February 11, 2013
How Mobile SMS Powers a Digital Bank Network for Indonesia’s Rural Population
Founded by Joseph Gaol in 2008, VOX, which stands for Virtual Online Exchange, aims to help the rural population in Indonesia set up bank accounts.
VOX has “mobile street vendors” to connect with the local people. A total of 12,000 of them are in the outskirts of Jakarta and these vendors also act as micro-lenders. As lenders, they sign an agreement with VOX and comply with all terms and conditions set by them to ensure that money is managed in a legal manner.
These lenders – or rather, street vendors by trade – are usually very well connected within the local community. They are also in charge of educating customers in using VOX’s mobile banking system while at the same time helping customers to deposit, withdraw, or to make a loan.
Customers will send a short code via SMS to VOX. The street vendors will then meet the user to collect or pass the cash to the customers. Using the same SMS code system, users can also use their accounts to purchase Facebook credits and pay their utility bills. Right now, VOX is hoping to include more merchandisers within its digital bank system to make payment more simple for its 1.5 million customers. Joseph reveals that, on average, the bank balance per user is at 300,000 Rupiah ($31). So the amount per transaction can’t be high.
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