Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

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At the turn of the 20th century, less than 10% of US households owned a stove, or had access to electricity, or had a phone. It took more than 50 years for all three to achieve around 90% coverage. It took the car more than 70 years; the radio, refrigerator and color television more than 20 years; and the cell phone about 10 years to achieve similar adoption; mobile money has not achieved that dubious distinction, yet.

Analyzing user adoption after the fact is relatively simple, whereas predicting it is anything but straightforward. While there are many variables that contribute towards the adoption of a new product or service, from utility and price, to distribution and maintenance, to socio-economic and possibly even geopolitical considerations, the single biggest factor is user behavior.

In some instances, user behavior can be molded around the introduction of a new product or service, and in other instances, it needs to facilitate the modus vivendi. The decision of what approach to adopt is possibly more art than science. As far as mobile commerce or mobile payments or mobile money are concerned, we can safely draw the conclusion they need a healthy dose of both, where certain aspects of the solution need to be built around existing user behavior and others force a new paradigm.

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M-PESA in Kenya is often cited as one of the more successful mobile money deployments. Another favorite amongst industry punters used to be DoCoMo of Japan. The current fixation is on WeChat in China. With all the steps being taken by the government and supported by the hectic pace of innovation in the private sector, India’s mobile commerce and payments market seems to be poised to take-off. The US continues to push the innovation and disruption envelope with invisible payments.

The half-full perception is driven by the argument that all these attempts have been critical towards educating and sensitizing consumers as well as the industry, and at a tactical level, have helped evolve the ePlumbing. The half-empty perception is driven by the argument that despite all this intelligence and investments why are consumers not using these innovations 10 times a day. As eternal optimists, we take the half-empty perception as a form of self-criticism, enabling us to build upon the half-full.

Mobile commerce or m-commerce typically refers to secure transactions conducted by a mobile phone over the air and mobile payments or m-payments refers to secure transactions conducted by a mobile phone in a proximity or real world environment. The term mobile money or m-money is largely used for describing person-to-person payments, within or across borders. We have introduced the overarching term “mobile transactions” or “m-transactions,” which refers to securely conducting all personalized transactions related to finance, retail, health, education or government applications, using a mobile phone in the real and virtual environments.

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