‘For brands to make the most of social media, it must allow conversations and commerce’

Q&A with Sabyasachi Mitter, MD, ibs, on the ‘Social Media Banking’ solution for Kotak Mahindra Bank (JiFi)

Apr 02, 2014 03:46:00 PM | Article | Campaign India Team

Social media, and in particular favourite forums for self-expression like Twitter and Facebook, can do a little more than boost egos, build reputations and create virtual spheres of influence. Proof comes in the form of a ‘Social Media Banking’ solution announced by Kotak Mahindra Bank, created by ibs. In simple terms, a consumer can place a request for a cheque book, get transaction details, and so on, with Kotak Jifi account, with a Tweet or post. Understandably, the product is targeted at the youth.

This is just the beginning of ‘Social Media Banking’, explains Sabyasachi Mitter, MD, ibs, in a telephonic and e-mail exchange with Campaign India.

Work is underway to explore integration of such solutions for financial services brands across social media channels.


“Transactions are the logical next step and will change the dynamics,” says Mitter, when asked about the possibility of operating a bank account fully, through social media. Edited excerpts:

ibs has unveiled implementation of a banking solution using Twitter in real-time for Kotak Mahindra Bank (Kotak Jifi). This is billed as the ‘first integration of a real-time social media platform into core banking in India’. Has this been done elsewhere globally?

From information that is publicly available there is no other instance of such a service anywhere in the world.

‘Social Media Banking’ allows customers of the Kotak Jifi account to perform regular banking transaction requests through Twitter. Is there scope for this to expand to transactions?
Yes, what has been implemented at this stage is part of an extensive roll out plan which includes payments and transactions. We are working with select merchants and banks to take the same to market, at the same time we are aggressively looking at partnering with more and more banks in India and across the world to join the ecosystem.

If there are no transactions, will the channel of ‘Banking’ be viable?
Banking is not only about transactions, it is also about ease of access to information. For there are times you may wish to check your credit card balance before you present it. With social banking you can just send a DM with the hashtag and you will get it instantly.

Consider that you are overseas and your card is lost, you could just send a tweet and stop it from misuse; you do not have to hunt the call centre number and make an expensive phone call to block your card.

More importantly, what we are attempting to do here is to provide the channel to reach out to the people who are on social media. And provide solutions in the platform of their choice.

Twenty years back internet banking allowed people to bank from the comforts of their desks, mobile banking extended that same comfort of their handhelds.

Social media banking has now taken it right to the platform of the users’ choice. The user no longer needs to open a separate interface or access any other device or any other application. S/he can bank from his/her social media platform itself.

Having said that, transactions is the logical next step and will completely change the dynamics.

Given that most criticism for service brands happens on social media, were there concerns from the bank on servicing issues for ‘Social Media Banking’?

A new age brand cannot run away from criticism. Any innovation or service will have some issues and social media is the first place that customers will vent this on. What is critical is to be able to monitor and respond promptly to create customer delight. A brand that does this will actually appeal to the social media generation.

And to add to it, it reflects positively on the Bank if it shows the courage and conviction to take the usage applications to the very same channels of social media where they do get such immense interactions.

Can you explain (i) origin and (ii) evolution of this solution, in brief?

At ibs we constantly scan the consumer landscape for opportunities to simplify life or increase efficiency of communication. Social Media Banking was thought of a couple of years back.

However, last year a very close friend of mine lost his credit card while on a trip to Hong Kong. He neither remembered the card number nor the call centre number so he tweeted to me to give him the call centre number of the bank. Once I found out and gave him the details he had to make an international call to block the card. It took him a couple of hours to get this done, two hours of a holiday that he could have spent better. The idea then struck me, how convenient it could have been if he could have just Tweeted to the bank and they could have blocked the card instantly.

We spoke to a few of our banking clients and the idea of a social media linked bank account was received with great interest. So we independently proceeded to create the product and file for patents in India and US. Post which we signed up with Kotak to make this a part of the Jifi bank proposition. Of course we continue to work with all our partners including Kotak to roll out more and more features.

Has this been inspired in some form by the Tata Docomo ‘Hyper Personalisation’ solution from ibs?

From a product design and solution delivery it has not been inspired by any other solution. However, having once created a solution with global appeal last year, the appetite to do this consistently had been built.

Are there security concerns that you expect from users? How will these be allayed?

Users can rest assured that all solution designs are cleared by multiple experts including regulators before being rolled out.

Is there scope for this to grow across social media, besides on Twitter?

Yes we are aggressively building the solution for other social media channels as well.

Currently, the Kotak Jifi site is accepting requests and verifying identities. It is also encouraging sharing on social media channels. Is this the stage of amplifying the solution and accumulating requests? What can we expect subsequently and when?

Presently, we are using the self-invite and referral promotion to drive the discovery of the solution through social media organically. The user will get the approval mail in a few days with the instructions to complete the signup process and open the account.

Anything you’d like to add related to social media solutions...

We have always believed that for brands to make the most from social media the medium must allow both conversations and commerce. Social Banking is another step in that direction that allows the seamless interplay between conversations and commerce.