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US mobile payments adoption at tipping point: new Obopay president

Mobile payments have reached a tipping point in terms of consumer adoption in the United States, according to mobile banking and payments provider Obopay Inc.’s newly appointed president.

Last week Obopay announced the appointment of Deepak Chandnani as Mumbai, India-based president of Obopay, which is a newly created position. In this new role, Mr. Chandnani will lead global operations for Obopay across all markets and geographies and continue to report to Carol Realini, founder/CEO of the company.

Mobile Commerce Daily’s Dan Butcher interviewed Mr. Chandnani. Here is what he had to say:

What are your responsibilities in your new role as president?  What is your mandate?
I will be leading global operations for Obopay across all markets and geographies. I will also continue to oversee the company’s global sales, marketing and business development activities.

This includes support of our live services today in India, the United States and Africa, as well as expansion of our services into new markets. 

My mandate is to assure continued growth in each of our three current geographies through operational excellence; business development which leverages our outstanding partnerships with Nokia, MasterCard, FIS and numerous financial and carrier partners; new product development; and marketing that will take advantage of growing market opportunities.

What is Obopay’s roadmap for growth?
We will continue to enhance our service and expand it into new geographies and around new services where we see consumer demand.

Our service is based on a global technology platform across all markets and our products are tailored to specific consumer needs.

In addition, we have a deep understanding of the underserved markets in India and Africa, as well as the emerging market in the U.S. where we see mobile payments at a tipping point for adoption.

We will continue to focus on strong global partnerships to achieve success.

Mobile payments are growing rapidly in India, Africa and the U.S.

We also see expansion in to new underserved markets in Asia and Eastern Europe as a natural extension of our current footprint.

What is the current state of mobile payments globally? 
Mobile payments have been rapidly adopted in parts of Africa and Asia, where they have enabled access to financial services for people who were previously underserved.

Mobile payments have provided not only access but secure, convenient and instant access.

These markets will continue to grow with increasing density of mobile phone coverage and economic growth in these countries.

The lack of a mature and extensive banking system has resulted in carriers moving in to fill the void to meet consumer needs.

This has resulted in Kenya, the Philippines and a few other markets becoming the most successful mobile payment markets in the world.

As one would expect, it is one use case that starts it all off and then as consumers begin using the service, other use cases evolve.

What are the differences between the markets in India and the U.S.?
The primary difference between India and the U.S. is the financial infrastructure and the stage of evolution of the handset market.

In India, much like in Africa, a large number of individuals have no relationship or limited relationship with a bank.

While in India the banking system is sophisticated, compared with the U.S. it has limited reach, with only approximately 70,000 bank branches across the country and a very low penetration of ATMs, credit cards and point-of-sale devices at merchants’ [locations].

Mobile payments are already well received in India, since mobile phone penetration far exceeds banking services penetration and mobile offers the advantages of convenience, security and immediacy.

Mobile payments in the near term will be anchored by lower-end handsets and SMS bearer applications.

The focus in India would be on the under-served and unbanked, using lower-end devices and using SMS as the primary channel.

In the U.S., where financial services have a much higher penetration and the market is mature, mobile payments have just reached the tipping point.

Smartphone shipments, where we see very active usage and adoption, are up dramatically in the first quarter of this year—led by the iPhone.

Our Mobile Money for Banks is a bank branded solution that will make sure financial institutions are ready for the adoption analysts see happening already.

At the same time, even in the U.S., there is an under-served market segment as well where the India type of solutions will prove attractive.

What issues need to be overcome for mobile payments to achieve mass-market adoption?
As I have said, market adoption is already occurring in India and Africa. It is being driven by just one or two powerful use cases that meet a strong unmet need for secure, reliable and convenient financial services of the under-served population.

In the U.S. it is also beginning to happen.

The adoption in the U.S. is being driven by four things: the growth of text messaging and the impact that Haiti had in demonstrating how easy it is to send money; the realization on the part of banks who don’t want to lose this market to carriers, who were at the center of the Haitian donations, or to competitive banks; the availability of white-label products with proven use cases like ours; and the insatiable American appetite for new mobile technology applications as more and more smartphones are shipped.

Analysts say that mobile payments are quickly going to become one of the top 10 mobile applications on those phones.