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[January 21, 2013]


(Pakistan & Gulf Economist Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) PAGE: WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE YOUR VISION BEHIND INTRODUCING BRANCHLESS BANKING SERVICES, AND THE FUTURE OUTLOOK OF THIS NEWLY INTRODUCED FINANCIAL SERVICES IN PAKISTAN ANIQA: Being the largest telecom operator in Pakistan , Mobilink strives to provide its customers with the best services. Mobilink has the experience to serve the masses spread across the country. With a subscription base of over 36 million users and a 200,000 distribution network, Mobilink can cater to a large segment of the unbanked population in Pakistan . We would be providing our customers with an additional service which would add convenience to their lives. Keeping in mind the fact that branchless banking would grow exponentially in the coming years; Mobilink aims to be the leading mobile banking solution provider in Pakistan in the next three years.

PAGE: HOW DO YOU COMPARE THE GROWTH OF BRANCHLESS BANKING IN PAKISTAN WITH THE MARKETS LIKE KENYA , SOUTH AFRICA AND PHILIPPINES ANIQA: All three markets are very different if we compare the demographics, banked population as well as the regulatory regime around branchless banking. While Philippines launched Mobile Financial Services before Kenya, Kenya has been a bigger success primarily because of lack of banking regulations for this category, single operator market (at the time of launch of MFS) and the need to address the unbanked segment. Branchless banking in Pakistan was slow to take off but has been performing extraordinarily in the last year or so. Branchless banking in Pakistan is rated as a big success globally and this is just the start. We have a very competitive market in addition to having governing regulations which will ensure customer security along with mass availability at a very fast pace.

PAGE: HOW DO YOU SEE THE ROLE OF BRANCHLESS BANKING IN PROVIDING FINANCIAL INCLUSION TO THE UNBANKED ANIQA: The banking penetration in Pakistan is only about 12%. 88% of the total population currently does not have access to the formal financial sector. Branchless banking provides an alternative financial solution to that segment of Pakistani market which traditionally lacks access to the formal banking sector. Branchless banking aims to provide access to the unserved banking segment of the population and hence would be a key driver of financial inclusion.

PAGE: AS TO HOW MOBICASH SERVICES SET ITSELF APART FROM ITS COMPETITORS ANIQA: Mobilink has been the leader in offering GSM services to its customers and we would carry the same values and convenience for the customers through Mobicash. As the largest telecom operator in the country, Mobilink offers a strong channel which enables us to have a large spread of agents across the country. Having the largest consumer base, we can offer our services to a maximum number of people. Security and reliability has been built into our system as these two factors are of great concern to the customer when conducting financial transactions. Mobicash would be a complete financial solution for customers offering trust and reliability as a building block.

PAGE: WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES THAT MOBICASH HAS FACED IN PROVIDING MOBILE BANKING SERVICES TO THE PEOPLE OF PAKISTAN ANIQA: As with any growing sector, Branchless banking faces its own set of challenges. It is the marriage between the financial and the telecom sectors and hence establishing that has been a challenge. In addition to that given Pakistan's geographic stretch, one of the biggest challenges has been to build the agent network which enables the customer to conduct over the counter transactions complying with financial regulations. However, having said that the opportunity in this category is huge and these are mere hurdles which would/have been settled and the overall benefit to the customer outpaces the challenges.

PAGE: HOW SUPPORTIVE IS THE REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT IN PAKISTAN FOR MOBILE BANKING ANIQA: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) which is the regulator for branchless banking in Pakistan has been very supportive to us and to all the players in the market. SBP has created an inclusive environment when it comes to policy making, taking suggestions and feedback from all the operators and incorporating them. It is one of the most advanced in the world where the regulations were introduced before any service had launched and hence set the expectations for all the players in the value chain.

PAGE: WHAT ROLE DID THE GOVERNMENT PLAY IN MAKING A PROGRESSIVE ENVIRONMENT FOR MOBICASH SERVICES ANIQA: The government has been pro investment, especially in the telecom sector. The government, through the regulators has encouraged branchless banking in the country by providing attention to the sector.

PAGE: HOW DOES BRANCHLESS BANKING CONTRIBUTE TOWARDS THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ANIQA: As Pakistan is a developing country, access to financial services would help it grow more rapidly. Keeping in mind the demographics of our country such as literacy rate and income, Branchless Banking is ideal for these people as it does not require formal education to use as well as the costs associated with Branchless Banking are lower. The people would not have to depend on informal channels like 'hundi' and 'hawala' for financial transactions which would prevent corruption and improve financial transparency.

PAGE: WHAT ARE THE SALIANT FEATURES OF YOUR MOBICASH AND ITS COMPETITIVENESS IN THE MARKET ANIQA: Mobilink is the oldest and the most established telecom company operating in Pakistan right now. As a market leader, Mobilink has the largest customer base in Pakistan serving more than 36 million customers for the GSM business. Mobicash offers secure financial access to its customers, capitalizing on Mobilink's customer base. Along with that, Mobilink currently has the largest distribution network, with more than 200,000 retailers across Pakistan which enables greater reach. Like I mentioned earlier, we plan to make this a complete financial solution product for the customers built on trust and reliability and that would be the Salient feature of Mobicash.

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