Millet hopes that it can take advantage of its top position in Indias smartphone market to enter the countrys lucrative but highly competitive financial services industry. However, as public concerns about data privacy grow, technology giants such as Google and Facebook have to change their way of doing business, so the Chinese companys path may be bumpy.
In fact, among those familiar with the Millet International Expansion Program, millets practices in data collection and privacy protection have been questioned. According to documents seen by Reuters, the company is still a small company in Chinas financial services sector.
In Asia, millet is also facing fierce competition from all sides, including banks, global technology giants, financial technology start-ups and so on. These companies are trying to gain a place in Asias booming digital economy.
In another important market, Indonesia, millets financial sector was forced to close at the end of 2018 because of differences with regulators over licensing issues.
A source familiar with millets Indian business said that the company was doing well in the Indian market. In March, it launched its first financial services product locally: a payment application called MiPay.
They seem to be following the two market leaders, Apple and Google. For these two giants, smartphones will ultimately be more than just a mobile phone, but a financial instrument, the source said.
Millet plans to offer up to 100,000 rupees ($1,451) in a new MiCredit credit service in India at a starting rate of 1.8%. The service will be launched in the next few weeks. A spokesman for millet told Reuters that MiCredit is currently in the testing phase but would not give details.
According to Counterpoint, India is the largest market for millet outside China, with about 70 million mobile phones installed locally.
According to the financial report released recently by millet, its financial technology business income increased 62.7% in the second quarter, reaching 112 million euros (about 792 million yuan), mainly concentrated in consumer loans and supply chain financing.
According to documents seen by Reuters, millet uses data from usersmobile phone activities to collect information about users identity, stage of life, lifestyle, social relations and brand loyalty, and then creates credit files accordingly.
A bank executive told Reuters that such privacy issues scared away at least one potential banking partner in Indonesia, who feared data collection was excessive. Indonesia is the second largest overseas market for millet, after India.
In India, consumers applying for millet loan services need to sign a wide range of agreements to share their personal data with millet, including professional and educational background, temporary information history, and information related to the use of certain applications and websites.
The agreement also discloses that millet may from time to time share personal information with millet affiliates or third-party service providers.
The Indonesian banker disclosed that a presentation he saw showed that, as part of a credit assessment tool, millet scanned personal data of mobile phone users to find information about lifestyle changes, such as divorce or promotion.
Apar Gupta, executive director of the Internet Freedom Foundation, points out that India lacks data privacy regulations, so user privacy is not well protected.
Relevant risks, including information gathering, are beyond the reasonable consideration of users, Gupta said. If they dont pay enough attention to the information theyre collecting, they dont know what theyre paying for in exchange for a loan.
User privacy and data protection are crucial to us, a spokesman for Millet told Reuters. The company has reached a strong data protection agreement with its loan partners in India.
In addition, for millet users, privacy may not be their biggest concern, many of them are attracted by the relatively cheap hardware price of millet.
Akshay Pawar, 29, from western India, is a millet cell phone user. Banks usually require a lot of items before they agree to lend, he said. If Millet can loan me quickly and doesnt need to submit too many documents, I wont mind sharing my data with the company. 100,000 rupees is a good number, enough for me to buy a new motorcycle.
Performance of China Market
According to documents seen by Reuters, as of mid-2018, Millets loan account in China was $8 billion and its outstanding account was $2 billion. MIMIs MIPAY, in collaboration with Bank of China, has achieved an annual total of $12 billion in transactions in China, with 20 million active users.
Source: Responsible Editor of Netease Science and Technology Report: Wang Fengzhi_NT2541