I received an email from Creative Jin on Saturday morning for an event at Expo Center at 7:30 pm. I was busy in the afternoon working on my thesis presentation that I emailed to university management around 3 pm. I had to attend a meeting at 6 pm after which I headed out for Expo Center and reached the venue on time to attend the launch of new branchless banking product from Zong and Askari Bank (pictures and video included towards the end).
I was greeted at the entrance by Farzana Abdullah from Creative Jin and Mr. Ahsan from Zong. From there I was escorted to Bloggers table where I was soon joined by Owais Ahmed and Ibrahim Zafar, representing TECHGLUED. They have also covered the launch of Timepey on their website.
The ambiance of the hall was inviting. In the sea of black, formal suits the dark theme of the hall and occasional well-placed light gave the environment a good feel. The only drawback of this setup was it affected the quality of pictures when I tried to capture moments and videos through my Samsung S3. I was given access to WiFi which enabled me to not just Check-In but also live tweet the event with hashtag #timepey. TechGlued team also supported with Re-tweets and making valuable notes throughout the event.
Event began after some time with beautiful recitation of Holy Quran. The audience included people from press media, industry professionals, employees of Zong and Askari Bank and key people who made this event possible. A few known celebrities were also attending this launch. The host of the event was Anoushey along with another equally candid male host (I forgot his name but I think it was Umair). It was fairly nice to listen to them, candidly talking about everyday life and how communication and banking has changed. They introduced both Zong and Askari Bank in their talk (which everyone knew were the organizers of this event) and then introduced a theater play.
The play was interesting. Firstly, the room was dark and storyline was well-thought out. Secondly, the acting towards the end seems inspired from London Olympics 2012 where they raise buildings to show Industrial Revolution (in this case, Timepey logo). It started with a person struggling to carry messages back and forth, through tough times and terrain. Then situation begins to evolve as banking institutions are introduced and new technologies of communication made life easier. The music initially was of Pink Panther and the actors showed how transferring money is still difficult because you can be looted anytime. In comes Zong and Askari Bank who join hands to save the day and thus Timepey is born. The music changes, becoming stronger and construction workers are shown trying to raise Timepey after hard work.
Short video of the launch – A must watch
At this moment CEO Zong Fan Yun Jun, President and Chief Executive Askari Bank M.R. Mehkari, Deputy Governor State Bank of Pakistan Kazi Akbar Muktadir and His Excellency the Consul General of China in Karachi Mr. Zhang Jianxin came to the stage and were immediately surrounded by press photographers as the fireworks began around them and logo of Timepey was raised beside them.
After the spectacle Mr. Fan Yun Jun takes the stage for a speech where he shares some of the telecom statistics and how Timepey can take branchless banking to the next stage in Pakistan. He was succeeded by Mr. M.R. Mehkari who also emphasized upon the innovations in banking industry, of which branchless banking was a result, and how this method can evolve further in the future. Both the speakers also spoke about the contributions of their companies to Pakistan and how they plan to not just increase their participation but also help common person in the process.
The last speaker was Deputy Governor State Bank Mr. Kazi Akbar Muktadir who shared with the audience how he had been trying to bring financial services to common people for the past couple of decades and how branchless banking model of Pakistan is considered one of the best in the world due to its effectiveness and reliability. After his speech the TVC’s of Timepey were shown to the audience, all of which I found to be not just informative but also staying true to Zong’s style of advertising. The TVC’s were very family-oriented and showed how common person can benefit from Timepey.
After the TVC’s there was a group photo on the stage of key people involved in this product, then most of them moved towards press area where they briefed the journalists and answered their questions. There was an area dedicated for Timepey experience where the audience was invited to visit and get to know more about Timepey.
On the bloggers table I was tweeting away about the event from my twitter handle @wasioabbasi and TechGlued team were also busy with their notes. The two members of Creative Jin stayed with us till the end and even Mr. Ahsan remained in touch throughout the session.
Considering that it was an event by Zong and Askari Bank, I was expecting a bit more glamour in celebration of their joint-venture. That wasn’t the case and the atmosphere was kept formal to a certain extent. Even some of the media celebrities that were attending the event, I didn’t realized they were there until the very end. The theater performance was well coordinated and except for a minor fault where the speaker’s voice disappeared for about half-a-second, there was no other problem with the performance. The lighting system was also synchronized well and I didn’t notice any mistake.
As for Timepey itself, I must say the name of the service is not just easy but it is also a commonly used word. In fact, too common which means everyone in the country knows it. It is a bold attempt to brand this word as their service, with potentially huge rewards. It is easy, it has local language flavor, it is a common word and it rhymes as well with your daily life. Majority people at least use this word once in two days for one reason or the other while businessmen, teachers and mothers probably use it all day long.
As for the service, it is yet to be seen how well it does. It already has stiff competition, the leading of which is Telenor’s Easypaisa that took the initiative and educated the masses about branchless banking. More banks and telecom companies have joined in, so it will be tough for Zong and Askari Bank to gain market share. However, knowing Zong I am sure they have some strategy because even when it took over Paktel it fought its way hard to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Warid in terms of number of subscribers all over Pakistan.
What I am really looking forward to is the possibility of Timepey and related branchless banking products such as Easypaisa, UBL Omni and MobiCash to find a way and connect with the rest of the world. These products have great potential to change the way we do business and transfer money. If they find a reliable and cost effective method to connect with Paypal using online interface, they will get millions of dollars worth of business within weeks if not days. The whole IT industry would be hugely impacted and freelancer writers, designers, developers, programmers, coders and editors would find easy way to earn their money. Right now the absence of Paypal has been a severely restricting factor for industry’s growth and these financial products have huge capacity to fulfill that gap.