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It's time to shop through cellphones

George Smith Alexander | December 22, 2003

You'll soon be able to make payments for your utility bills and even purchase online by using your debit and credit cards through your cell phone.

At the second stage, you wouldn't need to carry your cards, since your credit card or debit card could be embedded on the phone.

The next nine to 12 months could see a host of different types of cards hitting the Indian shores --f from virtual cards  in cell phones to cards of different shapes and sizes.

In the first phase of m-commerce which is being planned, customers would be able to make all the transactions through their cells which they are now doing through the Internet. In effect, the mobile phone would largely replace the Internet.

The other m-commerce technologies which could be deployed by Visa International along with banks include an e-purse in the SIM card of the mobile or proximity cards where the customers beam in the card number into the point of sale (POS) terminals.

The e-purse is a system where the credit/debit card will be residing on the SIM card. In case of proximity cards, customers need to have a phone with an infrared capability, which is available on higher-end phones only.

"The customers will be able to use their mobile and pay through their debit card/credit card the way they use Internet banking. The customer will be able to authenticate the transaction and he can make bill payments, mobile top-ups and also on-line purchases," says Visa International's regional head consumer and commercial marketing (Asia -Pacific region) Rahul Khosla.

Once the customer requests for a purchase goes through, he will have to punch in the card number, expiry date and the password.

The issuing bank, the mobile operator (who is the merchant) and the acquiring bank (the mobile operators bank) need to get themselves certified by the Verified by Visa protocol.

The Verified by Visa is an authentication service designed to accurately establish parties engaged in the payment transaction. According to Khosla, this technology can be used through either SMS or though WAP.

"We have started speaking to all players --f the issuers, acquirers and the mobile operators," says Visa India's managing director, Santanu Mukherjee. The main target for this technology are debit card holders.

"There is an overlap in customers who use debit card and prepaid cards. In both the cases the numbers are growing," says Khosla.

StanChart's head of credit cards Srinivasan Shyam pointed out that customers are now looking at aesthetics and functionality.

"Large issuers are also looking at mobile on cards in India which may come into the country by the end of 2004. However overseas this has not been a wild fire success. This however has got a good utility," he said.

"ICICI Bank is in talks with various mobile operators to work out a proposition where customers can transact on the mobile. In the future a customer can enable a transaction rather than reporting a transaction," says ICICI Bank's head retail products V Vaidyanathan.

At present, customers can get alerts on their mobiles when a transaction takes place in their accounts or on their credit cards. They also can get check their account balances, check their last few transactions, etc.

In the future, customers could transfer money from one account to the other account or make purchases through their mobile phones.

"All these requires acceptance infrastructure and there is also a market development cost. The main thrust in the country now is on expanding the segment and the category of card usage," added Shyam.

New designs of cards could also hit the market such as translucent cards (see-through cards), luminescent cards, foils and cards of various shapes.

The mini-cards were the first to be launched in the new series of shape.

Both Standard Chartered Bank and ICICI Bank recently launched a mini-card. With mini cards for the first time the card size had been reduced--f it is 43 per cent smaller than the standard card.

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