This was inspired by a tweet by @ahmedsalims. He asked, what are the opportunities of QR codes and M-PESA (rephrased). At first of course I went like, how would that even happen? M-PESA is SMS based, QR codes are ‘pictures’. and for a moment there I have a million (exaggerated figure, i hope you get that) reasons why that idea was a little far-fetched. But you know Ahmed, he has big ideas, and already laid-out action paths. This is what he had in mind, using QR codes to pay bills via M-PESA. he gave an example of paying for coffee. Still far-fetched? i guess you too, like me now have a well of ideas of how that could be implemented. Ahmed also went ahead to propose the use of check-ins. If by now you don’t think its a great idea, quit reading, or wait, i guess i could convince you further.
I proposed an app, yes, an app. a Safaricom app, if you may. IT peeps correct me if i am wrong but tools like foursquare can be integrated into an app, right? That and a QR code reader, right? Here is how i think it should go. have a Safaricom App with all the things that we love about Safaricom and would love to have on an App but also M-PESA paybill. this is how i see that playing out, you walk into…let’s use Ahmed’s idea…a coffee-house, make your order etc etc, then on your Smartphone you go to your Safaricom App and check-in to the coffee-house. At that point that just lets the world (including Safaricom and the coffee house) know you are having coffee. After a nice cup of cappuccino, a slice of white forest and large amounts or small talk, the lovely waitress brings you your bill, on it a breakdown of what you owe, normally an amount that make you remember why coffee and cake is unhealthy…financially, then at the bottom a QR code, generated by the cashier for your transaction. you scan it and it loads the bill details on the screen and an option to pay via M-PESA. You select yes and it takes you straight to the M-PESA paybill option where then you will be required to enter your PIN and voila!! The transaction is done. You get a confirmation SMS and the cashier gets a notification that the transaction has been closed.
Now you see what I mean when I say the idea is not too far-fetched and Ahmed was, as always practical? this could be replicated in many other retail outlets, clothing, food, utility bills ETC, what’s more it reduces the chances of sending money to the wrong person/merchant, it increases use of M-PESA, its makes transactions so so simple and of course you can see how it be used to beat queues in supermarkets and such places that just make you feel like you are on Thiker road (yes, deliberate pun).
The world needs a Safaricom app, and M-PESA would go so far with one
***This article was drafted and never published in 2011 when QR codes still had hope, Safaricom had no app and a few other factors that have since changed to render the idea null.