Monday, June 16, 2008

Cash card transactions are much higher in India. Why?

There are two types of e-commerce transactions on Internet. First, the consumer who makes the transaction on his behalf or family or for a friend and secondly an agent (ICT kiosks, Internet Cafes, etc) who completes the transaction on behalf of his customer.

Indian e-commerce industry minus IRCTC is almost like we are still in infancy stage. So it is clear that insights from IRCTC would help us in understanding the e-commerce trends. Fortunately, every month, IRCTC publishes actual statistics on transactions with complete details on its website.

If you observe statistics of any month, first thing is that you would wonder that cash card transactions are like 1/3 rd of total transactions (rest are credit or debit or netbanking). And in fact, cash card transactions growth rate is much higher than all other modes of payment. Then you start feeling like you have never heard of them anyone using it, but how come such large number of transactions?

Being an insider in this industry I would like to you give you a detailed story behind this wonder. First, let us see the business model of a cash-card company:

Platform: It is two sided. Cash-card companies just tie-up with numerous merchants/service providers (like telecom or ticketing etc). And later they start acquiring agents to use their technology platform. Typically these agents are: ICT Kiosks owners or Cyber cafes or computer education centers or the latest PCO/STD 2.0 etc.

Target Audience: Who all can’t goto a website and/or can't pay through credit or debit card for remote payments. This means, those agents become the middlemen between the remote customer and the service provider.

Commission: Most times, cash-card companies get discount from the service providers (usually 3% to 5%), a portion of which would be passed to their agents (for example air ticketing works in this manner!). Otherwise, customer is charged (for example, IRCTC don't give any commission to cash-card guys and so, agents would charge customers on top of the ticket cost).

Other revenues: Of course there could be a small percentage of direct consumers who would use the cash-card on web. But that is not what makes significant cash-flow for a cash-card company.

Future: So it is obvious that cash-card transactions would become much higher than credit or debit card transactions when cash card companies can acquire much more agents (in particular rural areas) along with more service providers (such as electricity/water distribution companies).


Now comes the biggest disclosure: In fact, strength of any payment card system lies with the following three points.
  1. They must tie up with as many merchants as possible.
  2. Technology/process that makes the consumer to use the card for payment.
  3. Card distribution should be efficient.
Now, how are the famous credit card companies (VISA or MasterCard) placed in the above points. Firstly they are accepted with innumerous merchants. Secondly consumer can use the card at merchant outlet or online or telephone or SMS or etc. Thirdly, Banks issue credit/debit cards to the consumers on behalf of VISA/Mastercard. Now coming to the costs of this ecosystem of digital payments is usually less than 5% of the value of the transactions (VISA, Banks, Merchants share this 5%). As the Mobile payments is getting matured, this value is getting closer to 3%.

Of course, companies involved in this payment ecosystem also have additional revenue through other value added services such as interest charged to the customer by providing them credit, etc.


Rupesh said...

do you have the stats for the month of April, May and June.
IRCTC updates the excel sheet each month. so missed the previous months' data.
Though was able to retrieve data for June & Aug through Google cache
if you have any of the data, please share it with me at my email address provided in the comment.

Shubham said...

wow...... this is very interesting.... I never knew about this.