Payment Just an SMS Away
    Category: Entrepreneurs By : Ardian Wibisono Read : 2362 Date : Wednesday, June 12, 2013 - 09:34:04

    Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

    Mobile banking is a hot topic these days. The trick is having a system that is reliable, safe and easy to use. Hendra Sutandinata of PT MVCommerce claims to have developed that system, along with his business partner Edgardo Castro. Hendra, 48, has developed a platform that allows anyone to send, receive and store money in their cell phones using SMS messages. Besides providing an easy cashless tool for transactions for the mass market, the platform, called PonselPay, could be used by Micro Finance Institution (MFIs) and Small and Midsized Enterprises (SMEs) to extend their service to those who don't have traditional bank accounts—which is estimated to be at least one third of the population—as long as they have a cell phone with SMS.

    The system is simple for anyone to use.  After registering for the system (through SMS), the user receives a personal identification number that they use for each transaction. Through PonselPay, users can store, send and receive funds, pay bills, including taking cash out of ATMs. The system is free for users (a small fee is charged to any organization or individual making a payment over the system).

    “We want to help people and institutions with the payment and transfer process,” Hendra says. Importantly, Hendra has a track record of success in developing a similar technology for the Philippines. Today, a form of PonselPay is used by many of the major banks in the Philippines for mobile banking, including Banco de Oro, Metrobank and Citibank's Philippine division. He also has mobile banking clients in Malaysia.

    He launched his service in Indonesia in 2001. His first client was Bank Bali (now part of Bank Permata). Hendra adapted his system from Philippines, named ACE. The system was designed specifically for the bank, and was a big success, with a huge new volume in SMS-based banking transactions. He also built a mobile banking service for the ALTO network of banks, one of the leading interbank networks in the country. After these successes, Hendra decided to build a “white label” technology, one that could be used by any organization or any phone, irrespective of operating system, which they can brand as their own offering.

    Hendra started working on this system in 2008, and it took two years to get it ready for launch. In 2010 Hendra connected his PonselPay to several banks and four telecommunication providers: Indosat, XL, Mobile-8 and Smart (Mobile-8 and Smart later merged). At the time, some telecom companies and banks were already offering mobile banking systems. “But the beauty of PonselPay is that it's white label, so it interconnects better,” Hendra says. He also built a mobile banking system for Permata Bank, one of the largest banks in the country, that has since become one of the leading mobile banking platforms and a profit center for the bank.