There’s been quite some talk in various circles about the viability of telco’s being a medium for payment services. The idea has largely been along the following assumptions.
- Telco’s are trusted with money.
- Putting money into your account is easy via scratch card, easy load and so on
- Mobile balance is somehow more secure than credit cards
Therefore, it should be easier to allow telcos to become ‘mini banks’ allowing people to deposit their money and then be able to spend it on things other than just talking.
TCS being the pioneering firm it has been in the country, has just taken that step by partnering with mobilink. TCS Sentiments Express, itself a novel idea of its time, allows a customer to mark special occasions with gifts without spending a lot of time looking for them. They were the first ones to introduce this concept via the web (barring other online gift sites which focused on expats) and also one of the first ones to embrace credit card transactions for pakistanis. However, given our nation’s propensity against credit card transactions, I doubt if their website was utilized on a mass scale rather I believe it is used more as a catalog with people going to TCS centers to place orders and give payments
The latest service by TCS is the introduction of paying for gifts via their mobile phone balance. How this service works is that you call up an IVR service, select your gift via their menu, record the recipients’ address (i believe this is via operator assistance), confirm your order and hang up. The gift amount will be deducted from your mobile balance and the gift will be sent along its way via the sentiments system.
The only caveat here is, you need to have enough mobile balance. I believe that if this service catches on, adding the requisite money in your account just before placing an order is not going to be a big deal due to easy load.
There is, however, a major area of concern which my father identified last night when i was discussing this with him. When you load balance in mobilink, they deduct 9% as taxes. Then when you utilize that balance, a further 15% is deducted. Second, there will also be some form of hidden ‘service charge’ which i believe will be added as mobilink just loves adding these to your bill. I say this because i cannot find any information on this and assume there must be at least a 2% service charge. In the end, you end up paying somewhere around 26% more utilizing mobilink’s payment service than you would by just walking in to one of the conveniently located TCS express centers.
So good or bad, at least its a step in a good direction. Lets see where this leads us to.