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Nokia Money: Is India ready to switch to mobile payments?

Last updated on: December 21, 2011 19:21 IST

Nokia Money: Is India ready to switch to mobile payments?

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Kul Bhushan, ThinkDigit.com

Nokia Money works with basic feature phones. It allows most basic monetary transactions ranging from mobile top-ups to ticket booking, without the necessity of having a bank account. But are we ready?

It is quite surprising that while several established banks and marketing companies offer a raft of services, most are not actively looking to cash in on an important, and soon to be vital, part of any business: the ability to make and accept mobile payments. Mobile payments are now becoming an increasingly vital tool in a business' armoury.

It is projected that mobile payments are going to replace plastic, or even hard currency, as the primary medium of monetary exchange in the next five years. This particular method is poised to change the way consumers buy goods and services.

Quite a few banks have their payment apps for smartphones. However, in a country like India the concept of apps will not work for the masses, several payment solution providers are seeking to address this problem. Nokia, the manufacturer of some of the most widely used mobile phones in the country, is also seeking to address the issue with its recently launched mobile payment service, Nokia Money.


Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters

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Nokia Money works with basic feature phones and allows most basic monetary transactions ranging from mobile top-ups to ticket booking, without the necessity of having a bank account.

Nokia's mobile wallet service is aimed at rural India, where most of the people do not have a bank account or don't own a smartphone, personal computer or credit/debit cards.

Nokia also aims to simplify lives of people by giving them a secure and convenient method of paying their utility bills. Prior to the launch, Nokia had conducted a successful field test for about a year in areas such as Pune, Nashik and Chandigarh. The company partnered with YES Bank and Union Bank of India to provide the service.

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Photographs: Reuters

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How Nokia Money works?

As mentioned earlier, you do not need to have a bank account to avail the Nokia Money services. All you have to do is visit a local authorised Nokia retailer, who will embed the service into your phone. Then you have to pay cash to the agent and get the digital cash transferred to your phone via an instant SMS message.

There are two types of accounts you can opt for: Easy Pay and Easy Send.

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Image: A man speaks on a mobile phone amid sacks filled with wheat and rice inside the market yard of the Agriculture Product Marketing Committee (APMC) on the outskirts of the western Indian city of Ahmedabad November 25, 2010. India's food price index rose 10.15 percent, government data on Thursday showed.
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters

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Easy Pay is the basic version of the service in which you can pay and settle utility bills, phone top-ups, insurance premiums and tickets among other payments through a SMS.

Easy Send is however a more sophisticated account and includes additional services in addition to those provided by Easy Pay. In this process, sign up is required and you may need to furnish proofs for ID, signature and address. Besides the basic monetary transaction, Easy Send lets you send money to other Nokia Money users. You can also use the service as ATM and pay money to retailers, who are member of the service.

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Photographs: Nokia.com
Tags: ATM , SMS , Nokia Money , India

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Nokia Money: Key points

  • To avail Nokia Money, you need not have a bank account
  • Nokia Money is independent of network carriers and individual banking networks
  • The service works without any kind of KYC documentation
  • Nokia Money works with almost every Nokia phone. The feature comes pre-installed in various Nokia phones including Nokia 100, and 101
  • You do not need set up an Internet connection to run this service. However, while registering for the service, you can opt between SMS and Internet
  • This way you have the flexibility of using the service even on an Internet data plan. You can also use Nokia Money via GPRS
  • You have an option of choosing/subscribing to either Union Bank Money or YES Bank Mobile Money Services
  • Nokia Money can be used for varied functions, such as topping up mobile account of family members
  • Nokia Money is reportedly being tested using NFC devices and NFC chips. We can expect Nokia Money to run on NFC in near future
  • It is not clear whether this service can be used on handsets manufactured by other manufacturers or not, though watblog.com says Nokia Money works on all handsets

Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

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Nokia Money: Challenges ahead

A majority of the Indian population deal with cash and cheque. In fact, there is no mature credit card culture in India, though it is starting to proliferate its way into metro cities. Nokia aims to cater to rural India but we're a little unsure if rural masses will turn up in droves to register for such an m-payment mode. Awareness about the service is likely to play a key role.

Another major hurdle for such SMS-based system is the quality of mobile network in India, which goes on deteriorating in the rural and remote areas.

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Image: A staff member displays a Nokia N9 smartphone at a news conference in Espoo, June 21, 2011.
Photographs: Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva/Reuters

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Call drops/poor network/unsent SMSes are a pretty common thing. And at times SMSes are not received immediately, which Nokia Money requires.

Undoubtedly, m-payment is the future. India is also one of the largest markets in the world for feature phones. Such a service certainly has the potential to help a large number of Indians, who can only afford budget phones.

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Photographs: Albert Gea/Reuters

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