Cenk Bayrakdar was in a bullish mood when European Communications met up with him this week to talk about Turkcell’s recent mobile wallet launch.
Indeed, the CTO was positively gushing about its revenue-generating potential.
“In three to five years time, it could put 2-3 percent on our revenues,” said the CTO.
Given Turkcell’s 2011 revenues amounted to €4 billion, that would equate to an extra €80-120 million.
So how likely is Turkcell to become one of the winners?
Without doubt it is fortunate to be the market leader in one of the fastest growing economies in Europe, particularly at a time when many of its continental rivals are struggling.
Perhaps the most interesting and relevant stat – at least to the mobile wallet launch – is that Turkey has an “unbanked” population of 20 million.
Given the total population of 70 million, this is a surprising figure that goes some way to explain Turkcell’s confident predictions.
In short, one barrier to the wider adoption of mobile wallet services, particularly in more developed economies, is the reluctance of financial services companies and banks to engage with telcos as they fear losing their customers.
However, when a European country has over 28 percent of its population without a bank account in 2012 – as Turkey does – getting in on an emerging mobile banking solution is naturally appealing.
But it has not been an easy process.
Bayrakdar said the biggest challenge in setting up the service was trying to recreate a banking-style process while at the same time persuading the banks that “we are just a platform”.
Turkcell has had some success: 14 banks have signed up alongside Mastercard to partner in the project.
So who’s in charge? “We are,” said the CTO.
Crucially, however, Turkcell will not be sharing data.
This is important because, as Zoller pointed out, the data sources of all the players will only yield maximum value when they are aggregated and cross-referenced.
“There is always a black box,” admitted Bayrakdar.
Consequently, Turkcell will be relying on the plain vanilla payment revenues initially.
According to the CTO, the operator will get £1 from each mobile bank transfer, 20 pence from each m-payment and 10 percent of each coupon deal.
However, moving forward Bayrakdar said he was most excited by the potential of mobile marketing.
Furthermore, Turkcell plans to offer its service to other operators.
The CTO said several were in the process of evaluating it, but sounded downbeat about the possibility of the plan coming to fruition any time soon.
“We’ve already been waiting six months for an answer,” he said.
Perhaps they are waiting to see how successful it really is.
Bayrakdar said 25,000 people had already signed up to the mobile wallet, despite there being no advertising.
With a “big” commercial push kicking off in the next few weeks, the CTO said he expects to have two million signed up by the end of 2013.
“Mastercard said we were 10 months ahead of the rest of the world on this,” said Bayrakdar.
In particular, he said the wallet's three separate layers of security – on the operating system, the SIM, and at the bank – allied to the fact that the service was available on every single phone on the market, set it apart from its competitors.
So what’s his biggest worry?
People getting their head around the technology, particularly as smartphone penetration in Turkey is just 12 percent.
However, this could also be Turkcell's biggest opportunity; the uptake of mobile money services in emerging economies has been much written about. With Turkey at a crossroads both geographically and from a technological standpoint, it could prove to be the perfect market for mobile wallet services.