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Omnichannel Fiasco No. 2: M-PESA

In Omnichannel Fiasco #1: Standard Chartered Credit Card, I'd described a recent omnichannel experience that started well but went downhill soon thereafter.

In this post, let me describe another encounter with omnichannel that was a fiasco from the word go.

This was with Vodafone M-PESA mobile wallet.

My early involvement in its development coupled with its near cult status among mobile wallets made me very eager to try it out as soon as I could. This finally happened a couple of months ago, when M-PESA was launched in India. 

I went to the Vodafone store near my office, filled a form and deposited the minimum amount of INR 200 required to open an M-PESA account. The salesperson at the store warned me that, since the picture on the copy of my identity proof document was slightly smudged, my application might get rejected.

I was relieved when, a few hours later, I received an SMS from Vodafone with a PIN number that I was required to enter into an USSD app to activate my account. When I followed the instructions, the activation failed, with the app displaying a cryptic error message about something called MIME.

Since I couldn't figure out what the problem with the app was, I went back to the store two days later. The friendly attendant at the store took my phone, dialed up the USSD app, selected an esoteric option that was unrelated to account activation and tapped a few buttons. Lo and behold, I got an SMS confirming that my account was activated.

I was thrilled that I could now add money into the wallet and pay my bills using M-PESA.

My joy was shortlived.

A few days later, I received an SMS asking me to submit the required documentation and, in the same breath, telling me to ignore the message if I had already submitted them.

Not knowing whether to go to the store or ignore the message, I decided to hop channels and called Vodafone's customer service instead. The CSR confirmed that my account was alive and kicking and told me to ignore the SMS.

However, two days later, I got an SMS saying my account would be closed shortly since I hadn't submitted the documentation.

I went back to the store, where I was told that 89 out of 105 applications received by the store were rejected on KYC grounds, but that mine wasn't one of them. So far so good and someone from the store would call me if my application got canned. Taking me aside, the store manager whispered that his own application had gotten rejected and account opening amount, blocked. I didn't know whether to commiserate with him or console myself that I was better off than him or both, so I beat a quick retreat from the store.

Several months later, my near-surreal omnichannel experience with M-PESA continues. I still can't access the money deposited into the wallet. At least it's much lower than the INR 2000 paid in by the aforementioned manager.


Comments: (2)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 25 June, 2015, 09:15Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Interesting observation. I have seen that in the last few months the product has undergone a major update and modification. They have come up with App, 5% cashbacks, Free first money transfers etc. Moreover, you no longer need any documents to be submitted for m-pesa basic account. Pls share your number where you faced this problem. m-pesa team would call you back with Resolutions. (I know its been a year but still it would be nice to use that 100 rupees lying in the account)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 25 June, 2015, 09:48Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@PriyaN: TY for your comment. It's too little too late. Besides, if the M-PESA mobile app is anything like the regular Vodafone mobile app, I want to stay far away from it. Even though the amount lying in my M-PESA account is 2X of the figure you've mentioned, it's not worth the trouble of revisiting M-PESA. I've found much better alternatives since then.

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