Furthermore Grameenphone had 'accommodated' consultants to fly around the world, and to report back how mobile banking is a good idea (it is). But they also indicate indirectly that Grameenphone's version is the one used worldwide (far from it) because GP is the payee for accommodation and airfare.
This had led to a spark in newspapers who were divided whether to publish the truth or get to get a year's worth of GP advertisements which even Standard Chartered, HSBC and Citibank cannot match. Prothom Alo published an astounding editorial by the former deputy-governor of Bangladesh Bank lambasting Grameenphone's scheme for confusing people about the nature of mobile banking. This was the best Bangla composition I had read in a long time. The Financial Express published another article despite censoring Grameenphone's name. The Daily Star started out as pro-Grameenphone but soon turned the other way realizing that this news was too far of a stretch.
What differences are there? Even though there are numerous fallacies in GP's proposal, it boils down to GP attempting to hijack 40 backs by preventing to access the mobile infrastructure and in place allow GP to benefit from this vacuum. Although this may seem minor this has very large consequences as no where in the world does such an idea exist.
GP had assumed that since mobile banking in India was conducted by banks, the temporary halt would mean more liberties to the telecom sector in line with GP's version of mobile banking. Many others had assumed similar fate as India's mobile phone companies are owned by powerful and vested quarters capable of flying and accommodating more consultants, place more TV and newspaper ads than GP.
The RBI, just last month, concluded on the guidelines. They are:
- Mobile banking only between one bank account to another (GP only wanted mobile number to mobile number, wanted to prevent bank account to bank account and even bank account to mobile number)
- A limit of Rs 2500 (Tk 3,523.46) and in exceptional cases and under strict supervision Rs 5000 (Tk 7,046.25) for these bank account transactions. (GP proposed a base limit of Rs 21,287 (Tk 30,000) which is 8x larger than Indian limits)
- As with mobile banking in the rest of the world, phone companies are not a stakeholder in this issue. (GP wanted to be the in the center of the issue by making the laws and preventing banks from mobile banking)
- Only banks can authorize transactions (GP wanted GP to authorize transactions)
- Only banks can accept money (GP wanted to open up a network of GP bank branches to accept money)
Many consultants and people have pointed out that mobile banking will take banking facilities to everyone as more people have phones than bank accounts. I strongly agree, but this vision is not applicable to Grameenpone's butchered version of mobile banking. India not only has a larger population but one that is more rural and spread out further than Bangladesh. Yet out of all the benefits they went for mobile banking, but not GP's version of mobile banking.
Similarly in Vietnam, less than 10% of the population have bank accounts but clearly more phone customers. But according to the consultants visiting Vietnam on GP's money, Vietnam should let GP solve this by bringing GP's version of mobile banking. What did Vietnam do instead? They got rid of more regulations that lets banks off the leash to serve the 'unbanked' and more freedom to expand further. Phone companies are strictly a medium, they were never equated to banking or mobile banking.
Much like GP's IPO valuation, its version of mobile banking follows the same logic as a supermodel's cure for world hunger and poverty. It is funny when they propose it, self-delusional and some misinformed people may be touched but yet we all move on in the end.