Pakistan: Mobile Money Uptake, Awareness and Trust

The use of mobile money in Pakistan appears to be gaining ground, based on supply-side data. The most recent quarterly statistics gathered by the State Bank of Pakistan [1] showed a 4 percent increase by volume and a 5 percent rise in the value of transactions from the previous quarter, continuing a fairly steady upward trend.

However, from a demand-side perspective, uptake remains modest. InterMedia’s Financial Inclusion Insights team conducted a nationally representative survey of 6,000 Pakistanis in late fall 2013 to assess access to and use of mobile money and other financial services. The survey showed only 7 percent of Pakistanis had used mobile money at least once. The survey also confirmed the predominance of over-the-counter (OTC) transactions which are conducted by a mobile money agent on behalf of a customer. Ninety four percent of mobile money users only use OTC mobile money services, while 6 percent have a registered account and can use either the account or transact through an agent.

Why is mobile money uptake low?

Awareness of mobile money is one potential hurdle. When asked in the FII survey to name at least one mobile money company, around half (49 percent) of nonusers were able to do so unprompted. An additional 13 percent were able to do so after being shown logos of Pakistani mobile money companies, for a combined awareness total of 62 percent. [2]

Thus, 38 percent were not aware of mobile money products at all. This group had some demographic particularities. Forty-three percent of female respondents fell into this category, compared with only 28 percent of male respondents. Geographically, Punjab fared better than other provinces in terms of awareness about mobile money companies; only 25 percent of the respondents from Punjab could not name any mobile money company. This is logical, given that Punjab is a relatively developed part of the country and mobile phone use is high there. Punjab’s 25 percent stands in contrast to the 65 percent of respondents from Balochistan, 55 percent from Sindh and 35 percent Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who were unaware of mobile money companies.

Television ownership also tends to increase awareness about mobile money companies. Among respondents without a TV in their home, 57 percent could not name a single mobile money company, compared with 31 percent of respondents whose households included a TV set.

From awareness to knowledge

Even among nonusers who are aware of mobile money, nearly half (49 percent) said they do not have a mobile money account because they don’t need one, which is, of course, a legitimate reason.

However, the FII survey also indicated that 39 percent of non-users who are aware of mobile money were not able to identify a single mobile money function. It raises the question of whether some Pakistanis currently believe they don’t need mobile money simply because they don’t know what they might be able to do with it. We can’t answer this question directly from the survey data, but it does provide some clues about knowledge gaps that may act as barriers to usage.

Even among those non-users who could name at least one mobile money function, the table below shows that the bulk of this knowledge focuses on person-to-person money transfers and, to a lesser extent, paying bills and buying airtime pop-ups. Other potential functions get little recognition.

We also looked at the data from the perspective of specific use cases to provide more clues about the knowledge factor:

  • Eight percent of nonusers said they transfer money to individuals who are at a distance of more than 2 kilometers away, but only 42 percent of this group knew that this task could be conducted via mobile money. Similarly, 8 percent of non-users said they receive money from individuals who are more than 2 kilometers away, but only 37 percent of this group knew that mobile money is an option for receiving this type of money transfer. This is significant, given that money transfer is currently the most well-known mobile money function in Pakistan.
  • Fifty-seven percent of non-users owned a mobile phone, but only 13 percent of this group knew that a mobile money account can be used to buy airtime top-ups.


The trust factor

Beyond knowledge, trust is a key factor in a person’s willingness to use a product or service. As the figure shows, the percentage of all Pakistanis who express trust in mobile money services lags trust in banks.

The main fear among those who lack trust in mobile money is the potential of losing money to fraud. This fear seems to derive from SMS-based frauds that have occurred in Pakistan. The Pakistan Telecom Authority has created a dedicated hotline to combat this as well as spam calls and unsolicited messages.

That said, the survey data also indicated that levels of trust in mobile money services are much higher among users of these services than among nonusers, indicating lack of knowledge also fuels mistrust.

The FII team will continue to explore awareness and trust issues through our ongoing research in Pakistan. In the meantime, mobile operators and regulators can add these findings to the research they are using to inform their marketing activities.


[1] Telenor’s Easy Paisa was the most frequently recalled brand, with a combined awareness total of 58 percent, while rival UBL Omni had a combined awareness level of 28 percent.
[2] State Bank of Pakistan Quarterly Branchless Banking Newsletter, October-December 2013: Note that the SBP refers to its measurements of branchless banking, but this essentially covers mobile money activity.