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Hi-media brings mobile micropayments to North America

Hi-media Group’s Hi-media Payments has brought its Allopass mobile micropayments platform to the North American market.

Hi-media Payments said that its expansion is driven by virtual goods economies and the increasing need for publishers to directly monetize online content. Some of the initial U.S. customers implementing the Allopass platform include Artix Entertainment, Boomerang Networks, Gambit, gWallet, Merscom Games, OLX, Peanut Labs, Quepasa, Sometrics, Sonico, TheBroth, Viwawa, Viximo and Wadja.

Mobile Commerce Daily’s Dan Butcher interviewed Pooj Preena, San Francisco-based CEO of Hi-media USA. Here is what he had to say:

What is Hi Media Group’s strategy behind the launch of the new Allopass payment service?
Allopass has been around for over eight years overseas. The strategy behind our U.S. launch is to continue to build upon Allopass’ strengths in the European and global market and make sure U.S. merchants have the same abilities, and to better support our U.S. customers more directly.

We are also setting out to end the “race to the bottom.” At present, the mobile payments space is shaping up to be what we call the “race to the bottom,” in which other providers such as Zong and Boku try to lure more merchants by dangling the cheapest payments.

But to sustain this practice, they must get a wider and wider pool of merchants. As competition increases, we see them undercutting each other to grab more merchants.

By offering a wider service—multiple payment options—we are putting an end to that race to the bottom.

What is the target customer for this service (i.e. types of companies)? What challenges does Allopass address for them?
Hi-media Payments works with companies selling virtual goods and other digital content, including:
?    Social game developers (for virtual currency and in-game items)
?    Online-gaming (MMOs and virtual worlds)
?    Social networks (for virtual gifts and premium services)
?    Media companies (for both archival content and classified ads)
?    Dating sites
?    Quizzes
?    Media (live video broadcast, video on demand and music downloads)
?    Document downloads  (education, research, legal, etcetera)

The single challenge we address is we make it easier for them to process payments by offering a variety of options that are not credit-card based.

Our merchant customers get more from their development resources. With the same integration that gives them mobile payments, they also get access to home phone billing, prepaid cards, cash payments, ISP billing and an electronic wallet.

This is especially valuable to those merchants thinking of offering their services to other parts of the world, and offering products at different price points.

In France, for example, the most popular method of online payment is home phone billing, while in Latin America cash payments, which we offer through our prepaid cards, is king.

What are the various mobile payments mechanisms that Allopass enables? Entering their mobile number online or sending an SMS? Do the charges appear on a consumer’s phone bill?.

In our experience in the European market, we see which payment methods are most popular.

Despite some early traction from players such as Zong and Boku, the mobile payment market is a nascent one.

We do not believe that single-payment-mechanism companies are sustainable. Based on our experience, we know that consumers and merchants want multiple payment options—not just mobile.

There are a couple of mobile payment methods we have today, depending on the country you are targeting.

In a couple of months we will be announcing a significant new development in mobile payments that’s really going to change the playing field.

Currently, we offer premium SMS, both originated from the phone and the Web, with home phone number support as well.

And yes, the charges will appear on their mobile or home phone bill, depending on which option they choose.

We will also support some highly localized non-PSMS based methods soon, such as Micro Payment Mobile Enablers, or MPME. This is a new solution, one-shot WAP payments with all three carriers in France: France Telecom, SFR and Bouygues Telecom.

Advantages to this include the ability to charge higher price points, subscriptions—not only one-time payments, easier integration and better payouts. This is not live yet but we will have it soon.

We are also in the process of integrating a non-PSMS based mobile billing solution in Turkey through Turkcell called Mikro Odeme, which delivers better out-payments and supports variable price-points.

How will Hi Media Group get the word out about the Allopass platform (i.e. marketing tactics?)
Allopass’ growth is predominantly viral, based on the strength of the offering.

In addition to U.S.-based PR and marketing efforts, attending trade shows and conferences, etcetera, we are actively involved in talking to customers who are monetizing new kinds of content online—not just virtual goods but content publishers with digital archives.

We see a huge opportunity here, with online media and newspaper archives like Dow Jones or The Economist, legal research and archives like Factiva and background-check services like Intelius.