A navigation guide into one of the most complex markets for Digital Money in the world

 

Focus on India Series : Having recently completed our in-market analysis of the emerging payments market in India, I’m confident in saying the country represents one of the world’s most complex, yet promising, battlefields for digital money. India is poised on the brink of a huge economic transformation and making money digital is a crucial part of the solution.

 

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Digital money has a tremendous future in India, and I see a convergence of several factors that combine to create an unstoppable wave. Yet for this country of over a billion people, of which May 2014 World Bank estimates show 179.6 million live below the poverty line, money is going digital in a variety of ways and the savvy providers need to recognise this in order to make their business models work.

 

 

 

India’s Demographic Dividend

Even when services are designed to appeal to the under-banked, providers cannot take their eyes off India’s rapidly growing, massive and youthful middle class. Even if one assumes only 30% of the population of India’s population of 1.2 billion is reachable, this is still a sizable 360 million, considerably larger than the 5.4 million population of Singapore and 7 million of Hong Kong, for instance. By 2015, India’s middle class is expected to be in excess of 267 million. What is more interesting is the trajectory, as the size of the middle class (monthly household income ₹ 20,000-100,000)  was a mere 25 million in 1996.

 

Precipitating Factors

I grew up in India, travelled around the country for the introduction of MICR and worked with RBI, SBI and several banks in India to help computerise different areas of banking, in my early work at Wipro and my own company Visionix. More recently I have personally visited the country to attempt to implement financial services since 2006. It was, to say the least, a test of endurance. However, many recent developments favour payments going non-cash and give me cause to believe that 2015 will be an important year for India.

Firstly, mobile penetration is remarkable and is aided by the September release of budget Android One smartphones that appeal to a highly price-sensitive market.

Secondly, a highly thrifty, large population desperately needs convenient ways to save and spend.

And, last but not least is the will of the government. The recent meeting between Mark Zuckerberg and Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlights the opportunity that digitally connecting remote villages presents to businesses around the world from a wide variety of perspectives.

 

Evidence on the ground

The cash-centric Indian economy is at last moving towards non-cash payments. By end of September 2014 more than 53 million new bank accounts were added in India to disburse benefits and social security to recipients. This is one example of initiatives from the Modi government, strongly backed by the Reserve Bank of India led by Governor Raghuram Rajan.

India’s US$4 billion e-commerce market is set to soar to US$20 billion by 2020.2 E-commerce is being driven by cheap handsets and mobile data plans that enable consumers to buy from their increasingly smart mobile devices.

 

Born Digital Money

As in Africa, mobile money is poised to strongly support financial inclusion goals. But there is more.

In my book “The Digital Money Game” I describe how people expect a whole package of services across online, mobile, social and local situations, creating a multitrillion-dollar industry worldwide. India’s market is a perfect example and consumers are demanding convergent financial services from the start, as opposed to the mobile-centric services that took off in Africa.

This requires, for instance, the ability to provide a service not just using mobile phones but through multiple channels and the ability to offer not just one service but many. Our research this year confirmed that this is needed to compete in emerging markets, and India is a prime example.

 

Reaching previously unreachable markets

Underpinning the non-cash transformation is Aadhaar, the world’s largest biometrics project that goes across all segments of the population. This paves the way for middle-class consumers to make payments to their domestic help, for instance, while also using their new wallets to pay for higher-value airline tickets, goods and services. The rise of mobile Internet access aided by smartphone penetration is bringing young and highly connected shoppers online and is creating conditions for prepaid and digital wallets to thrive.

India’s 1.25 billion people are spread across 29 states and seven union territories and, as a consequence, the complexity of the market has been likened to that of all the European markets put together. Marketing in this highly fragmented environment is challenging due to differences in regulations, income, religion and culture and, notably, the lack of government-issued identification. With just 58% of Indians registered at birth, it’s no wonder that India is the largest user of cash among all emerging countries. With little to no ability to verify their identities, unsurprisingly, just 48% of people have access to bank accounts and traditional payment cards.

 

The emergence of Cash-on-Delivery (COD)

Around 20% of Indians have Internet access, so online sales have only just begun to grow, but the opportunity is immense, particularly as consumers look for ways to digitize cash. So far Indian consumers have not given up their reliance on cash to shop online. Instead, cash-on-delivery (COD)—a uniquely Indian phenomenon—has penetrated many urban markets. This involves consumers ordering online and paying for the goods when they’re delivered, generally at home. Flipkart popularized this convenient way for consumers to shop online with confidence and without plastic cards, and the company has been rewarded with wave after wave of investment.

 

In pursuit of Cash-before-delivery

But launching truly digital money services requires that players connect the dots between the online and mobile worlds and the offline world. As the Indian e-commerce market matures, COD is giving way to CBD (cash-before-delivery). COD has caused some problems for e-commerce merchants because many consumers refuse to accept items on delivery, after the initial flush of an impulse buy has faded. To meet the demand of merchants and to fit into the increasingly mobile-centric consumer lifestyle of Indian consumers, mobile wallets and prepaid payment instruments have flooded the Indian market and challenged the prevailing COD model.

 

Connecting the dots

Our studies show that global e-commerce companies are busily pursuing their strategies to enter this nascent market and rub shoulders with the home-grown services, both categories of players must be mindful of competition from outside their immediate vision.

For e-commerce players, digital money solutions that incorporate CBD will be critical. The race is on between Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal. So far Amazon, which recently invested US$2 billion in India, spent this Diwali in hot pursuit of Flipkart consumers. Meanwhile Flipkart shut its payment gateway Payzippy within a year of launch and its recent acquisition, Ngpay, is expected to provide the next platform for its attempt to extend into digital money.

As what we term as a new “nationalised liberalisation” emerges and global players ramp up investment, taking advantage of new ease of doing business in India, Shift Thought offers a range of consulting services, research and portal access that offer timely and vital knowledge on how to navigate the still murky waters of building new brands in India.

 

Shift Thought offers a Navigation Guide

Recently released Shift Thought research explains why and how e-commerce strategies must evolve to compete in the new digital money industry. Our report provides facts and figures not just on the mobile wallet services that have been launched—and the unique way in which prepaid services are taking off—but on the whole set of services we term digital money. I believe that is the game that global providers will need to get right to capture the new opportunities presented by the Indian market.

Our Digital Money in India 2014 Viewport released this month explains how the competitive landscape is unfolding in India, with case studies of how providers are creating unique solutions, and this article is part of our Focus on India Series through which we share highlights of our research.

Whether you are interested in taking up the challenge of entering the market, or simply wanting to know more about what’s happening, just drop us a line today at contact@shiftthought.com and we will be delighted to talk you through some of the key trends that affect you and the various options available through which we can help.

 

Join us to discuss this further and add your valuable comments at my post on LinkedIn

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Some parts of the blog have been published in my blog “India’s E-Commerce Boom Paves Way for Digital Money” on PAYbefore Op-Ed. 

 


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How Apple play affects The Digital Money Game

Now that Apple Pay is here, how does it affect the projects in your pipeline? Which should you drop, where should you invest more and who should you look to partner next? We are at the cusp of the creation of a new ecosystem. But will Apple Pay fare better than Google Wallet did when it first launched in May 2011? There is a feeling of Déjà vu and Let’s Wait and See. For Apple as well, Apple Watch was No. 1 – payments was No. 2.

So is this going to ignite NFC payments? How will things change? The short answer is I don’t think anyone knows yet. We’ll what are the mobile operators thinking now – we all know Verizon was not a cheer leader for the Google Wallet. What is PayPal thinking? What if Walmart does not come around?

Why is this important?

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The major factor for any new payment service is adoption. So far adoption of NFC has been a 10-year war between the banks and the mobile operators and has struggled to gain traction.

Then in 2011 we had the entry of the Google wallet, and each of the card schemes with their own wallets. Still consumers and merchants failed to adopt. While contactless cards have gradually crept into use, paying by phone continues to prove elusive, for a variety of reasons, with one of the main ones claimed to be lack of handsets, customer security concerns and business model.

Apple has 800 million customers as “card on file”. Additionally the API will be available to developers. Merchant support has already been announced: Integration with Uber, a food app from Panera, Major League Baseball's app to order tickets from your phone, and Open Table to pay your bill from your iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. Apple API to be offered in iOS 8 to allow app developers to integrate Apple Pay into their applications.

Apple has a following, so is not dependant on mobile operators to push their phones, however operator subsidies that could be as high as $500 help make them affordable. The rapid adoption of smartphones across the world has changed the balance of power. Certainly in the US, Apple is Top Dog as a smartphone manufacturer, with 42.1% OEM market share as of June 2014 according to comScore reports.

However while in the US and Europe Samsung and Apple dominate, the share of both providers has been dropping in emerging markets where we see a fragmentation emerging. In urban China, Xiaomi with its affordable RedMi model continues to go from strength to strength, securing a 27% share of smartphone sales in the second quarter of 2014, compared with 21.1% for Samsung. And payments by watch + iPhone cannot be a top priority for the masses in emerging markets.

Too little too late?

So far Apple was a late starter where contactless payments are concerned. Like a swan, the movement seemed to be more “under-water”, as news of patents obtained for motion based payments got out in January 2013. Apple obtained a US Patent for a digital wallet and virtual currency. It described a system of managing credits via mobile device. Mobile users would be able to receive credits or coupons stored in their account. Check out Patently Apple for the whole background.

Back in June 2013 Apple released its first mobile commerce platform, called the iCloud Keychain: consumers could an store a variety of information, such as passwords and financial details for use across several Apple devices (Mac, iPhone or iPad) to log into websites or make purchases online. The platform did not support NFC and existed as an application rather than a physical device.

Earlier in June 2012, the Apple bar-code-based Passbook mobile wallet was launched, as a basic mobile wallet without payment functions, using barcodes to store and represent multiple boarding passes, store cards, and movie tickets. It had location-enabled alerts, and real-time updates and it displayed passes based on a specific time or location. When consumers walk into a participating shop the loyalty card appears and can be scanned to pay or check balance. It was expected that this could evolve into a mobile payment service by linking the Passbook to customer credit cards and iTunes accounts.

Effect on the Digital Money Game

Contactless payments that Apple Pay now propose to offer comes as a reinforcement

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A word about the format of The Digital Money Game

Thanks very much for your kind support and interest in The Digital Money Game. I am deeply touched.

A number of you have asked whether you could have a printed copy. I wanted to explain why we chose to publish an e-book, how to get it no matter where you are worldwide, and how to use it and get updates.

First of all I do strongly empathize with your sentiments. I myself love to have a physical book to hand. But…

  • I could hardly write a book that advocates the ‘7C’s of digital money and then ignore those when publishing the book. That would be inconsistent.
  • I want the book to be available at a price point that is accessible to everyone across the world as I want this to be a resource that people pick up when they are making life choices about their career.
  • I want to be able to update it frequently as this is such a fast changing space, and have the new version made available to existing customers. So don’t be surprised when you get an e-mail from Amazon notifying you that an update is available. It is FREE and all you will need to do is enable updates on your reader.
  • And most important of all, I had to get it out fast to every part of the world. That is where Amazon Kindle really comes into its own. You should be able to download it in minutes, no matter where you are.

You do not need to have a Kindle device. Just download the free Kindle reading app. The Kindle for PC supports you in reading the book on your computer.

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Some of you felt that they were unable to buy on Amazon. I have received an assurance from the Amazon team that customers living in countries without a localized Amazon website can order it on www.amazon.com. No matter where you are it should be accessible to you.

When you get to Amazon, if it says “Pricing information not available” , please look to the right of the page. You should see a box similar to the one below. This will direct you to the appropriate website for you.

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We are not ruling out the possibility of offering printed copies. Once we have a few more books in the series out, if there is sufficient demand and we can find a way of making it affordable we shall certainly consider this.

Meanwhile thanks again, and please don’t hesitate to write to me or drop us an email at contact@shiftthought.com  in case you have any questions. I hope you enjoy the book and greatly look forward to your feedback.

We will discuss your questions and feedback at The Digital Money Group on LinkedIn and you are all very welcome to join us there.

For background on this post please see Why I wrote The Digital Money Game.

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Blog #3: What is digital money?

In my last blog I identified a couple of building blocks necessary when discussing “who will win the digital money game”. In this blog I will establish the first, which is a working definition of digital money.

There are probably as many definitions of digital money as there are people defining it, but most definitions can be classified according to the perspective used by the person providing the definition. Our research in Shift Thought shows that there are four major perspectives, the interface perspective, the characteristics perspective, the operations perspective and the ecosystem perspective.

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Blog #2: What is the digital money game?

In my last blog I raised the question “Who will win the digital money game” and discussed why the question was relevant. Through this series of blogs we will develop an answer to that question. In order to do so, it is first necessary to put some building blocks in place.

  1. The first is a working definition of digital money.
  2. The next is a working understanding of the digital money game.

Each of these merit a blog in themselves. So here is a sneak preview of what is to come.

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