Comviva targeting Latin America with mobile banking, USSD solutions

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Value-added mobile solutions provider Comviva, having opened its Latin America office last year, is targeting the region with its mobile banking and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) solutions, Max Padró, general manager for the region, told BNamericas.

The Indian firm has had experience in markets such as Asia and Africa for years and is now turning its eyes to Latin America. "Mobile money is becoming a hot topic in Latin America. A lot of people are trying to see what's needed in the market and what can be offered, in light of where three players stand - banks, operators and regulators," he said.

However, "we're still in the phase where both groups [banks and operators] need to understand what they can do together. In order to really get this going like in Africa, the third segment of players comes in - the regulators. Regulation needs to be enabled to facilitate partnerships to develop services to be offered."

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With the mobile banking solutions - where Comviva offers PreTUPS prepaid recharge solution and the mobiquity mobile finance platform, including mobile banking, mobile payments, and mobile wallet - the company is working with operators such as Tigo and with equipment vendors such as Ericsson, IBM and NSN. It is also engaging Latin American banks.

In getting its name out, Comviva has been participating in events such as the Mobile Money Transfer event held in Brazil in March. Overall, Padró feels the focus so far has been on banking for the banked, "but I think the great growth opportunity and social value here is to go and serve the unbanked. MasterCard and Vivo [in Brazil] have something going, but that's basically extending credit card benefits to Vivo customers. There's nothing wrong with that, but there's a lot more to be done for the unbanked."

On the other hand, USSD "is really strong in Africa and Asia, while Latin America is just starting to be noticed by operators. Today you'll find a lot of the operators in the region are using USSD for electronic recharge only, where now you can offer a service - using a shortcode like *456 and that gives you a USSD menu where you can get the joke of the day, you can recharge, you can get the weather or football scores."

USSD makes it easy for subscribers to access value-added services, which increases loyalty. Also, the technology is handset independent, "and it's a way of providing more features for non-smartphones, which are the majority in Latin America," he noted. "Growth in this area is coming quickly."

Comviva offers a variety of value-added services, including SMS, ringback tones, IVRs. And "people are starting to move into next generation solutions, replacing what they deployed 4-5 years ago," Padró said. "So there's a market there for us."

The company opened its Latin America office in Miami in May last year. However, Comviva and its previous incarnations - Jataayu Software and Bharti Telesoft - have been present in the region for several years.