Vodafone is bringing its successful m-pesa mobile money program to India through a partnership with ICICI Bank, India's largest private financial institution. The new service, called m-pesaTM, will be rolled out by a subsidiary of Vodafone India, Mobile Commerce Solutions Ltd.

Through the m-pesaTM service, users will receive a mobile money account backed by ICICI Bank and a mobile wallet issued by MCSL. Customers of the service will then be able to access basic banking services, making cash deposits and withdrawals from designated agents, transferring money to any mobile phone in India, and paying utility and phone bills.

The service will be offered first in eastern regions of India and then will be rolled out nationwide over time.

"ICICI Bank has been at the forefront of leveraging technology in banking and has revolutionized the way Indian customers carry out their banking transactions," said Chanda Kochhar, managing director and CEO at ICICI Bank. "We have now launched 'mpesaTM', a unique and innovative offering which will allow us to provide basic banking services to millions of customers spread across the country."

Kochhar said mpesaTM will help ICICI Bank reach out to segments of the Indian market with the goal of bringing greater financial inclusion to rural Indians who currently do not have access to banking services.

First launched by Vodafone in Kenya in 2007, m-pesa was created to provide a secure way for unbanked citizens in developing markets to hold and transmit funds via cellphones. Since its launch, the service has signed more than 15 million customers in Kenya and has now been introduce in several other markets in Africa, as well.

The service is relatively simple to use: Money is deposited into the system through a network of authorized agents, generally local merchants. Users can then access their accounts and perform transactions using their cellphones. By leveraging authorized agents, m-pesa is able to expand its footprint to areas where opening a bank branch would be impossible.

ICICI Bank and Vodafone hope to make the same strategy successful in India, where 70 percent of the population lives in rural areas.

"Vodafone mpesaTM is offering millions of people basic financial services, beyond the reach of traditional banking," said Marten Pieters, managing director and CEO at Vodafone. "After an in-depth understanding of the Indian customer insights, we concluded that there is tremendous potential for this product in India."

For more stories like this, visit the money transfer/P2P research center.

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