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December 2015

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    With the dawn of New Year, we take this opportunity to extend a heartfelt #ThankYou to those who work relentlessly round  the clock for us, but their efforts often go unnoticed. To those, who do not get an opportunity to be with their families on festivals and holidays. We seldom realise the importance of their sacrifice but it only because of their sacrifice that we can travel home during holidays, communicate with friends and feel safe. We might encounter them as flight attendants while we are on our way to meet our loved ones, or someone delivering our pizzas so we can party all night or we may encounter them when they delight us with delicacies while we enjoy a candle-light dinner. They are special as they are making things special for us. We have created a video to acknowledge, thank and pay a little tribute to these men and women of big hearts.

    This New Year Eve, extend a warm #ThankYou to them. Be grateful. Acknowledge them. They are all around us. This new year bring a smile on those faces. And if you believe in Karma, it’ll come back to you too.

    December 31, 2015 0 comment
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    Big Data Analytics refers to the examination of huge data sets consisting of a variety of data generally called “big data”. The purpose of the examination is to uncover hidden patterns, correlations, customer preferences, market trends, amongst other valuable business information. Big data analytical findings are targeted at new revenue opportunities, more productive marketing, exceptional customer service, better operational efficiency and competitive advantages, etc.

    Why is big data analytics important?

    The major goal of big data analytics is helping organizations make more informed business decisions by enabling predictive modelers, data scientists and other analytics professionals for analyzing large volume of different forms of data that may have been left untouched by conventional business intelligence (BI) programs. This can include Internet click stream data and web server logs, social media content and social network activity reports, survey responses and text from customer emails, phone call detail records and machine data captured by the sensors connected to the Internet of Things.

    What is Big data analytics

    Which form of data analytics is best for you?

    For many years, customers have evolved newer analytics methods from a reactive view into a proactive approach with the help of predictive and prescriptive analytics. While reactive as well as proactive approaches are used by companies, looking closely one can find out what is best for their organization based on the task type.

    There are four approaches to big data analytics:

    Reactive – This type of analysis examines the static past and thus has purpose in a limited number of situations.

    Reactive -When reporting is pulled from big sets of data it is known as performing big data BI. However, decisions based on these two methods are reactionary.

    Proactive – Usually forward-looking, proactive decisions require proactive big analytics such as optimization, text mining, predictive modelling, forecasting and statistical analytics. These help in identifying trends and spot weaknesses to make the right future decisions. Although proactive, analytics can’t be performed on big data as the traditional storage environments can’t be kept up.

    ProactiveBig data analytics can be used to extract the relevant information from petabytes and terabytes to analyze and transform your business decisions accordingly.

    Being proactive with something like big data analytics is not at all a one-time endeavor. It is like a culture change that leads to a new way of gaining ground, freeing your analysts and decision makers at the same time meeting success with in-depth knowledge and insight.

    December 17, 2015 0 comment
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    Various tech giants have been rolling out new payment services that convert smartphones into digital wallets. The latest services for mobile money are now replacing cash and cheque. Reportedly, the upcoming mobile wallet technologies may ease the users of a particular wallet service sending money to each otheras simply as a text message.

    But in case you find this really impressive, you may get surprise to know that some countries like Kenya have adopted mobile money many years ago. Major countries like the United States, use smartphones to pay for things, but only if they have linked their mobile wallet to their bank account or debit card.  But the people in Kenya don’t need any bank account or a credit history or even a lot of money for that matter and this has made the land a credible source worth observation to define the future of money.

    The growth of mobile money

    Mobile money has travelled a bit forward on the path of acceptance among the users, which led to its growth worldwide. From changing technologies to increasing user demands for convenience, everything has contributed mobile money in its unique way.

    The statistics for growth of mobile money in 2015 can be found as follows:

    • Mobile payments account for around 500 billion Dollar in the year 2015 worldwide.
    • The statistics from Central bank of Kenya suggest that the Kenyans transferred over 1 trillion using mobile devices within the first 6 months in 2015.
    • Lands like Kenya and Sweden are on a verge of claiming themselves as cashless on the basis of mobile money usage.

    How mobile payments will grow in the coming years?

    • Mobile payments are anticipated to account for 1 trillion Dollars by the year 2017 worldwide.
    • Boosted awareness and security being provided, mobile payments are expected to grow 200 times over the coming 7 years in India.
    • 43% of British people see contactless payments as the main payment method by 2017.
    • The African market for mobile payments is expected to grow to 14.27 Billion Dollars by 2020.

    Example: Kenya being a cashless economy

    While mobile payments have expanded their foray to almost every country in the world, there are some countries where mobile money has become an indispensable part of day-to-day lifestyle. Let’s take an example of Kenya, which is on the verge of fully adapting mobile payments and see how things have been made smoother with the use of mobile money there

    Previously, almost every bus in Kenya used to be filled not only with people or cargo but also with huge amount of cash. The only way that people working in the cities had, for sending money back to their families living in the remote villages was through the bus drivers. They used to ask the bus drivers to give the money to someone standing at his destination at the crossroads but the money generally evaporated. To solve the problem, the major challenge stayed that a majority of Kenyans did not have a bank account but a surprising fact was that 8 out of 10 adults had access to a mobile phone. So, in the year 2007, a new service made its way that enabled users to use their mobile phones for sending and receiving money. It is the year 2015, and this payment service is now often called as Kenya’s alternative currency but significantly safer and secure than cash.It has become so common that now they refer to it as texting money.

    The popularity of mobile money in Kenya can be attributed to the fact that no sophisticated mobile device is required to use mobile money services there. The services have been designed to work efficiently even at the lowest level of technology. Even the cheapest phone one can have works seamless to access mobile payment services. They just need to go to the kiosk of their mobile money service provider, handing over cash and it is immediately converted in to virtual currency in their account. This ease has led Kenya embrace the fact that mobile wallets have easier access than bank accounts. This can be called as bank-less banking.

    The democracy of money

    Money has ever since been associated with the centralized power. It can be issued by the governments only and the banks were designated as the resources facilitating financial transactions. This model has undoubtedly worked well but certainly has some drawbacks.

    The undergoing financial revolution has got the potential to be more consequential than ever before. Until now, many financial innovations have transformed various practices but, the financial institutions have always remained intact. Now has arrived the time when the financial world is welcoming a relatively very small collection of comparatively better bankers in the form of mobile money service providers

    Summary

    Digital currency refers to a decentralized form of money, more secure and more functional than anything ever before. Digital money has the power to serve in a transformative way. While the countries like Kenya have eased mobile money usage and in turn its reach to the highest extent, other major countries like the US and even India require linking the mobile wallets to a bank account. Digital technologies have made finance democratic on an exponentially increased level. Services like micro-lending have made it possible for everyone to acquire finance. New mobile payment systems have made it seamlessly easy for the merchants and common people to use electronic payments.Thus, over the coming time we may anticipate the remaining parts of the world to strongly integrate mobile money to enjoy cashless transactions.

    Looking forward to a time when bank accounts would not be required for day to day transactions, the phone itself will suffice the need.

    December 11, 2015 0 comment
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    The cashless societies – where every transaction is performed digitally- are being envisioned for decades. But hardly there’s been a country that has made it a reality.  But a few of them are of course getting close to it. First, Kenya was in talks for the major uptake of mobile payments and now Sweden has become a forerunner.

    Revolutionizing the banking system

    Fast cash has almost disappeared in Sweden. The Swedish people have limited the use of cash to only a small portion of their day to day activities and that too is decreasing at a lightning speed. While 6 years back, 106 billion Swedish crowns were in circulation in the country’s wallet and cash registers; presently just 80 Billion Swedish crowns are in circulation. And even out of that, merely 40 to 60 percent is actually in circulation regularly.

    Even if one walks through the second city of Sweden, Gothenburg, it is almost impossible to first a single shop that does not accept card payments. The locals have made it a habit to carry no coins or notes in their pockets. They use mobile money apps that enable fast, simple payments and money transfers on mobile devices.  The mobile payments apps allow real-time transactions to take place, enabling users to transfer money directly from their bank account to the any other person having a bank account, wherever they are. This has revolutionized the local banking system.

    The initiatives that Sweden took to eliminate Money Laundering

    A couple of factors perform as major contributors towards the rapid shift of Sweden towards electronic-only money transactions. Not only have the various businesses done away with the minimum spent rule when talked about the card transactions but also there has been a huge uptake of mobile wallets and mobile payments apps. As of the past 4 years, payments for every 4 out of 5 purchases in Sweden have been made electronically.

    The Banks in Sweden are also going down the cashless path. Several bank branches in the country have almost stopped accepting cash. As per the regulation jotted down targeting money laundering and terrorist financing, at the offices, which do handle cash, the customers must explain the cash source. And, thus, any suspicious cash transaction is immediately reported to the police.

    The challenges for a cashless society  

    The Swedes are used to embracing new technologies. Their shift towards cashless and the replacement of physical wallets by the digital ones is definitely a good move and now it’s unstoppable. The strict guidelines about cash use have also pushed forward the uptake of mobile payments.

    While Sweden is quite closer to cashless-ness than any other country on Earth; there are some concerns regarding those left behind by the transition. The homeless people, the elderly or the immigrants have great chances of struggle accessing the country specific digital payment services through mobile devices or even computers. Also, we do have a question, “Is it necessary to tool a thumb rule- Something is wrong if you pay in cash- for achieving a cashless society or for the growth of mobile wallets?”

    December 9, 2015 0 comment
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    2015 is drawing to a close and, in so far, payments banks seem to be the flavour of the year. Well, for the mobile financial services space at least!

    Just a quick recap-a few months ago, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) granted in-principle approval to 11 private parties for establishing payments banks. The new licenses include many established mobile operators, technology firms and financial services companies. But, wait, why is this development a big deal? After all, this isn’t the first time an initiative has been taken to promote financial inclusion. So, what is the fuss all about? As of today, the country has a dime a dozen banks scattered across every nook and cranny. So why are payments banks garnering such an enthusiastic response? Before we deep-dive into the subject, on a side-note, this blog isn’t aimed at positioning payment banks as a panacea for the payments space. Well, not just yet, anyway.

    Now, let’s address the fundamental question-what is a payments bank and how does it differ from existing banks? A payments bank is a differentiated bank that will undertake only certain restricted banking functions that the Banking Regulation Act of 1949 permits. These activities include acceptance of deposits, payments and remittance services, internet banking and function as business correspondent of other banks. Initially, they are allowed to collect deposits up to Rs 100,000 per individual.

    Wait, that’s not all-they can facilitate money transfers and sell other banking products including loan products, insurance and mutual funds. Besides, they can issue ATM/debit cards. They cannot set up subsidiaries to undertake non-banking financial services activities. More importantly, they are not allowed to undertake lending activities at all.

    The RBI has defined the objectives of establishing payments banks as follows; to further financial inclusion by providing small savings accounts and payments or remittance services to migrant labour workforce, low income households, small businesses, other unorganised sector entities and other users, by enabling high volume-low value transactions in deposits and payments and/or remittance services in a secured technology-driven environment.

    Straightforward enough, I would think. Now, let’s ask the most basic question-what are the opportunities for payment banks in the country?

    To sum it up in a single statement-to disrupt the payments space. No, really. Of course, these entities also have a three-fold opportunity facing them. First, a staggering 47 per cent of the country’s population is unbanked (as per the World Bank Group’s findex report). So, essentially, payment banks are expected to help drive financial inclusion by banking the unbanked in a cost-effective manner. More on that later. Next, reducing dependency on cash is another important objective. Did you know that India spends Rs 21,000 crore annually on operations costs alone? (Source: Cost of Cash’ Institute for Business in the Global Context)Finally, as per news reports, the country has 20 crore dormant bank accounts. Payment banks will reduce dormancy by providing financial services which are easily accessible, convenient to use and can be used regularly. Well, we hope so, at least!

    Of course, before deep-diving into this sea of opportunity, payment banks ought to remember that they should ideally consider (and function) themselves as “fintech” (financial-technology) entities. In other words, using technology to boost financial services across all customer segments. These companies aren’t merely providers of financial services but technology enablers as well. These entities shouldn’t consider themselves as financial companies that merely leverage technology as an additional tool.

    Now, here’s where it gets interesting-payments banks stand apart from regular banks, not just owing to the interesting assortment of companies which obtained the license. The industry is waiting with baited breath to see what kind of business model these entities adopt.

    Permit me to offer my humble opinion-we believe (and this isn’t being driven by the fact that we’re a technology company) that such entities are likely (and ought to) adopt a four-pronged approach, centred on the target segment, the operating model, the strategic focus and the revenue model.

    Let’s get the fundamentals out of the way once and for all. The strategic focus of these entities ought (and are likely) to be leveraging technology and mobility for cost-effective, convenient and real-time delivery of financial services. Logically, since most of the licensees are companies who depend on technology for their bread and butter and boast of a wide distribution network, it won’t be a stretch to assume they would use technology as the key enabler for all financial transactions. In a nutshell, these entities are expected to bring convergence between technology and financial services and leverage new age access channels such as mobility to overcome infrastructure and adoption challenges faced by conventional banks.

    Now that that’s out of the way, let’s proceed. These entities are likely to focus on two customer segments, interestingly, at opposite ends of the spectrum. I am referring to the banked and the under-banked and the millennial customers, obviously. Unlike conventional banks, payment banks, with their cost effective and wide distribution network, will reach the un-and under-banked customer base, by permitting them to perform low-value transactions and voila! bring them into the financial mainstream. In addition to serving the bottom-of-the-pyramid customer base, payments banks have the opportunity to ensure convenience for the millennials, i.e. the banked and the carded customer by allowing them to use the latest and cutting-edge mobility technologies to make seamless transactions anywhere, anytime. For instance, in the near future, we can expect customers paying at a PoS terminal via NFC or receiving a micro-targeted promotion via BLE or even scanning a QR code on an electricity bill to pay it! The advent of these technologies will redefine the way millennials carry out various transactions.

    As a logical extension, these entities are expected to promote a cashless society. As you may already know, cash is still the king in India. This is despite the steady rise of plastic money (i.e. debit and credit cards) in the country. In this kind of scenario, by collecting small sums of money from the under-and-unbanked, payment banks will promote the use of debit cards and internet banking among depositors. This, (hopefully) will help consumers migrate to a cashless economy. Also, on a side-note, this may have an additional benefit-restricting the black money in circulation. Of course, that is another story, altogether.

    The base for all of this (i.e. the operating model) will be a focus on delivering simple but contextual services ranging from remittance, utility and merchant payments to savings and insurance. This will be boosted by the creation of a robust distribution network to deliver last-mile services. Coming to that bit, just imagine the number of touch-points-the new set of payments banks may have an all-India presence through franchise models. The licensees would obviously leverage their distribution network and club it with the power of mobility to reach out to a broader audience which (with all due respect), conventional banks haven’t been able to do so far in a satisfactory manner.

    In fact, the humble Mom-and-Pop stores can provide the franchise and can be the fixed point service outlets. Let’s not forget, amongst the motley crew of licensees are included bigwigs like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone, both with a pan-India network. And there you have it-this fact alone exponentially contributes to their potential to be formidable players in financial inclusion and remittance service.

    Now, let’s talk about how these entities will make big bucks-essentially, the fee earned from transactions will be the primary source of revenue. Moving on, access is a primary talking point as well-the advent of payments banks will essentially mean that accessing an account could be similar to visiting the post office(On an interesting side-note, India Post was amongst the lucky few to obtain a licence. Looks like its efforts to enter the banking business finally paid off!) or the neighbourhood kirana-cum-mobile recharge shop — and cheaper, no-frills services. And, please, I cannot emphasise this strongly enough-mobility will be the crucial component for agents to offer services to consumers as well as to connect to the back-end of the banking system.

    But, wait, while these plans are very ambitious, the availability (or non-availability) of a suitable ecosystem will be a key factor. Payments banks will have to set up a big ecosystem in order to flourish.  The success of these entities is directly proportional to the acceptance network. To have an expansive partner ecosystem, it is vital to have a flexible platform to integrate with multiple billers and merchants easily.

    Like any fledgling enterprise, payment banks have to contend with quite a few issues, before taking off in a significant way. The biggest challenge (in my opinion) would be attempting to wean the Indian customer off cash. So, these entities ought to be ready to invest time and energy for this monumental task.

    Of course, the idea isn’t to sound discouraging. Far from it, the concept of payment banks has gained ground abroad, it’s just that a few more creases need to be ironed out before it takes off in this country. Having said that, I’m pretty confident that its journey will be a memorable one and personally, I, for one, will be closely monitoring the situation!

     

     

    December 3, 2015 0 comment
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    The music industry looks quite different from how it did a few years back. It may be said to be the only industry that has kept changing itself without waiting for the completion of a decade. The artists have already ensured to win the combat with piracy by releasing the songs digitally, which also eases their purchase. While the latter part of the 20th century had music album purchase as a norm; we can now enjoy cherry-picking the sound tracks we love and buy just those.

    The journey of music

    Music was once represented by Vinyl in houses. From Vinyl, it gradually shifted to cassettes in cabinets and then suddenly to CDs in hands. While the market was once dominated by the CDs, the artists all of a sudden started deriving value from their online music channels. And since then, the market has been dominated by purely digital distribution.

    The scenario is now changing once again, as the music lovers who used to purchase music by track have now started opting subscription to music streaming services such as Mooditt. With a variety of options available to choose from, we may expect paying to own music may very soon become a thing of past.

    Music becomes social

    The music streaming services like Mooditt, allow the users to connect their account to social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, to share with their friends what they’re listening to. With such music sharing and discovery apps the users get to know what their friends are listening to and vice versa. Searching for new music artists through mobile music to enjoy has become easier than ever before. These services facilitate you to listen to music without committing to buy it.

    Music streaming in the mainstream

    IPod can be attributed for the popularity of digital music. It was then followed by iTunes which made streaming a norm with one-dollar downloads. The live streaming option provides control to the users of what and when they listen to. The streaming service libraries are almost unlimited and music streaming becomes possible wherever there’s an internet connection.

    2015- Year in Music

    Streaming becomes a viable business model

    The Recording Industry association of America has been monitoring music industry sales since 1973. The recent data shows that the music industry is not doing well but streaming music generates significant revenue that is holding it from an adverse slide. Streaming is going strong day after day but it is worth to be seen how as a whole it affects the flailing industry.

    In a time when majority of people have access to internet and artists become famous starting being YouTube celebrities- it won’t be a surprise if a complete shift towards digital music delivery methods takes place. Thus, an important observation in the next five years would be to see how long music streaming remains in demand and is there any other trend making its way to give changes to the industry which has been changing its face ever since its inception.

    December 1, 2015 0 comment
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    The banking industry is undergoing a sea-change. The gradual shift towards digital and especially mobile technologies, alongside changing customer demographics- particularly the heightened importance of millennials- offer significant opportunities for innovators.

    Advancements in the device ecosystem, along with the rise of the internet have clearly implied that everything- from TVs to cars to wristwatches- have the potential to become banking tools. The expanding arena of technologies has increased customer expectations and demands. The movements in the digital world and the various mobile devices became seemingly ubiquitous and are rapidly being seen less as a part of technology but more as an indispensable part of modern life. Studies suggest that an average smartphone user checks it 150 times a day.

    To further illustrate, mobile banking is being embraced much more whole-heartedly than any other service; all that is demanded is complete transparency, control ease and above all data security.

    These changes are sufficient to imply that banking has a digital future. Retail banking services are used by almost 1 billion people. The landscape of banking completely changed with the introduction of mobile banking for retail customers and a similar kind of innovation is awaited for corporate customers.

    Digital-future-of-Banking

    Potential risks

    Technologies have undoubtedly contributed to changing the face of banking but several issues remain. Today, consumers have innumerable banking options and are free to switch banks anytime. Factors such as a lack of security can lead to significant customer churn. There are a number of customer expectations from banks and some facts based on studies suggest that:

    • Any lucrative offer from another bank can make 1 in every 3 customer switch their existing banker.
    • 54 per cent customers want their bank to offer discount of transactional fees
    • 53 per cent customers demand proactive bill payment services.
    • 52 per cent customers desire proactive product recommendations
    • 79 per cent customers limit their banking relationship to just being transactional.

    A major percentage of consumers (86 per cent) trust their bank to securely manage sensitive data. Thus, security becomes a priority for every bank. Therefore, the more a bank invests in technology, the higher the chances of it fostering its customer relationships, managing churn and increasing loyalty and customer acquisition.

    So, what should the banks do to become more relevant?

    In a nutshell, high transactional fees and poor loyalty programs are coined as the top reasons why a customer is dissatisfied. Consumers today require convenient banking services, which can be supported by the latest technologies.

    December 1, 2015 0 comment
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