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From Spotify subscriptions to micro-loans, the potential for carrier billing is only limited by the market’s imagination. So says, Ante Ukalović, CEO of Centili – the DCB arm of Infobip. He talked to MEF Minute…Could micro-insurance be the catalyst that propels direct carrier billing to the next level?

Here’s a possible scenario. An insurance company sells a health or life policy to a citizen in a developing country. The insurer sends the forms through the post hoping the customer will fill and return them. Often, they don’t.

And if the potential customer does not have a bank account? The process is dead before it’s begun.

But if the insurer could send an SMS straight after the call, with a yes/no option to start the policy with all payments debited from the phone bill?

Well, you can imagine how much better that would be.

This is one of a number of scenarios suggested by Ante Ukalović, CEO of Centili – the mobile payments division set up by messaging specialist Infobip in 2012.

He says: “There’s lots of room for these kinds of ideas. Carrier billing solves real problems for firms that sell a lot by cold calling on the phone. They have to convert a customer when they are ‘hot’. At the moment they often miss that opportunity. But they can change that with a simple text.”

Ukalović see a lot of potential in other markets – but for different reasons. “Different regions have different issues. I

The firm has accrued many diverse customers since then including multiple online games companies, social networks like Badoo and Asian handset makers that pre-load apps and monetise them with DCB once activated.

Overall, the firm reaches across operators in 80 countries.

But, of course, not every operator. And with different arrangements for each.

Ukalović concedes that this lack of clarity has held the market back. “There are obviously complexities in the sector,” he says.

“There is different regulation, different APIs, multiple revenue shares and variable levels of commitment from carriers. Some telcos are not as good at collecting debts and others don’t tackle fraud well. All of this is true. But the fact is, we are in the early stages of this market and the potential is huge.”

One of Ukalović’s causes for optimism is the enthusiasm of era-defining companies like Spotify and Netflix. The latter switched on in-app billing from Google Play in April 2016 – and one of the payment options inside Google Play is DCB.

Netflix, like others, sees DCB as a means to target consumers that don’t have access to debit or credit cards. And it is ambitious to drive into developing markets.

“There are obviously complexities… different regulation, APIs, multiple revenue shares and variable levels of commitment from carriers… but the fact is, we are in the early stages of this market and the potential is huge”

Ukalović says Centili/Infobip wants to accelerate the sector by encouraging telcos to outsource DCB activities.

He says: “We take an unorthodox approach. We don’t ask operators for the APIs and work on their standard contracts. Instead we find out their pain points – do they lack control? Does it take too long to launch a new service? Are there too many integrators? And then we suggest that they integrate our tech on top of their infrastructure.

“They can expose our payment pages and our library integration tools. Customers get a clean and consistent experience and operators get a simple dashboard. They can see all the revenues and what’s happening with different customers.”

Ukalović believes providing consistency will propel DCB forward, and he is confident rev share rates can come down. However, he argues that even with a premium, DCB can win. “It comes down to the one-click easy purchase. Its so much easier to check out this way. The extra payment completions will make up for the lower margins.”