NTT Docomo takes mobile commerce ambitions global with Docomo Digital venture

Japanese mobile operator NTT Docomo has been working on a mobile commerce proposition called Docomo Digital in Europe for over five years. Ahead of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, Docomo Digital founder and CEO Hiroyuki Sato, spoke to The Drum about how Japan’s ten year headstart on mobile commerce means it’s primed to take ownership of it on a global level.

According to Sato, the opportunity is best represented by the fact that mobile penetration is on a par with the population for the first time ever, and yet almost half of the world’s population doesn’t have a bank account. He believes mobile commerce could be the answer and yet of the five billion mobile phones, "under one per cent use it to spend or make payments".

“Now the number of mobiles and the population is identical. What is happening in telecommunication should be happening in finance,” he says.

Mobile commerce is likely to be a hot topic at Mobile World Congress this week. All eyes will be on businesses like Docomo that are based in Asian countries that are ahead in terms of mobile commerce adoption.

“It’s a key issue for us because ten years ago the bandwidth in Japan was quite high compared to Europe. There was a little bit of an imbalance between the mobile penetration and the reality about mobile internet. This gap is quite big for Docomo to think about and because of the iphone penetrating into market and bandwidth being dramatically better, the standard of mobile data network is now universal,” he adds.

The reason that such a latency has occurred in terms of mobile payments is complexity, something that Docomo has already mastered in its home country where fast mobile web has been in place for a decade.

“It’s too complex. You need to somehow manage the many stakeholders into one place. My view is that the Japanese are good at this kind of complex management. We’ve already done this in Japanese market too and found that for it to work, stakeholders somehow need to understand same vision, same direction and same potential,” he says.

It isn’t like this opportunity has been entirely ignored, however. On all sides, be that Apple, Google, PayPal or the banks, mobile commerce solutions are being created and used. However, Sato believes that a platform between all the parts of the puzzle would help scale payments by making the experience better and safer for users and businesses.

“Someone needs to go in as a robust tech with a platform and allow others to plug in, to enable transactions. I’m defining this role as Docomo Digital. This role should be mobile-centric. This is our uniqueness. Google, Facebook and Apple are brilliant at developing the global market one standard at a time. People are participating on their network, on a search engine for example, so they are inviting the people into it. But on the other side, especially when paying for something or where you need more privacy of information, someone needs to be responsible for managing all this complexity and working with regulators to make sure the system and security is robust enough,” he explains.

As part of its plan for global growth, Docomo Digital has appointed PR agency Jargon PR to grow awareness and provide branding support.

Charlotte McEleny

I'm The Drum's Asia Editor, charged with finding all the interesting industry news and insights from the Asia Pacific region.

When I'm not writing about this diverse and innovative region, I can be found eating Singapore's incredible food.

All by Charlotte