The Coming Era of Mobile Transactions

Sat, Oct 1, 2011

Social Issues

I was inspired to write on this topic after facing a telling incident of how a non-technocrat traditional astrologer in Rajasthan (India) used mobility services for money transfer! It so happened that a kirana shopkeeper in Hyderabad sought the astrologer’s service for his horoscope. This could be prepared by sharing the shop-keeper’s birth time and date over the phone. Now, the astrologer used to charge Rs. 200 for making a horoscope. However, since the shopkeeper was in a far-off city, the astrologer simply asked the shopkeeper to recharge the former’s cell phone number with Rs. 200 from Hyderabad. On doing so, the astrologer called up the shopkeeper and conveyed to him his horoscope details!

Three things in the story caught my attention and subsequent analysis.

1.       How simple and instantaneous the transfer was! For a tech-savvy individual, like us, who are aware of mobile banking, internet banking, we generally transfer money through internet banking process. This requires adding the payee’s account number to our own account, and then transferring the sum. Within same bank accounts, the transfer happens immediately, but for different bank accounts, it takes a day or two. For the astrologer, the transfer had two advantages –

a.       They did not have to go through the process of funds transfer, adding payee, sharing the A/C number; but only the phone number would be sufficient for the shopkeeper to transfer the amount.

b.       Transfer could be made immediately (most kirana stores these days are also sim card) and the astrologer would get an immediate sms confirmation, upon receiving which he could provide his service to the shopkeeper.

2.       The fact that the process does not even require the concerned two people to be aware of net banking or mobile banking also is a point to note! Usage of mobility services by Indian mass without having expertise in mobile banking is indeed to be applauded.

3.       The service-dominant business model that comes out of the entire transaction. Contrary to the traditional concept of exchange of product in lieu of money, the entire transaction stands on service in lieu of another service business model. For the astrologer in Rajasthan, being able to extend his service till Hyderabad is supported by the usage of mobile devices as well as the fact that the sim card of any State can be recharged from any other State within India.

Narrating this incident and analyzing it for half a page has its implications. India Inc. is fast going more and more mobile. No matter how literate the common man is with the latest mobility services and innovations of Apple, Samsung, Blackberry, Google and others, the concept of “The World is Flat” is being exercised by every common man in India now-a-days. So what does this imply on a broader perspective? Let us list down and try to foresee how the forthcoming era of mobility and service dominant business will shape the world.

There was a time, only two-three years back, when the mobile customer’s demand was not tapped the way it has been today. There were many innovations coming up, and then the technology enthusiasts would also have to wonder, what next? What is it more that the customer may ask for? What service could cause more effective customer satisfaction? However, today, with the concept of customer co-creation and co-opting the customer to bring more value being the dominant business logic, such questions have already an answer. Hence, the rush is for the innovators to live up to the fast-changing mobile customer’s demands.

Enterprises and retailers are doing a lot. Almost every service provider in most of the industries, be it Vodafone or Airtel, Samsung or Nokia, Apple or Microsoft, Dell or HP, even hospitals, education institutes, restaurants and hotels, travel portals have their own fan pages in Facebook, twitter followers, and they try to tap customer demands through such social CRM activities and networking. A complaint page or feedback page for such a service provider allows the mobile customer to co-opt the service and co-create value through feedbacks and criticisms too. Along with tapping the needs of the customers, the retailers are also touching up on the bandwagon when comes to the demands of the mobile customers. We see Apple store servicemen equipped with mobile i-devices, Sears providing tablets to its servicemen; we also find some retailers testing out with Google wallets to facilitate mobile payment in the simplest possible way! To cut the long story short, some initiative or the other is being launched almost daily in the enterprise mobility space.

Now what? Is the road ahead to mobility so smooth? Does it mean that in near future every other restaurant in India will have their own mobile menu-deck in the tables wherein the customer can himself place an order of his own and pay money? Not really. The problem comes with the scaling up with the demands. Once the enterprises take the initiatives and launches new domains or services of mobility, the next question that hits them is how to roll it out and then how to support it? Here comes the role of scale up – as in how to complete the innovation to an implementation and achieve everything in a single perspective. For scaling up, as I understand, there are primarily three key levers as:

The important decisions that will guide the mobility innovations of the future are the platform that supports the mobile applications, what accelerators the platform provides and the process in which the scaling up is conducted to meet the demand. The accelerators I mention here can be “application based accelerators” like the ones which can mobilize common components of the platform as backup; or “development accelerators” which sync data through use of components as the middleware. Herein comes the important role to be played by mobility platform providers as SAP, Oracle, Salesforce.com, Microsoft who will have to (i) develop the infrastructure (platforms) to support the tablet applications, (ii) add accelerators to connect the entire infrastructure, (iii) and enable interactive buying experience by the customer through robust processes. The scale up can only be achieved once the enterprises are concerned about developing tools which mobilize the entire value chain with standards that can be replicated and supported.

It is, however, difficult to predict the penetration rate of mobililty services in India, though the above arguments and pointers may throw some light on the path and key drivers for future developments. Nevertheless, mobility will rapidly evolve in the next few years, and we will keep experiencing more such examples as the astrologer’s story where the business model will be “point of service” solution rather than a “point of sales” solution.

Bappaditya Roy, Infosys (Corporate Marketing)

MBA Batch of 2010, IIT Kanpur

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