1. Mobile banking
In Indonesia – a country with 200 million mobile users but only 50 million bank users – VOX offers a novel way to connect a rural population with bank services. Customers SMS a short code to VOX to arrange a meeting with a street vendor to collect or receive cash. Users can also pay utility bills, purchase Facebook credits or take out loans.
The lesson: Customers living in rural areas may still prefer the human touch and may distrust banks altogether. Using the simplicity of SMS and taking banking services to the people, VOX wins trust. They offer personal, non-intimidating, face-to-face banking education too.
Arguably one of the most popular and convenient features internet access is the ability to ask any question. Don’t have internet access? Well, then you are just like 70% the Asian population, according to Techinasia.com. YesBoss will answer any command you send via SMS – like requesting a taxi or ordering a pizza – within just a few minutes.
The lesson: Offer customers convenience and put a real person behind it, and they will love you for it. The brevity of SMS also makes it scalable: the company plans to unveil an artificial intelligence auto response system which will process imperfect and colloquial language.
During festivals like the Lunar New Year, millions of Vietnamese want to leave their cities and visit their families via bus. VeXeRe was the first business to let customers book via a call center or online, then send them tickets via SMS.
The lesson: This startup solved a huge headache by building SaaS (Software as a Service) for bus companies. Soon they will expand to trains. A paperless SMS ticket eliminates the need to shop around and pick up tickets.
In the Philippines, Smart Txtbks was a way to condense textbooks into the SMS inboxes of SIM cards, which were distributed to several public schools in Manila. As over 80% of the population still uses feature phones, Smart Txtbks was hugely successful.
The lesson: Don’t underestimate the power of knowledge – learning can still happen in simple colors, on a small screen.
Asian countries have experienced devastating natural disasters in the last decade. Services like SMS Tsunami Warning will send subscribers timely tsunami and earthquake warnings via SMS. In the archipelago of Vanuatu – hit by an earthquake, volcano eruption and cyclone Pam – disaster assistance was offered to 140,000 people in the form of SMS messages with advice on diarrhea prevention.
The lesson: During a disaster, time is of the essence and SMS is a great tool to reach the masses when other modes of communication – even access – are not available.
To sum up, smartphones and apps are rising in popularity but the feature phone market remains immensely lucrative. SMS is the perfect low-cost tool to tap the potential of an internet-less and app-less rural market.
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