Smart Communications: Low-cost Money Transfers for Overseas Filipino Workers
A leading wireless telephone services provider in the Philippines, Smart Communications, Inc. recognized that at least 8 million Filipinos work and live abroad—about a quarter of the domestic labour force. In 2005, Filipino workers overseas sent $10.7 billion in remittances, with at least as much sent through informal channels, according to estimates. In response, Smart pioneered a cheaper, faster and more convenient way to send remittances using short messaging service technology.
This and other innovations allow Smart to serve poor overseas workers and their families, lowering the cost of money transfers to 1%–8%, compared with 10%–35% for standard bank rates. Overseas workers get more net income, maximizing the value of their hard-earned income to feed, clothe, educate and provide shelter for millions of families in the Philippines. For Smart, the $6 million in revenue in 2006 has spurred a broader strategy of serving low-income populations, fuelling its remarkable growth from 191,000 subscribers in 1999 to more than 2.6 million in 2000 to about 24.2 million by the end of 2006.