Fewer than 10 percent of the people in Bangladesh have bank accounts, but bKash, a joint Bangladeshi-American venture, says its mobile banking and payments platform fills the gap.
BKash’s CEO Kamal Quadir made the case for the e-commerce company at D: Dive Into Mobile, during the last of three “Global Voices” sessions. Quadir said the company is growing rapidly in Bangladesh, a country with 95 million mobile phones, but said nothing similar has caught on in the developed world.
“Fundamentally, it’s designed for poor people,” he said. “In the U.S., one of the reasons this kind of service hasn’t kicked in yet is because we have so many alternatives.”
BKash oversees a network of 45,000 agents across the country who let people connect to its service like mom-and-pop ATMs. That way it gets around the overhead expenses that a traditional bank would have to pay.
So, a merchant who lives far from a bank can use his or her mobile phone to send virtual money and go to a local agent to receive money. BKash uses middleware technology from Visa called Fundamo to hold onto people’s transactional information.
BRAC Bank, a subsidiary of the development agency BRAC, owns 51 percent of bKash, with the rest owned by Money in Motion, which Quadir said brings capital, tech and know-how to the table.