confused with charitable models of aid, as Microfinance, particularly in Bangladesh, is a sustainable and growing business benefiting both the credit issuer and those working in the field.
Hence it warms my heart to see two of Fundamo’s quiet achievers receive public recognition for their efforts. MCB Mobile and easypaisa, both in Pakistan have shown the world that Mobile Money can work even with domestic competition, something that Kenya is yet to demonstrate. Both easypaisa and MCB Mobile thrive in an economy that demands innovation at the grass roots level, so simple transactional convenience that developed markets enjoy are translated into the part of the world less fortunate.
Amaar Ikhas, formerly from MCB and his team always welcomed me with open arms, and encouraged me to try ‘real’ local cuisine, see the real Pakistan. Not the one portrayed by the US Media. In my opinion, the team at Telenor (easypaisa) have driven the accelerated maturation of Mobile Money Technology, pushing Solutions providers to raise the bar on the previously experimental state of the market. I know Fundamo has greatly benefited from working closely with forward thinking organisations like MCB & easypaisa.
A huge congratulations goes to MCB Mobile and easypaisa on their recent awards. But not forgetting Access Group, a local Pakistani Solutions company that has been the driver the success of these two and more in Pakistan. I look forward to ongoing developments in Pakistan, as they show the world that innovation can mature in emerging markets. And I was pleased to hear that services like easypaisa would be instrumental in the distribution of relief funds during the recent floods throughout Pakistan
Congratulations to Pakistan!
Scott Bales is the VP of Business Solutions at Fundamo, an Enterprise Mobile Financial Services platform provider that powers businesses such as MTN Mobile Money, MCB Mobile, Celpay, easypaisa and many more. He has strong personal interest in Financial Inclusion through the enablement of innovative technologies. Past roles include the Head of Technology at WING Cambodia and a Mobile Financial Services Consultant with HSL Consulting. Drawing from 10 years’ experience in Financial Services and vast networks across industry, he works with organisations on strategies and plans to establish build and optimize market offerings. He enjoy close relationships with many of the large International Development organizations. Holding a Bachelor of Applied Science, a Grad Dip of IT and a Masters of Business.