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Qtel + MoneyGram: Local Solution, Global Reach

Qatar Telecom hugely expanded its Mobile Money international remittance service by partnering with MoneyGram.

Qatar Telecom, or Qtel, has just expanded its successful mobile money service with a second clever innovation: a partnership with MoneyGram, the global money transfer company.

What’s the first? I’ll tell you. But first, a little background.

Qatar is a very interesting country in the Middle East. There are two million people who live there, only half of which are citizens. The other half is made up of migrant workers from other countries, primarily the Philippines, Pakistan, India, and Nepal. They’re working construction, maintenance, childcare and other blue-collar jobs. Most of them don’t have bank accounts, and send a large amount of their pay back home to their families. Many of these workers had been spending a good chuck of their one day a week off in a long queue at a money transfer outlet to send funds back home.

Then in late 2011, Qtel launched its Mobile Money service, which allows people to do international remittance via mobile phone, using—the first clever innovation—a network of ATM-like machines to deposit their funds to their mobile wallet.

With a service like DBBL (read more about it here ), you would go to a local agent and hand them money. They would credit your account, and then you’d have it in your mobile wallet. That model wouldn’t work in Qatar, because it would be too expensive—the economics of a human agent network don’t work out.

Instead, Qtel created a network automated money machines in malls around the country (where everyone spends their leisure time because they’re air-conditioned). You deposit your money by feeding it into the machine, and it gets credited to your mobile wallet. Then you can send money using your mobile phone. No queue required.

The second clever innovation is Qtel’s new partnership with MoneyGram. Up until late last year, Qtel customers could only send money back to the Philippines, Pakistan, and Nepal. In order to add more countries, the operator had to build out remittance “corridors,” or connections between itself and partner outlets in the receiving countries. It required contracts and negotiations, which were different for each one. As Qtel added more countries, the system became more complex.

But now, with the MoneyGram partnership, Qtel customers can send money anywhere MoneyGram is available, which is essentially anywhere: 284,000 locations in 197 countries. MoneyGram gets a steady stream of revenue. Qtel gets to leverage an existing outlet network to offer more options for its customers. It’s a win-win-win.

We’re all in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress this week. If you’re here too, go to the Qtel pavilion to see a demo of the service. Or either way, check out Qtel’s great video here.