Monday, September 27, 2010

The challenges of a young industry

According to most accounts, the mobile financial services industry will grow to be huge. It is likely that it would have a major impact on social trends and macro economies in most countries (but specifically in emerging countries where the biggest global growth will occur and where the majority of people live). In human terms we are potentially looking at a giant with a lot of capacity.

However, the industry is still only a toddler (at best). As is the case with humans, the industry will still have to go through many phases, face many problems and (hopefully) be exposed to the right influences. It is critical years - right now - as many of the things that will be pivotal later will get established now.

In looking at the industry at this stage of the development, I have many worries about how it is developing and what some of the characteristics are that are starting to evolve in this young toddler. I believe it is important to recognise the bad behaviour and eradicate it now in order to ensure that the industry can grow into its full potential and deliver on its promise.

Some of the worrying traits that I see emerging are the following:

This is an industry without a clear identity. At best, the industry can be described as schizophrenic. We have different views of what the industry stand for and what the objectives are. We lack a crisp message. It is often my experience that external people only "get it" after a long description and explanation. It would be much better if we had a much more clear identity.

The industry is not honest with itself and with others. Wild claims and misleading statements are often made. It seems as if it is more important to project information so as to benefit specific individuals rather than considering the well-being of the industry. I am not naive in thinking that this should not be happening, but when it turns into standard practice and with no cross checks and balances, I say we have a problem.

Are these signs of an industry in distress or should we just bear with the growing pains of a young industry?

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