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bKash Allows Sending Money to non bKash Users, Digital Product, and Growth

Mobile money giant bKash has announced a feature early this month allowing bKash account holders to send money to non-bKash users. 

This means bKash users can send money to any mobile number, be the number is a registered bKash user or not. The way the new feature works is simple. When a bKash user enters the bKash menu, it now shows an additional option to send money to any non-bKash users. When a user chooses to send money to a non-bKash user, the system does send the money to the user with a link to download the bKash app and open a bKash account online by uploading user details along with necessary documents and receive the money into their newly opened account. They can also go to nearby bKash Digital Registration Point or bKash registration point to open an account. The money remains valid to receive for 72 hours. The sender can cancel the send money request anytime from the bKash app before the receiver opens a bKash account. 

This is a clever growth hack on the part of bKash. More on that in a moment. First, the background of the feature.

The background work 

bKash has to fulfill a number of conditions to come to launch this feature. There is technology. Regulatory environment. Finally, a technical system for users to register accounts online in real-time and then activate their account to receive money. bKash started this work in 2019 when the company launched eKYC allowing customers to open bKash accounts mostly digitally from the nearest Digital Registration Point. bKash launched eKYC in August 2020. 

In a press release, published at the time bKash said the eKYC app would allow customers to open their bKash account with instant activation only scanning NID and taking photos without any documents. At the time, the app was only available to agents, bKash centers and distributors who can help customers create accounts using the app. And the company said the ultimate ambition of the move was to allow customers to open a bKash account on the go. 

bKash made it possible by doing a number of things at once: using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to collect data from NID, face detection technology and cross-matching data with Election Commission (EC) database. The system automatically fills up the eKYC form and all the information is cross-matched with the EC database. After proper verification, the system automatically registers the customer account and sends confirmation messages to both the eKYC app user and the new customer.

This work in 2018 enabled bKash to take the feature to wider consumers. Today, bKash is finally taking the option to wider customers. And this time around the technical design is simpler. 

From bKash press release sent out on July 2nd, 2020: 

“In order to create more convenience, bKash, the largest MFS provider in the country has enabled its customers to Send Money to anybody who doesn’t have any bKash account. Customers can avail this service from bKash app or USSD code *247#.

The recipient can receive the sent amount after opening a bKash Account within 72 hours. The new user can Cash Out the money as well as avail other bKash services.

If the recipient doesn’t open bKash account within 72 hours and fails to receive the amount, it will be returned to the sender’s bKash account within the next 3 working days.

To Send Money to non-bKash user, customer needs to select the recipient’s phone number from contacts in bKash app or type the number. There will be added information on the screen about the new service. Then customer will have to enter the amount and complete the process with bKash PIN after checking details.

The recipient will receive a text message in phone number with bKash app download link. The recipient can download the app by clicking on the link and open a bKash account from the app within a few minutes with own NID. S/he can also go to any nearby digital registration point of bKash to open the account. Once the account registration is successful, she will get the sent money in his/her bKash Account. However, the sender can cancel the Send Money request from bKash app any time before the receiver opens bKash account.”

The entire process is simple and comes with enough security measures in every step. 

Growth hack, digital product, network effect

The move can unleash a new wave of growth for bKash. In fact, with the move bKash has finally added itself to the long list of digital products that have taken advantage of network effect and virality to achieve growth.

This is reminiscent of what digital products such as email, productivity software, and so on send invitations to non-users and hack through new levers of growth.

The move is likely to allow bKash to grow quickly among new users and cement bKash’s already dominant position in the MFS and digital payment space in Bangladesh. 

Mohammad Ruhul Kader is a Dhaka-based entrepreneur and writer. He founded Future Startup, a digital publication covering the startup and technology scene in Dhaka with an ambition to transform Bangladesh through entrepreneurship and innovation. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, and society. He is the author of Rethinking Failure. His writings have been published in almost all major national dailies in Bangladesh including DT, FE, etc. Prior to FS, he worked for a local conglomerate where he helped start a social enterprise. Ruhul is a 2022 winner of Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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