Roshan and M-Paisa: The Promise of Mobile Money in Afghanistan
(10 pages of text)
In 2008, Roshan, Afghanistan’s leading telecommunications provider, launched M-Paisa, its mobile money transfer service, which allowed Afghans to use their mobile phones to transfer funds, receive and repay microfinance loans, make purchases, and disburse and receive salaries. The company was committed to building a financial ecosystem for transparent, safe, convenient, and secure services, which would also contribute to the long-term development of Afghanistan’s society. Utilizing technology from Vodafone Group Plc, which had been successful in Kenya, Roshan enjoyed several successful pilots, but it still faced a myriad of issues as it sought to scale the service amid a challenging operational environment. In 2011, three years after its launch, the M-Paisa service had yet to make a profit. Roshan’s chief executive officer and chief operating officer wondered what more they could do to turn M-Paisa around and, ideally, make an even more significant social impact.
This case is suitable for undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate courses in the areas of management, strategy, policy, entrepreneurship, innovation, international business, and information systems. It introduces students to the challenges of scaling mobile services in emerging economies and highlights the trade-offs between making a social impact and growing a commercial offering. The key learning points include the following:
- recognizing the critical roles of social context and operational environment in innovation;
- exploring how to engage and manage multiple stakeholders in a high-risk environment;
- identifying the need to constantly innovate and the importance of user adoption;
- appreciating how a basic technology can have a positive impact on a country and on people’s lives; and
- understanding the duality of technology as a toolkit for business and an agent for social change.
Information, Media & Telecommunications
Afghanistan, Large, 2018
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