To say the mobile payments and money transfer industry in India is crowded is the understatement of the year. Paytm, Facebook, Tencent, through the Hike app, and a thousand other disruptive services are jostling for position in a mobile friendly market, with Whatsapp set to join the battle after soft launching their new payments service earlier this month.
The competition has partly arisen thanks to the Indian government, who are trying to put a stop to corruption, reach the unbanked members of Indian society, who own mobiles but do not have a bank account or the means to open one, and have launched the United Payments Infrastructure, enabling instant payments to be initiated and transactions completed in record time.
In Africa and India especially, when it comes to finance, mobile is king. The same is true to a lesser extent in Asia and China – it tends to be Westernised societies, with the most advanced traditional banking services, that are lagging behind, although PSD2 is likely to inspire considerable change now that fintech startups have permission, if the user grants it, to access bank accounts and make transactions on the customer’s behalf.
So, what happens next? Google announced this week that their payments service, Google Tez, which launched last year and enables users to make payments to one another, has had a major upgrade and will now allow users to pay bills to as many 80 different utilities and other service providers.
Google announced the launch via a blog post, declaring that ““We’ve designed bill payments to be the most convenient way to manage life’s expenses, so you can pay right from your bank account in just a few taps. We can’t wait for you to try it out and see how much time you save.”
There’s an accompanying video, too, which you can see below
Tez has the capability to send reminders to pay recurring bills, and covers everything from electricity, gas, and water, to television, and even a specialist bill-paying service, called Bharat BillPay.
Every user can access details about the bills they are paying by tapping into the appropriate service on their screens, and this month there is even a scratchcard competition running; the scratchcards can be obtained by paying a new biller, and there are cash prizes to be won.
Google do not have much choice but to move fast. Facebook owned Whatsapp has a massive user base in India, with more than 200m active users, whereas Tez has racked up an impressive 12 million users since the service launched last year – impressive, but not quite in the same ballpark.
Google are also playing catch up with the likes of Paytm and MobiKwik, another rival, who have already launched bill paying services. Such is the nature of apps, however, which tend to inspire customer loyalty, that all the new services in the world may not be enough to get the Indian public to abandon their love affair with WhatsApp. They would probably rather wait for new services, than switch their favoured app, which means WhatsApp still has plenty of time to bring itself up to speed with the latest developments in the marketplace.
One thing is for certain; the battle for mobile hearts and minds in a country with a population as large as India’s, is a battle that is well worth winning.