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Mobile Payments Talk with Carol Realini, CEO of Obopay

Publié le 14 juillet 2009 par Philippe Lerouge

Première d'une longue série sur ce blog, je suis très heureux de vous présenter en exclusivité une interview de Carol Realini que j'ai pu réaliser lors d'une rencontre récente.

PL: Carol, I'm very glad to meet you here in Paris and thank you for the time you are spending to answer the questions for the French speaking community. Due to several fund raising and more recently with the Nokia deal, Obopay is starting to be very well known in the industry. How are you capitalizing on this? Is the market mature enough for that?

CR: Thank you Philippe, it is great to meet you as well. And yes, we are excited about the traction and recognition Obopay is getting in the industry. This is a very exciting time for mobile payments and the potential impact on the lives of millions of people around the world is what inspired me to start Obopay. Of course having the support of a company like Nokia only validates our proposition and the potential for this market. I believe the mobile phone has become so entrenched in our lives that to use it as a way to pay, transfer or purchase things is a natural next step.

PL: Can we envision an Obopay application on all Nokia devices in the near future?

CR: Of course we work closely with Nokia, and rest assured Philippe that as soon as we have updates on that relationship we will share them.

PL: Do you plan to go beyond the mobile device, for example on Twitter or Facebook ?

CR: We are already there; we have been offering what we call widgets. These widgets can easily be downloaded to a number of social media applications such Facebook and MySpace so users can collect, receive payments, gifts etc. from friends.

PL: You closed a deal with MasterCard, which enables MasterCard holders to send funds to any cardholder using their mobile. Can we imagine doing the same with AMEX or Visa?

CR: MasterCard has clearly seen the potential in mobile payments and we have been working closely with them to power their MoneySend application (card–to-card money transfer). This is powerful because so many consumers and businesses have their cards, which brings new capabilities and mobile access to all these cards. American Express and Visa should want to provide their customers the same capability.

PL: This question is for all African readers of this blog. Following what's happening in Kenya, we see everyday an impressive growing number of mobile payment initiatives in almost all African countries. Mobile operators are extremely aggressive and the race has really started. Which kind of partnerships could Obopay have to move rapidly on this unbanked market?

CR: What is happening in emerging markets such as Kenya is a testament to the potential for this market. Obopay is live in India and we are working to expand our services in other developing markets. We are working closely with partners to ensure the go-to-market approach is scalable, which is critical for the market to really take off.

PL: Do you agree on what Hannes van Rensburg recently said: "Mobile Money community is maturing. The fierce competitive spirit between different companies in the past has been replaced with a drive for open interfaces and creating networks of benefits for all connected parties."

CR: I agree with Mr. van Rensburg that it is important that all participants’ parties benefit from this market. Without the involvement of financial services institutions, operators and handset manufacturers and even regulators, this market won’t reach its true potential.

PL: Western Union launched officially recently in Barcelona its new remittance program for mobile transfer, could it be interesting for you to participate?

CR: The remittance market is potentially huge for the mobile money community. Our focus at this time is to build the service in the markets in which we currently operate and expand into new markets; of course remittance is something we are constantly looking at as part of that expansion.

PL: In France, like in many developed countries, we have plenty of payment solutions like checks, cards, internet, etc. What added value can mobile payment services provide in general, and in particular, how can Obopay bring something really new? Which kind of application could be useful for people?

CR: Philippe, you bring up a good point, but there are a few things Obopay provides that all the options you listed don’t. We are about applications that bring more convenience, more security, and more tools for managing a limited budget. Obopay will bring this and more to markets like France.

PL: Do you have plans to launch Obopay in Europe in the near future?

CR: Europe is one of the markets we are looking at, and as soon as we are ready to introduce new service offerings we will let you know.

PL: As a conclusion. Every day, we observe new ventures, new startups emerging in this worldwide industry. Which advise can you provide to a mobile payment entrepreneur?

CR: The mobile payment industry is more complex than many people on the outside may realize. When you think about the simplicity of sending a text message and instantly getting that money to your loved ones, is hard to imagine the regulatory, technology, security, partner issues that come with it. My recommendation would be to build a strong partner network, be clear as to the role you want to play in the industry and be patient, very patient.

PL: Thank you again Carol

CR: Thank you Philippe


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