Late last year, Qatar Telecom (Qtel) extended its Mobile Money service with a fleet of self-service machines, similar to ATMs. The telco installed more than 200 throughout the country’s many malls that customers can use to pay cash into their mobile wallets—instead of having to go to an agent. Being able to cash in at a mall means consumers can do it easily as part of a routine trip.
Customers then use a USSD-based menu system on their phones and a six-digit personal identification number (PIN) to access the money in their mWallets. They can transfer funds to other Qtel mWallets, send international remittance, top up their own pre-paid mobile phone accounts, send airtime to others, or pay their monthly mobile bills.
Though the telco’s agent network is still the primary point of contact, providing customer service and cash-out services, the machines give customers more locations, 24/7 access, and an additional way to get cash in to their accounts.
For the telco, the Sybase Mobile Commerce platform provides a cost-effective solution to extend mobile financial services to customers who may be under-banked or even unbanked (dealing primarily in cash), thus missing out on the convenience of being connected into a financial system.
Like many countries in the Middle East, Qatar has two populations: a well-heeled citizenry that benefits from the region’s oil resources, and immigrants from developing countries (such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines) that work service jobs.
Migrant workers without bank accounts find the Qtel service particularly useful, since the network of self-service machines give them an easier, more convenient and secure way to put cash into their mobile wallet. Once cash in is achieved, they are able to send money home, add airtime to their own prepaid mobile accounts, or send airtime as a gift, all via the mobile phone. Later this year, Mobile Money customers should be able to receive disbursements directly into their mWallets, making it unnecessary to cash in at all.
Qatari citizens, on the other end of the economic spectrum, can use the Mobile Money service to pay their monthly mobile bills—and will soon be able to make merchant payments and buy services using their Qtel mWallet.
With this offering, Qtel is providing a business service as well as a consumer one, giving small businesses the option to pay employees without having to write checks or move cash.
As more customers and businesses sign up for the service, I can see the mWallets easily replacing cash as a more secure way to send and receive money, and pay for all manner of goods and services throughout the country. I imagine we’ll see more self-service machines across the Middle East and Asia and other regions with large, under-banked migrant worker populations.