The Newest Player in Mobile Money Is a Bakery
Friday, April 11, 2014
This morning the World Bank hosted a panel on mobile money, the set of phone-based technologies that could bring basic financial services to the world’s poorest people. It’s a big deal, and the panel predictably featured Chidi Okpala of Bharti Airtel, a mobile provider in sub-Saharan Africa, Kamal Quadir, the chief executive of bKash, a Bangladeshi mobile money provider, and other obvious players. The surprise panelist, however, was Hortensia Contreras Torres, who runs electronic services for Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo (BIMBOA:MM), one of the largest baking companies in the world.
That’s “baking,” not “banking.”
Although mobile money sounds shiny and digital, you can’t actually start a mobile money service until you have places where people can get cash in and out of your system. The more places, the better. This has been the problem the global poor have had with traditional banks—there just aren’t enough branches. What Grupo Bimbo has discovered is that every one of the 700,000 mom-and-pop stores that buy its products could very well also be a bank.