bKash Bangladesh: A Fast Start for Mobile Financial Services
The first mobile financial service deployments were launched in Bangladesh in mid-2011, and by the end of 2013 they were being used by 22 percent of the adult population (Intermedia 2014)—a fast start for a large country of 160 million inhabitants. In 2013 registered mobile financial services accounts in Bangladesh grew faster than in any other country.
Even though Bangladesh’s central bank has approved more than 20 licenses to offer mobile financial services, more than 80 percent of transactions are through a single company—bKash Limited. bKash launched in the second half of 2011, grew to 2 million accounts by the end of 2012, and shot up to 11 million registered accounts by the end of 2013. Unlike large mobile money businesses in other countries, bKash is not a mobile network operator (MNO) and did not have an existing customer base to which it added mobile financial services. bKash acquired each client on its own.
Three factors have combined to drive bKash’s fast start:
1. A specialized organization built to deliver mobile financial services
2. A shared vision for scale among a diverse investor group
3. An enabling and flexible regulatory environment
On their own these three factors are not uncommon, but in this case they combined to drive bKash’s fast start. This Brief provides background on bKash and explores the three factors driving early growth.