bKash’s app is a hit - but what’s next?

bKash is the undisputed leader in Bangladesh’s MFS industry. bKash’s new app may continue that trend, with 2 million downloads since its launch. The app, designed with assistance from foreign players such as Ant Financial, bodes well for industry and consumers alike.

Equipped with a pleasant interface, the bKash app simplifies mobile transactions. It takes 5 steps to transfer money through the app, compared to the 8 steps it takes with the USSD system. QR code integration is another welcome addition. Furthermore, the app is cheaper, as it bypasses the 7% telco charge required with USSD.

Looking towards the future

While bKash’s app is a move in the right direction, some questions come to mind when you view the app from a consumer’s point of view. To be specific, a digital consumer’s point of view.

In Bangladesh, we can categorize digital consumers into two broad categories: information seekers and decision makers. Information Seekers go online mostly for product and services information. Decision Makers, meanwhile, spend a significant amount of time online. They are open to e-commerce buying, usually low-cost items such as clothing and phone accessories. Sales of high-value electronics and furniture are usually sparse, but peak during discount-heavy events such as Black Friday.

According to LightCastle Partners, the Information Seekers (74%) outnumber the Decision Makers (26%) on a 3:1 ratio. This supports bKash’s long-standing communications strategy, which focuses heavily on relaying factual information such as cashback offers and usage instructions.

Who are the decision makers?

Decision makers are innovators and early adopters. They stand in line for the newest iPhone launch. They were instrumental in building the userbase for Uber and Pathao when these giants started in Bangladesh.

It is likely, dear reader, that you are a decision maker too. You are interested, perhaps in wearables, and have tried out the Mi Band 2, if not bought it.

If you are male, you are interested not only in smartphones, but also accessories such as headphones. These aren’t just normal headphones. You know what noise cancellation means, and what audio drivers are. You look for good deals just as much as trophy buys.

If you belong to the fairer sex, perhaps you buy books from Facebook pages. You may have a healthy interest in chic accessories such as tote bags and scented candles from trendy vendors such as MIB and Newton’s Archive. You follow Youtube influencers for makeup tips and have tried your hand at tutorials of your own. You are an avid traveler, saving all year for vacations at Nepal, Thailand or Singapore.

How can bKash help enhance your lifestyle?

If you are Decision Maker, you want more from a mobile wallet app than simple money transfer and store features. Here are some of the ways it can try, based on international best practices:

  • Payments Integration with Social Media: Facebook has its own payment gateway, as does WeChat. This is necessary, even though it’s easy to send money to your friends via the bKash app.

Imagine this scenario: you are planning to see a Marvel film with ten friends and need to collect cash for the tickets. You send a bKash prompt in the thread that asks the participants to pay money. Most of them comply, because it’s easy, convenient and doesn’t require them to get out of Messenger.

As it stands, however, you need to switch to the bKash app, tap the transfer money option, and then input your friends’ numbers, one by one. That’s already five steps more than you need with Facebook integration. Don’t forget, you also have to repeat the whole process ten times.

It doesn’t have to be Facebook, per se. It can be Whatsapp, or even Viber. Anything that the Digital Youth are familiar and comfortable with.

  • Become Your Personal Finance Advisor: Zuckerberg may have his hands on all your personal data, including Murad Takla texts and terrible teenage photos. But you still trust him more than that sleazy teller at your local bank because you feel like he’s not telling the full story about your financial condition.

With apps that use financial advisory and analytics, it’s easy to have a bird’s eye view of all your financial activities at your beck and all. I use an app called Money Manager that displays real time analytics of my wallet and bank balances. It has helped me increase my savings by over 60% in the last year.

  • Cross-functional Integration with IoT devices: The Internet of Things phenomena is no more academic. We are living in it. Obvious examples of applications include Google Home and Amazon Echo. These devices are using soft AI that’s advancing rapidly. Amazon Echo can already order items from Amazon if you authorize it to do so.

What’s to say, we can’t do the same with bKash in the future, to order from Daraz? You don’t need to own an expensive speaker to take advantage of these features. Most Android phones support Google Assistant, which is the most advanced and reliable voice assistant this side of Alexa.

  • Payments Integration with Your Favorite Vendors and Artists: This is not about just Uber, or HungryNaki. Or that sixteenth carsharing knockoff that barged into your newsfeed three days ago.

It’s about that tasteful painter, studying undergrad, who creates personalized notebooks upon request. It’s about that underground band, whose musical brilliance is off the charts, but who are still struggling to make ends meet.

It’s about you, if you have ever tried freelancing full time, or making money out of your hobby.

What bKash can do, is create customized QR codes for such vendors. It can also create Small Entrepreneurs or Aspiring Artist programs. This way, the brand can tap into the pulse of these unique cultures, understanding their stories and helping to empower them.

  • Integration with Traditional Banking Services: Fintech is not the enemy of traditional banking; rather, the two are partners. Many millennials still prefer bank accounts, debit cards and credit cards of their own. However, we often put off acquiring them, because the process seems boring and complicated.

bKash, a subsidiary of BRAC bank, can smartly address this situation. It can fill the information gap by using short clips (5-10 seconds) that explain the benefits of these financial instruments. To invite action, bKash can transfer interested users to BRAC’s website, where they can avail these services through using referrals.

What’s next?

We hope you are as excited about some of these ideas as we are. Unfortunately, the local ecosystem cannot yet support such developments. Good progress is being made; then again, the consumer hardly cares for such news.

We want awesome stuff, and we want it now. bKash, you are good. Maybe even great. But you can be fantastic. Let us know when you get there. We will post, blog and tweet about it to high heaven.

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