Recent Findex stats find that ownership of financial accounts in Pakistan – including those with commercial banks, microfinance institutions, and mobile money accounts – has risen to 21% of the adult population, compared to 10% in 2011. Albeit slow, the rise in account uptake is a cause for hope for Pakistan and has largely been enabled by leveraging technology to build advanced and inclusive financial solutions. The resolve of the government, regulatory authorities, and financial services institutions has also played an instrumental role in banking millions of unbanked Pakistanis, improving their access to swift and hassle-free financial solutions, and digitizing the local financial services landscape.
Not many years ago, Pakistan’s financial services sector was in a morbid state with over 100 million Pakistani adults – accounting for 5% of the world’s unbanked population – lacking a formal bank account. Women’s access, at merely 5% of the total adult account holders in Pakistan, was even more concerning as it forced them to resort to informal, often unscrupulous, means of financial support or services. The underprivileged segment of the population was the worst hit as opening an account in a conventional bank was complicated and full of hassles. Tedious paperwork and distance to the nearest financial institution remained top barriers to opening a formal financial account.
Things needed to be drastically simplified in order to bring financial inclusion to the masses. Easypaisa, the country’s first branchless banking service, resolved this by enabling account opening and sending and receiving money simply through a basic mobile phone. The product leveraged Pakistan’s healthy teledensity, which stands at a promising 76% today, to deliver financial services straight to users’ mobile phones. In a very short time, a network of Easypaisa retailers and franchises mushroomed across the country, serving millions of customers each day. This triggered the digital transformation of Pakistan’s financial landscape with branchless banking becoming the cornerstone of Pakistan’s National Financial Inclusion Strategy of 2015.
Evolving from mobile banking into a complete lifestyle solution
Pioneering mobile banking in Pakistan and becoming the foremost branchless banking brand in the country, Easypaisa continued its journey towards expanding its services portfolio to serve customers better. To facilitate the users of other mobile operators in using Easypaisa without hassle, the Easypaisa mobile app was launched that brought banking literally to users’ fingertips. The app’s evolution to excellence continued and over time it allowed users to send and receive money, purchase mobile top-ups and bundles, pay utility bills, buy bus and movie tickets, avail discounts, and do a lot more. Integration of QR payments functionality is also making payments swifter and easier for the Easypaisa app users.
Today, Easypaisa is more than just a digital payments platform and offers customers a complete lifestyle solution. By forging partnerships with some of the country’s leading retail stores, restaurants & fast food chains, health institutions, clothing brands, and cinemas, Easypaisa is fast on its way to becoming the ultimate digital lifestyle partner of today’s connected customers. The partnerships are not only benefiting the Easypaisa customers, but are also helping merchants drive more sales and digitize their payments. Easypaisa is also offering customers to earn surprise rewards, split food and shopping bills amongst friends when paying through QR, and send money to loved ones as gift on special occasions. Users can now also send messages to social networks via the Easypaisa app and stay more connected. Easypaisa and its app have, on many occasions, been recognized for their financial inclusion prowess, the latest being the ‘Most Innovative MFI Award’ as well as ‘Innovation in Payments’ award for the ground-breaking international remittance service and the one-of-a-kind digital lending product.
Digitizing lending & financing for the underserved
Just as it brought money transfers and payments to users’ fingertips, Easypaisa has introduced digital financing initiatives that are addressing the challenges that block access of the financially excluded populace to formal finance. Digital lending launched by Easypaisa has gained much traction, seeing an exponential growth of over 2,000% in the past 11 months. The integration of modern technology has streamlined the entire lending process, optimizing user journey and making access extremely convenient, efficient, and cost-effective.
The first-of-its-kind service in the South Asian region, Easypaisa digital nano loans provide small, unsecured short-term loans to micro SMEs who do not have a formal financial record using cost-effective digital processes. Loans are approved within 5 minutes and disbursed to applicant’s mobile account. In addition to introducing Pakistan’s first ever digital nano lending product, Easypaisa has also recently launched the ‘Retailer Cash Advance’ product whereby it offers lending solutions ranging from PKR 25,000 to PKR 150,000 digitally to retailers facilitating their business needs and allowing them a chance to grow their business.
Leveraging innovation to build smarter financial solutions
Innovation is at the heart of all product and service offerings at Easypaisa. It has many industry-first initiatives to its credit, the latest and most significant being the market’s first blockchain based cross-border remittance service. Launched in partnership with Valyou, the Easypaisa counterpart in Malaysia, the service is powered by industry-leading blockchain technology developed by Alipay, the online payment platform operated by the Ant Financial. Through this service, a beneficiary in Pakistan receives the remittance directly in their Easypaisa mobile wallet within seconds through real-time response via blockchain technology.
The service brings Pakistan in the league of world’s few countries that are using International Remittance using blockchain technology. This platform, along with improvements in speed and efficiency of remittances, is also encrypted with the most advanced protocols to ensure user privacy and protection. It is pertinent to note that at around US$20 billion per year, international remittances are crucial to Pakistan’s economy with Malaysia’s home remittance share being a significant US$1 billion. Home remittances contributed over 6% to GDP, equivalent to over 50% of Pakistan’s trade deficit, 85% of exports and over one-third of imports during FY 2017-18.
Driving transformation of the local microfinance landscape
To bring the unbanked and the under-banked into the fold of financial services as envisaged by the National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) and the Financial Inclusion Program (FIP), Easypaisa is closely working with Pakistan Microfinance Network (PMN). The collaboration is aimed at digitizing Pakistan’s microfinance industry through a Digital Services Platform (DSP) that would increase accessibility for clients and bring efficiency through available distribution channels. The project is expected to help the microfinance sector achieve its goal of reaching out to 10 million borrowers, 50 million deposit accounts, and 11 million insurance clients by 2020.
PMN is leveraging Easypaisa’s branchless banking capabilities to power the Digital Services Platform to offer digital payments services in a shared hosting environment. The Digital Services Platform will be integrated with Easypaisa for its agent network for disbursement and repayment transactions with the latter acting as an aggregator for about 40 different MFIs. The platform features a comprehensive merchant-incentive functionality to achieve the vision of digitizing the entire payments value chain from customer to retailer and distributor. DSP is expected to go live by Q3 2019.
Staying committed to empowering Pakistan
Working with a passion to empower the Pakistani people and bridge the financial inclusion divide in the country, Easypaisa stays committed to bringing opportunities to the underserved. Be it helping the BISP beneficiaries withdraw entitlements, supporting the poor sustain households, assisting the financially challenged start or retain a small business, or simply freeing the impoverished from the vicious trap of the informal finance sources, Easypaisa continues to set precedents of how a simple mobile technology can be used to transform societies. The service is equally receptive to the evolving digital needs of its customers across the country, adapting to meet them effectively. Leveraging technology, Easypaisa is geared to serve Pakistan better and prepare it for the age of digital finance.