Feb 20, 2009

Mobile Money Transfer(MMT) - Issues and Opportunities

Mobile Money Transfer or payment using mobiles is an application that is being considered to be the new giant step after the ATM wave in the past 2 decades or so.

Mobiles outnumber ATMs and therefore present a great opportunity for consumers, banking and telecom industry to create a completely new business model for last mile in access to money.

I completely agree with the viability of the model. What worries me is the threat, especially in countries like India. Consider this,
1. In India, a paradoxical thing is happening - both high growth rate of mobile subscribers and high churn rate is concurrently happening. What it means is that subscribers do not bother too much about changing the service providers. Number portability is not widely used, implying that these subscribers change there numbers.

2. Also, a lot of people are not yet sensitized about the usage of passwords. They do not worry too much about telling their PINs. By the way, this includes a certain part of educated people.

I see this as a security issue in using MMT.

Scenario a. Someone changes his/her number and/or service provider but does not update that information at the bank. Who covers for the possible loss? Insurance companies can bring out a product for this part. But we still don't have those actuarial tables for such technologies. I would say, still under hypotheses.

Scenario b. Handset is changed. The problem is much lesser here, yet the handset memory may have sensitive data that can be accessed. One can say that this problem still exists. The difference here is that mobile is primarily for talking, when a malfunction occurs, people are more inclined to get it replaced quickly. I see a problem even when folks go and get handsets repaired at unauthorized places. I dont mean to malign anyone, but if something wrong happens, who will be held responsible?

I can list down few more, but let me jump to the possible solution. Some of these are probably already being discussed.

1. Regulation - Banking and Telecom both should apply.
2. Technology - We have technology that allows only genuine callers with enough credit to make calls. Same logic to be applied here.
3. Customer Education - Problems like loss of handset need to be protected as well. Banks and Telecom Service providers need to educate their subscribers a LOT MORE when they offer this service. And these should not be 15 page "handbooks" sent in mass mail. Probably workshops or easy to read pamphlets is the way to go.

Pooling of statistics on fraud by all vendors should also be mandated by the regulatory authorities. That will reduce experimentation and improve quality of post-facto root cause analysis.


P.S. - MWC/GSMA link on MMT http://www.gsmworld.com/newsroom/press-releases/2009/2560.htm

Feb 18, 2009

Good News for mobile customers

Very good piece of news for mobile customers. All manufacturers of handsets have agreed to standardize the charging socket. That is excellent.

The consensus happened at the Mobile World Congress some time ago!

In fact, I have been asked many times by people, why do phone companies do this? There was a lot of merit in the argument for standardization. I guess the only reason this took some time was because the industry is so young. It takes time for such things to happen. Many times, an incumbent in position of strength is not willing to let go. Other times, the companies are simply not talking to each other. Forum's like the MWC are helpful in such case.

I am sure it took longer to standardize usual electrical wall sockets. In fact, even today in India the usual 5 Amp socket comes in 3-4 sizes. Either the width between L-N holes is too small and your cannot plug the pins in OR the diameter of the socket is so large that the pin just falls off...

With mobile phone makers being limited, at least we can be assured that customers don't have to put up with such nonsense.

Here's the link if you want to read more.


Feb 15, 2009

What a Catch!!! Voges turns it around for Australia in 20-20

You had to see it to believe it!

Setting - New Zealand need 20 runs in 2 overs with McCullum and Elliott on pitch.

19th over, First ball, Hilfenhaus bowls a decent ball and McCullum hits it towards long on boundary. There is Adam Voges at long on with arms high.

He backs up and catches it and the momentum takes him back a bit....HE IS GOING TO CROSS THE BOUNDARY LINE. Is it a six or will he save 4 runs by throwing it in and allow only a couple that are run by the batsmen?

He flings the ball back into ground and goes out of boundary. Now, he has flung the ball high and slow enough. Voges in that 1/20th of a second was already planning to catch it back!

He tries to move in, trips...all elements of thriller. Crawls on knees and CATCHES IT BACK!

Can you believe it! What does Voges have for breakfast?!!! That was some awesome thinking. Too good.

10 balls later, it is 2 balls and 11 runs to tie....The other McCullum hits a 4 and a 6 and Australia win by 1 run.

Adam Voges won the game with that stunning catch. Awesome cricket. Thank God I switched on TV in time!

- Siddharth

UPDATE 1 - Catch the video here - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/videoshow/4132669.cms

Feb 14, 2009

Excessive reporting and results of hypercompetition

A very interesting analysis of what is happening with our stock markets by Sunil Jain of Business Standard. The Educomp issue burning these days is analyzed in Guilty till proven innocent

While the discussion has a fascinating take on the stock movement and volumes that surrounded the timing of news, I was more fascinated by the discussion on the issues surrounding media's role.

Mr. Jain raises an interesting moral question - is media ok in speculating on a company (or an individual) such that it blemishes the image, reputation and credibility of the company? And to what end?

The point is, just like a few companies' irresponsible behaviour gives rise to compliance laws that all have to follow that in turn increase the costs for everyone and leave everyone worse off - irresponsible media reporting also leaves everyone worse off.

If a channel or news misrepresents some data, then the victim of reporting loses credibility. The channel/newspaper may gain TRP or additional readership but it also loses credibility in long run.

Who loses? the company, the media company (though they never realize anything of this sort), and most importantly the customer!

Who gains? There are speculators in the market who gain on the movements.

Conclusion - I am dreaming about the utopian setting of all people being truthful about everything.
Time to wake up!

DISCLAIMER - I am not making any judgment on the report or the company in focus. The above post is more about the effects of such events.

Feb 9, 2009

Aamir at IIMA


I could say hi to Aamir Khan at IIMA. Here is his pic that I took when he was leaving. Was happy to have my family here when he visited - they could catch a glimpse of the much respected actor.

Stardom is so tough to manage...Aamir had a huge security, folks were saying hi, he was polite enough to say hi to them yet he had to keep moving on because I am sure he had a flight to catch or another festival to attend somewhere in the country.

Honour to see an admired star on our campus!

- sid

Feb 2, 2009

Appreciating a new genre of hindi movies

Dibakar Banerjee just moved few notches up in my great director's list. Ahem, methinks me is a great reviewer of movies ;-)

But seriously, compare his movies Khosla Ka Ghosla and Oye Lucky Lucky Oye. Look at the protagonist, then we understand the effort the director and scriptwriter has put in creating the character.

Chiraunjilal aka Cherry and Lucky are not very different. There is a fire simmering within but the triggers are different. Cherry is far more controlled and jumps in when his father gets pushed in a corner.

Lucky is more enamoured in the superficial but his crossing the line comes with a full knowledge of ones own wrongdoing. He is never disillusioned that he is doing something correct. The strife within comes to the surface in his drinking binge when he meets his family. His heart breaks for his father (whom he has detested so far).

The director Dibakar gives us some fantastic characters to study and observe. While Khosla ka Ghosla is intended to keep spirits up with light humour, Oye Lucky delves deeper inside the skin. Both films are on a backdrop of rising spending power and its interpretation by the two protagonists. That backdrop is not to be missed.

Dont miss out on the actors either - underrated power performers.

Great going hindi cinema!


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