A growing number of mobile phone subscribers is making a strong case for the success of mCommerce, which can be termed as "transacting on the cellphone", a technologically superior cousin of eCommerce.
But how user-friendly is the technology and how safe is it for making transactions? There are two modes to avail mCommerce facilities: First, through a service that enables consumers to easily link their mobile phone with their existing credit card without using any software, and subsequently transact on the Internet, through call centres or over SMS.
Second, is to have a Java or SIM-card client-based service that allows either credit or debit cards to be used via the mobile phone, when making transactions at shops.
Sanjay Swamy, CEO, mChek, says: "With mChek, a user can link a financial instrument (MasterCard/Visa credit cards) and create his own mChekPIN. Subsequently, the user only has to enter the mChekPIN on his mobile phone to authorise and complete a transaction."
Ashish Desai, vice-president (mCommerce), Bharti Telesoft, informs that for the buyer there are different modes to make a payment like USSD, SMS, GPRS, J2ME, STK, IVR and web.
"We are the only provider of the mPayment system where users get an interactive menu-driven interface over USSD, this is very important for emerging markets where high-end handsets are not widely available," Desai adds.
Diarmuid Mallon, senior manager, Sybase 365, says, "Sybase mBanking 365 takes the ease-of-use to the next level with Answers 365 natural language layer."
Traditionally, mobile services have been keyword-based, for example, to check your account balance you send a message like 'ACC 12345678-1'; where ACC is the keyword for 'account balance' and '12345678-1' is your account number.
This works well for one or two services, but as you launch more services the bank's customers are forced to learn more keywords, he says.
According to him, mBanking 365's natural language interface enables consumers to "talk" to their bank in their own words. Now instead of "ACC 12345678-1", you could ask "how much money do I have?", "cash?" or simply "csh".
It even works with txt-speak or misspellings. "And if mBanking 365 is not sure what you are trying to achieve, it can send a help message or even a menu to you," Mallon adds.
"To keep track of transactions, a mini statement facility is made available on the mobile phone. Also, every transaction is recorded in the credit card bill or debit card/bank statement. A web login can also be enabled, so that the subscriber can see the complete transaction history there," he adds.
Balaji Jagannathan, MD, Sybase, says: "In an emerging market like India, mPayment is expected to become a major factor in commerce since alternatives cost more and are less convenient."