Bharti Airtel has become the first telecom operator to be issued a 'Semi-closed wallet' licence by the Reserve Bank of India. The central bank had issued the licence around 45 days back to the telecom major.
This service will allow Airtel subscribers to exchange physical cash for virtual money which can be stored on mobile phones to pay for goods and services for transaction value less than Rs 5,000. Once the user loads up his phone with prepaid cash he can walk into specified merchant locations and purchase goods and services.
Interestingly, Airtel has termed the service as semi-closed wallet, which means the financial services platform may be opened to third party vendors as well.
There have been a number of other limited initiatives in the mobile payment space over the last two years. Handset maker Nokia has partnered with Yes Bank to offer utility bill payment services.