The Nation Media Group (NMG) Wednesday launched an international money transfer service as it angles for a share of the Sh75billion diaspora remittances from Kenyans abroad.
The media company has partnered with Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) to launch a Visa pre-paid card dubbed NationHela that targets Kenyans sending money home.
“This product allows users to conveniently send funds online, directly from your Paypal account, debit or credit card into the NationHela account. Diamond Trust Bank will handle the back office side of business,” the firm’s group Chief executive Officer Linus Gitahi said at the launch.
The service, approved by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), has undergone a seven-month pilot phase.
NMG plans to leverage on its existing newspaper distribution points across the country, over 8,000 visa branded Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and DTB’s branch network to make the service product into a mass market. The pre-paid cards will also be sold at supermarkets and DTB agents.
Linked to cell phones
The platform, which handles foreign currency transfers, also allows transfers to and from M-Pesa accounts and is linked to user’s mobile phones.
The product has gone further from existing pre paid cards as it allows users to top up from credit cards, debit cards and Paypal in what is likely to open up the e-commerce market.
“The money deposited in the NationHela account will be held by DTB and consumers should be rest assured that their money is safe,” Mr Gitahi said.
Consumers can also go online at NationHela.com to do transactions. Once one sends the money, the recipient gets a text message alert on their mobile phone.
The latest NMG move comes at a time when diaspora remittances have been on the rise in recent years having grown by over 40 per cent in 2011 to hit Sh75billion from about Sh53billion sent in 2010.
DTB group chief executive officer Nasim Devji said her bank will provide customer service and the technical aspect of the product.
“We currently have 80 branches in the region and we will be rolling out agency banking in October this year. This should provide us with the necessary footprint to take the product mass market,” Ms Devji said.
DTB, which has a presence in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi, is also planning to enter five new countries in the next eight years, a move that will put its footprint in nine African countries and diversify its revenue base.
NMG’s profits after tax in the six months to June 2012 grew 23 per cent to Sh915.1million compared to Sh747 million in the same period last year helped by market share gains and increasing advertising and circulation revenues.
Its sales in the half year period grew 13.5 per cent to Sh5.8 billion from Sh5.1 billion.
The company maintained that it was not going into banking but developing products that will leverage on its existing platforms to facilitate commerce.
“We have always been a facilitator of commerce through advertising where we link businesses with customers,” Mr Gitahi said. NMG plans to launch the product in other markets it operates in coming months.
In Kenya, the company launched QTV, a mass market Kiswahili television station that has gained a five per cent market share in three months.
NMG trades in Tanzania through its subsidiary, Mwananchi Communications Ltd, the publisher of Mwananchi, Mwanaspoti and The Citizen newspapers.
In Kenya, the group publishes the Daily Nation, The EastAfrican, Taifa Leo, and the Business Daily newspapers and runs two radio stations, Easy FM and QFM and two TV stations, NTV and QTV.
In Uganda, the company operates the newly acquired Dembe FM, a television station, NTV Uganda, while its subsidiary, Monitor Publications, publishes The Monitor and the Monitor Telephone Directory and operates KFM radio station.