bKash in Bangladesh: A Mobile Money Application for the Unbanked
In my previous post, I touched upon how mobile money is helping improve financial inclusion in different parts of the world, more so in East Africa and South Asia. Here, I wish to talk about bKash, a mobile money application that’s transforming access to financial services in Bangladesh. According to published data, bKash touches 22% of adult population in Bangladesh. Launched in 2011, bKash, a subsidiary of BRAC Bank in Bangladesh (BRAC owns 51% stake) can be accessed through basis handsets. bKash adopted a robust electronic payment platform from VISA which ensured best-in-class data processing and security standards.
Data reveals that approximately 90% of Bangladeshis had no banking experience at the time when bKash was launched. The popularity of bKash can be gauged from the fact that it processes more than 5 million transactions a day, the daily value of which turns out to around $84 million. In the words of Kamal Quadir, CEO of bKash, “we are having a Facebook experience sitting here in Bangladesh.”
Source: The Business Standard; BRAC Bank
Bangladesh had a rapidly growing mobile phone subscriber base and that provided a perfect platform to experiment with a disruptive innovation called bKash. But bKash was not alone; there were other mobile financial service players making quick progress. Two such players were ‘Rocket’, launched by Dutch-Bangla Bank and ‘Nagad’ from Bangladesh’s Postal Service Department. What separated bKash from others was its relentless focus on technology to make transactions smooth and to provide better customer service. This ensured a steady growth in customers using the bKaskh application as seen from the chart.
To summarise, bKash is an excellent example of how a technology-enabled financial service can transform the socio-economic fabric of a country.