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bKash extends financial services in an affordable, convenient and safe manner to the under-served remote people of the country: Mobasherur Rahman, Head of Institutional Development, bKash

bKash extends financial services in an affordable, convenient and safe manner to the under-served remote people of the country: Mobasherur Rahman, Head of Institutional Development, bKash

Mr. Mobasherur Rahman is a retired high official of the Government of Bangladesh. He served as the Director General of Postal Service. He introduced Mobile Money Transfer service and postal cash card in the postal department which earned much popularity. Postal Department is much benefited from those two services.

After retirement he joined bKash the mobile financial service wing of Brac Bank as Head of Institutional Development. Here he is delivering his expertise as the first introducer of mobile financial services in Bangladesh. Very recently he gave and exclusive interview to REFLECTION NEWS. The excerpts are as follows:

REFLECTIONNEWS: Would you tell us about the background of bKash? Which point of view did prompt you to introduce such organization?

Mobasherur Rahman: More than 70% of the population of Bangladesh lives in rural areas where access to formal financial services is difficult. Yet these are the people who are in most need of such services, either for receiving money from loved ones earning money in urban centers, or to access financial tools to improve their economic condition. Less than 15% of Bangladeshis are connected to the formal financial system whereas over 50% of the total population has mobile phones. These phones are not merely devices for talking, but can be used for more useful and sophisticated processing tasks.

As a subsidiary of BRAC Bank, bKash was conceived to utilize mobile devices and the omnipresent telecom networks to extend financial services in an affordable, convenient and safe manner to the under-served remote population of Bangladesh.

REFLECTIONNEWS: Please tell us about the overall activities of bKash. How do you provide services to your valued clients?

Mobasherur Rahman: bKash is dedicated to provide financial services through an extensive network of community-based Agents and existing technology, primarily through mobile phones. The overall value proposition is simple: a secure, fast and convenient way to send and receive money instantly over mobile phones.

Many people in Bangladesh stay away from home due to their occupation/livelihood and they regularly need to send money back to their distant homes. bKash allows the user to send money to his near and dear ones with a click of a few buttons in a matter of seconds. Also, carrying a lot of cash is a big hassle and poses security concerns. bKash allows the user to securely carry his money in his mobile, and even if his phone is lost or stolen the money is secure in the system, which is accessible only to the registered user through his secure PIN code.

The following activities can be done using bKash:

– Cash In and Cash Out at Agent points

– Send and receive money (using own mobile phones) to and from other bKash accounts

– Payments to purchase goods and services at bKash partner Merchants, etc.

REFLECTIONNEWS: How do you evaluate the present age of digital communication. Do you think the present government is more active in a bid to make a digital Bangladesh as per their electoral pledges?

Mobasherur Rahman: The progress of digital communication in the world in the past 20 years has been unprecedented. Even in Bangladesh, though physical infrastructure remains weak, the digital divide has been greatly reduced in the last fifteen years by the advent of mobile telecommunications. This has enabled the masses to adopt technology extensively for meaningful purposes in their lives. Mobile technology is now used not only for basic communications, but sometimes for applications which even surpass those seen in the west such as online markets, health related and agricultural helplines, etc.

The regulator Bangladesh Bank has also identified this as a vital opportunity. They have played an active and supportive role in formulating pragmatic policies to achieve inclusivity for the poor by facilitating financial services through ubiquitous mobile telephone networks.

REFLECTIONNEWS: How do you evaluate the early challenges what you have overcome?

Mobasherur Rahman: bKash has brought a totally new concept to the market. People generally are used to sending money by courier, post or hand carnage. Using personal mobile phones and simply tapping on some keys to transfer money so easily and swiftly is an amazing and novel experience for people.

The biggest challenge in these early days of mobile money is consumer education. Using the mobile phone to transfer money, the steps to follow, building confidence and trust in the system will all come gradually with awareness and experience, and we are gradually progressing in this regard. Fear of technology also sometimes acts as a barrier but the people of Bangladesh are young and very receptive to change.

REFLECTIONNEWS: Please make comment regarding budget 2012-2013 fiscal which has been passed by the parliament a few days earlier.

Mobasherur Rahman: No comment.

REFLECTIONNEWS: What impediments do you face in carrying out your business activities?

The overall lack of education and fear of technology are impediments. The impediments we face are natural to any developing country and new business, which will be overcome with time.

Particularly for mobile money, the World Bank hosted Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) also mentions in an extensive study covering multiple global operators, that average active users of mobile money is only 8%.

REFLECTIONNEWS: Please tell us about the future business plan of bKash.

Mobasherur Rahman: We see great potential in Bangladesh. Though the country regularly faces problems like energy crisis, natural calamities, inflation etc., this is nothing new to an aspiring and developing nation.

bKash remains committed for the long haul, steadily educating the masses and standing by them to reach even the remotest areas of the country. Bangladesh is poised to become a middle income country by 2020, and by widening the net of financial inclusion, bKash aims to participate in overall development of the nation.

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