UID to introduce micro-payment platform

As part of the UID project, the government plans to introduce a micro-payment platform that would allow for easy transactions in unbanked areas of the country. It will also create a nationwide network of BCs for enabling interoperability

The government’s ambitious unique identity (UID) project, under the stewardship of Nandan Nilekani, proposes to introduce a micro-payment platform that would make use of mobile technology. This platform would enable business correspondents (BCs) to carry out instant transactions at the remotest places in the country. The BC model has been implemented by the government in its efforts to tap the unbanked population in the country, as a part of its financial inclusion measures.

This micro-payment platform would function through low cost devices (or micro ATMs), said Mr Nilekani at Monday’s Banking Conclave 2009-10 in Mumbai. Also, these ‘micro ATMs’ would function as a network through connections with other banks across India. This would enable a person to instantly deposit or withdraw funds regardless of the bank associated with a particular BC. However, he mentioned that for this platform to become a reality, an inter-bank switch (similar to the National Financial Switch) would be required to make the system interoperable. Mr Nilekani pointed out that the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) would look into the matter.

Speaking at the conclave, Mr Nilekani said, “This will create a whole new paradigm in the financial inclusion process. What we propose is really creating, in effect, a low cost, high volume equivalent of an ATM network. This device will be based on a mobile phone connection and would be made available at every BC. Customers would just have to get their identity authenticated and withdraw or put money into their bank accounts. This money will not come from the ATM, but from the cash drawer of the BC.”

Stressing the importance of having these BCs connected, he added, “It is essential that it is made an interoperable system. Customers should be able to go to any BC to withdraw money, regardless of who is the merchant bank of the BC. It is similar to the way bank ATMs operate. If we have these BCs connected, it would also lead to more competition, thus bringing down transaction costs for customers.”

Mr Nilekani was also optimistic about the success of financial inclusion efforts, pointing out that various things are coming together at a very opportune and critical time to make it more feasible. These include the adoption of new technologies by the banking system, the spread of the mobile network, easy verification of identity supported by the UID project, the large flow of money between people through remittances or government welfare schemes and the regulatory environment being amenable to put things together.


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BIG TV in talks with Warner, CNN for content acquisition

Reliance BIG TV is believed to be in discussions with content providers like Max Broadcasting, Warner Home Entertainment Group and CNN to acquire non-film content for its pay-per-view (PPV) platform

Anil Ambani Group's direct-to-home (DTH) arm Reliance BIG TV is believed to be in discussions with content providers like Max Broadcasting, Warner Home Entertainment Group and CNN to acquire non-film content for its pay-per-view (PPV) platform, reports PTI.

Company sources said that Reliance BIG TV is in discussions with Max Broadcasting, Warner Brother Home Video, Warner Home Entertainment Group, Comedy Central and CNN to sign non-film content acquisition deals, which are expected to close by March this year.

The deals are expected to offer PPV revenue upside of nearly Rs500 crore over the next four years and a 10% revenue market share in the DTH VAS category.

While an agreement with Max Broadcasting would provide access to sports video content, a deal with Warner Brother Home Video and Warner Home Entertainment Group will enable BIG TV showcase exclusive music events.

When contacted, a company spokesperson declined to comment.

Comedy Central, which currently owns syndication rights to comedy shows from across the globe, will help BIG TV add the genre to its PPV platform and a deal with CNN/Fox and ABC Networks will provide the company real-time access to current affairs programmes and political news from US, Europe and Asian regions.

A deal with CNN/Fox can provide access to popular chat shows. The content is expected to be showcased from April onwards and will be spread over 16 months.

Reliance BIG TV is planning to invest nearly Rs350 crore over the next four years for acquisition across film and non-film based content.

As part of its overall content strategy, Reliance BIG TV plans to introduce 10 different varieties of non-film content, including sports, music, current affairs/documentaries, adventure, comedy, chat shows, cooking, religion and technology-based content on its PPV platform, sources said.

The company earlier introduced music-based content like Michael Jackson's tour. PPV viewership for its non-film content recorded 150% growth over its current average for film-based PPV content, even though they were priced at a premium of 50% compared to regular showcases.

The market size of the Indian DTH sector is expected to grow to about $1.28 billion by 2012 from the current $350 million, driven by PPV revenues.

By 2012, PPV revenues are expected to contribute nearly 15% of overall DTH revenues from 4% at present.


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