September 17, 2013

Financial Apps in India: Aditya Birla Money

By Manish Mishra, VP Business Development and Country Manager (India)

This is not my father's India.

At least when it comes to finance.

The Aditya Birla Group – one of India's oldest conglomerates, but a relatively new player in the financial industry – knows it too.

The group's subsidiary, Aditya Birla Money, is using mobile to connect young people to the financial markets, enabling them to better manage their money and purchase stocks and other financial products.

My father's generation was much more likely to put their money in state banks, land or gold. Invest in stocks and bonds?  Unlikely. And now we have an important Indian brand that's created an app to make money management easier.

Globally, banks and financial services have been among the first institutions to use mobile as a tool to reach consumers. Here in India, Aditya Birla Money is among the first-movers. In this article, I'd like to take a closer look at what they've been doing. Let's start with a bit of background . . .

Traditional Company, New Market

Aditya Birla, founded in 1857, is India's third largest conglomerate with revenue of US$40 billion. (Tata and Reliance Industries, RIL, are #1 and #2.) A traditional bricks & mortar company, the Aditya Birla Group made its name in cement, metals and textiles before branching out into business process outsourcing, I.T., mobile and finance. (Aditya Birla is the owner of Idea Cellular, which has a 20% market share and is the third largest telecom in the country with 125 million subscribers.)

Started under a different name in the mid-90s, Aditya Birla Money only became part of the Aditya Birla Group four years ago. It has two core areas of business: stock broking and wealth management. Then about two years ago, ABM launched a mobile application called "MyUniverse" -- based on a web portal of the same name - with the objective of connecting with young urban investors. So far, more than 50,000 consumers have signed up. This is a particularly big number when you consider that Aditya Birla Money says its customer base is about 400,000.

A Comprehensive Financial App

MyUniverse is a useful tool because it allows consumers to link all their banking and credit card accounts into one app and then, from there, monitor the accounts, pay bills, track personal budgets, make investments and more.

ATM withdrawals and other expenses are categorised to make it easier to track and analyse.  Plus, the bank and credit card accounts can be from different providers, not necessarily Aditya Birla companies.

Many of the apps' features are free, including:
  • customised and categorised reports of your expenses and income
  • SMS or email alerts to pay bills and about budgets or credit card limits
  • money management advice notices
  • adding utility bills, setting up standing payment instructions
  • financial tools, news and market data

Aditya Birla Money also has two premium versions of MyUniverse, which are available on a one-year or multi-year subscription model (at about 500 - 750 rupees per year, US$8 - 12 / year). Value-add features include:
  • being able to include an unlimited number of billers
  • Investment, Tax and Net Worth reports
  • discounts on e-Tax filing and other services
So you can see that some of MyUniverse's features are directly related to ABM's business, while others provide the core content and that initially attracts consumers.

And for some smartphone users – including Blackberry series 5.0 – 6.0, phones with Android 2.1 or higher and some Nokias - ABM has another platform called Mobile Money Trading with a live scrolling ticker and which enables investors to access stock quotes and company news via voice commannds.

Promotion and Target Audience

As I mentioned, ABM is a relatively new financial company, so it's appropriate that it's reaching out to new consumers, particularly young digitally-inclined urban Indians.

ABM has shied away from mainstream media and instead focused on the internet, mobile and e-mail marketing to promote the product. They also opted for a Cost per Download campaign, in which they only paid each time an app was activated, rather than Cost per Click.

The Bottom Line

Other banks in India have apps that enable consumers to track their savings accounts. But MyUniverse is the only tool I've seen that helps people manage their expenses and make investment decisions. It's a premium application -- built for multiple operating systems – which provides some content and services for free, the rest as value-add. But it's all related to finance, which is Aditya Birla Money's area of expertise. MyUniverse is also not a mass market tool. It's targeted for young urbanites and is particulaly relevant for my friends who invest in the stock markets, even more so in these turbulent financial times.

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