Sri Lanka Etisalat unit mulls mobile phone banking

March 05, 2010 (LBO) – Etisalat’s new Sri Lankan mobile subsidiary is in talks with banks to offer financial services on mobile phones, such as money transfers for migrant workers in the Middle East, a senior company official said.
Riyaaz Rasheed deputy chief executive of Etisalat Lanka said the mobile operator is seeking to tie-up with banks to offer the financial services.

“We’re already talking to two of the biggest banks in Sri Lanka,” he told LBO. Rasheed declined to identify the banks, citing non-disclosure agreements signed with them.

Etisalat, the United Arab Emirates-based telecom firm, acquired 100 percent of the Sri Lanka operation called Tigo from Millicom International in October 2009 and has renamed it Etisalat Lanka.

The celco is the third-largest mobile telephony operator in Sri Lanka with 2.5 million customers and an estimated market share of around 20 percent.

Rasheed said one business the company was looking at was money transfer services especially for Sri Lankan migrant workers in the Middle East where Etisalat has a strong presence.

“There is a huge Sri Lanka population working outside – in the Middle East market where Etisalat operates in a big way.”

Migrant workers now remit money through banks or informal money transfer services.

Etisalat Lanka hopes to launch mobile banking operations before the end of the year and is waiting to see how services Etisalat has introduced elsewhere perform, Rasheed said.

Etisalat began mobile remittance trials from the UAE to India and the Philippines, both countries with big migrant workers populations, last year allowing expatriates to send money home using their mobile phones.

It has just struck a deal with Citibank to start the programme in India, with plans to expand it to Bangladesh, Pakistan and Egypt in the coming months, the group’s chief marketing officer Essa al Haddad has been quoted as saying.

The service works with all types of mobile phones. The cost of the service was not available.

Financial services are being considered an attractive application for offering on mobile phones in which they are seen as ‘virtual wallets’.

The GSM Association, an industry group of 800 wireless operators, estimates one billion consumers in the world have a mobile phone but no access to a bank account.

Mobile banking services are now being offered in the Philippines and South Africa, where 8.5 million and 4.5 million people are estimated to use such services.

According to the GSMA, about 40 million people worldwide use mobile money, and the industry is growing mainly in Africa and Asia where formal banking services are not as widely available as elsewhere.


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