MobiKwik and FreeCharge trade barbs as mobile wallet war gets nasty


MobiKwik-and-FreeChargeWhich is the number two mobile wallet company in the country? That question has sparked off an online spat between digital recharge platform and mobile wallet venture MobiKwik, run by One MobiKwik Systems Pvt Ltd, and Snapdeal-owned rival FreeCharge.

A Nielsen report on mobile wallets released last month said FreeCharge was the fastest growing digital payments app, with its reach growing from 17% in October 2015 to 30% in April 2016. It placed FreeCharge at number two position, ahead of MobiKwik whose reach went up from 15% to 20% in the same period. Paytm was the market leader with 40% reach in April 2016.

The daggers were immediately out. In a blogpost titled 'The truth about Nielsen Mobile Insights', Akash Gupta, general manager, marketing, MobiKwik questioned the methodology used by Nielsen in collating the report. "The survey claims facts about the mobile wallet industry that caters to more than 100 million Indians by tracking just 6000 smartphone users... How can a sample size of 6000 be even statistically relevant for a burgeoning country like ours," asked Gupta in his post.


It alleged that the methodology adopted by Nielsen suited only one company – FreeCharge --which had a handful of merchants in total. It also questioned the time-frame for the study, pointing out that Nielsen had last year also come out with similar results, analysing the May-July 2015 data when FreeCharge was officially launched in September 2015.

FreeCharge was quick to respond. In its blogpost, it claimed that the sample size used for data research by Nielsen was robust. "It's syndicated track data and not custom data. Clear as sunlight. This data is from the Nielsen Smartphone Android Panel that covers usage of standalone payment apps and not payments as a service," it added.

"Maybe our friends at MobiKwik will do what they should have done in the first place…focus on creating a great product and great user experience. The rest will follow," the FreeCharge blogpost said.


MobiKwik has also published a mail from Nielsen where the market research firm indicated that it had got FreeCharge to pull back the press notes. The mail said Nielsen was working with MobiKwik for a custom project where it would capture not only payment app usage but also embedded third-party app payments and offline payments.

The Snapdeal-owned company was quick to latch onto that. It alleged that MobiKwik was trying to influence outcomes through custom reports.

Meanwhile, Nielsen, in an email reply to Techcircle, said that the mobile insights study uses metering technologies to passively measure the actual usage of apps and sites on smartphones, versus conducting a survey. "In India, we operate a 6000-member Android smartphone users' panel, that is representative of the connected Android user base in urban India. In this case, our findings cover the usage of mobile payment apps, and not instances where these services have been integrated into other apps or systems," it added. Nielsen declined to share the report with Techcircle.


Rivalry between companies chasing the same customer isn't uncommon. Questioning the authenticity of market share data is also not rare. We have seen television channels fighting over the numero uno position. Newspapers have many a time come out with conflicting sets of data to prove that they are the number one daily. What is surprising is that the two mobile wallet companies took to cyberworld to fight their wars. But perhaps, that is the new trend as seen in the recent slugfest between Flipkart co-founder and executive chairman Sachin Bansal and Snapdeal co-founder and CEO Kunal Bahl.

The fight in the digital payment space will only get fiercer, with mobile wallet firms trying to acquire customers with attractive offers and unrealistic discounts. The m-wallet segment today includes transfer of money, services related to banking transactions, value-added services such as shopping, ticketing, recharging and bill payments. Mobile payments in India are estimated to touch $1.15 billion in 2016, according to estimates. Get ready for the big fight.

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