See how I bought burger at McDonalds [Future payments]


I visited Japan few days back, thanks to fully paid trip by Tata Docomo in their 3G life contest. It was a revelation to say the least on different ways mobile and 3G is currently being used in a country like Japan.


From buying candies at Vending machines to traveling in subway, Mobile is used everywhere, most of which is possible due to fast unparalleled 3G connections.

Just to give you an example of what I am talking about – Have a look at this short video on how I bought a burger at McDonalds outlet in Tokyo. From getting coupons on mobile phone to making payments everything happened seamlessly.

Buying Burger at McDonalds

Buying Burger at McDonalds

Here is what I did – Placed my order, attendant punched in the amount and I placed my mobile phone on the reader which was connected with McDonalds billing system. The payment was made!!!

Everything in less than 15 seconds.

Here is another example – We wanted to travel from Shinjuku to Akhiabara (A place to buy Electronic gadgets in Tokyo) via subway. We just took our mobile phones, flashed it on the reader at entry point and exit points of the subway stations. The train fare was calculated (depending on entry and exit points )  automatically and deducted from our Mobile Money (or Mobile Wallet or Mobile credit card..whatever you call it). It was absolutely seamless!

Using Subway Using Mobile Wallet

Note: I am carrying my Mobile phone along with me

Now, I am sure you will be having a question in your mind as to whether we will see such a system in India ever. Yes, it is very much possible, especially now that we have 3G in our midst. Having said that, it is not very easy.

NTT Docomo is one of the foremost telecom services provider in Japan, and have made large investments in bringing up infrastructure on which these services reside. Infact, in Japan we may possibly see plastic credit cards give way to Mobile cards (NTT Docomo has its own Mobile Credit card, which works just like your normal visa card).


One thing for sure, Indian Telecom Operators need to look beyond Voice calls, SMSes and trivial value added services and built infrastructure (offline as well as on mobile) for services like contactless Mobile payments and Mobile Credit Cards. Tata, thanks to their partnership with NTT Docomo are probably much better placed than other providers to bring these services in India.

What do you think? How soon will see these kind of services in India?

  1. […] as to how Mobile Technologies and services have made life of average Japanese citizen so simpler. From buying a burger at McDonalds to traveling in a Subway everything is done through Mobile!! The question is when we will see something like this in […]

  2. Madhav Shivpuri says

    Hi Arun,

    Unfortunate that we couldn’t meet up when you were in Tokyo.

    The mobile payment is the primary reason why I though iPhones would not take off in Japan, but boy was I wrong!

    Anyways, the point is that Japan has created technologies that the world never has seen or never see before it even become history. The purchase of train tickets with ‘Suica’ or ‘Pasmo’ cards is great. You can use them as pre-paid cards and purchase tickets, or go through the wicket gates without purchasing tickets (one aside – because there are no tickets to process, the machines don’t get stuck with inappropriate ticket or garbage people may stick in). You can also use the same cards for bus tickets or purchase a soft drink or cigarette on a vending machine or purchase goods in a mall or conveneince store. This is nothing new in places like Singapore or Hong Kong (where they have ‘Octopus’ card).

    I don’t know about the security aspects – Yash, good point. I think the problem is real when you loose your mobile.

    Hey, India is changing… India is shining… the day will come when things like this will make lives easier and we will not be surprised.

    1. Arun Prabhudesai says

      Yes, Madhav…I really wished we could have met up, but the schedule was so tight, it was just not possible for me….Imagine, we did see a single place in Tokyo worth mentioning…
      On other note… I am actually surprised that USA is far behind that countries like Japan and Singapore when it comes to mobile payments like these…

  3. Manju says

    Very interesting…BTW, do they use special security to unlock the phone like finger-print, retina scan, etc? ;-) Otherwise, anyone stealing my phone can use it to make fraudulent transactions with little or zero effort. I know the same issue exists for plastic cards but at least in most places they ask for off-wallet information like signature, zip code, ID proof, etc for authorizing the transaction. Anyway, this may not be a problem in Japan with clear credit card agreements, charge back rights for card-holders.

  4. Yash says

    The major road block is RBI and its Draconian policies. Second is the greed of mobile service providers. If mobile companies were to start offering such services they’d come under the same category as banks as per RBI guidelines. Paying money using mobile is the easy part, but how to collect the money from the mobile user?

    It could work in three ways, a person pays the money from his prepaid mobile recharge, or a person gets a bill at the end of the month just like a credit card. In both these instances the mobile service provider actually acts like the clearing house. And the post paid method of dues collection is very much like how a credit card issuer works. Third possible option is to tie up the mobile with the customer’s bank account and in which case the mobile acts like a debit card. So in all the mobile replaces the plastic card we need to carry.

    The problem is mobile careers act as gateways. They are the ones who carry and authenticate the transaction. If they have to collect money up front and deduct it from the payer’s balance they would want a large chunk of the transaction stating the costs involved in money collection. If they were to take the post paid route, mobile service providers will have to act just like a credit card issues and do all sort of FYI checks and credit checks before the facility is made available to a user. In case of tieing up with a user’s bank account the mobile service provider will have to partner with banks.

    A nationwide concerted efforts are required for a comprehensive mobile payment system to work. RBI, banks and mobile service providers all have to work in tandem. The first thing that is needed is a local clearing house for mobile/card transactions. Right now the transactions take place on Visa/Master network and are routed to their international servers. RBI needs to setup a local clearing similar to Japan’s JCB. Since mobile networks are going to be owners of the infrastructure that powers this they have to behave like responsible member of the system and not try to get the largest chunk of the pie as they are doing currently with various VAS (Out of a 10 Rs Ringtone, 7 goes to the carrier, cause they guard the gates!). You don’t pay a large chunk to AirTel, or VSNL if you use your credit card online. And RBI needs to loosen the rules to permits entities apart from banks to offer payment services. In India right now only banks can issue credit cards so financial institutions have to partner with banks to issue cards (GE-SBI, Future-ICICI etc).

    So its possible but RBI needs to set guidelines and various parties needs to be brought together. It would take at least anotehr 5 years at least if not a decade.

    1. Arun Prabhudesai says

      Yash, Wanted to reply to your comment earlier, but just got around doing it now.
      The very detailed and interesting comment. Here is my view. The Telecom Operators are the bridge although they will the be the stakeholders in payment applications like these.

      What they need to do is, tie-up with companies like Visa / Master Card or even the banks in India to take care of the transactions. Yes, TRAI policies are not too favorable at the moment, but they have to change.

      The talk of inclusive growth can only come when these kind of services are offered. Imagine a subscriber base of 1 Billion people.

      In Japan 54 Million users use the above service from NTT Docomo which comprises of more than half of the population…
      Imagine if 10-20 percent of Indian subscribers start using it, what will happen.

      1. Yash says

        Yes Arun, the opportunities are tremendous and it will also reduce our country’s dependence on currency notes dramatically even if a fraction of the population start using such services. RBI and TRAI have to make policies that give mobile operators freedom to come out with such solutions and operators need to stop the “milk the cow as much as you can” mentality that is evident at present in the VAS space.

        It will happen, just a matter of time. Like how voice charges have come down from Rs. 16 a minute to 30 paise/minute, some sense will prevail and such kind of services will also be offered.

  5. Pranav says

    Hey…. its really cool…. life is so easy, no lines for getting ticket, no need to carry cash…. Hah, hope we will see soon these techies in india as well.

  6. Vaibhav says

    Good stuff Arun. However, the real issue with such a system not coming to India, despite the fact that India has more than 700 million telecom subscribers is because of certain RBI regulations. Now that Mr. Mittal of Bharti is part of the RBI board, we can hope that things will start changing. :-)

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