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Mexico pushes mobile payments to help unbanked consumers ditch cash

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MEXICO CITY/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Mexico’s new leftist government is betting on financial technology to help lift people out of poverty.

FILE PHOTO: A worker moves boxes with green tomatoes through the corridors of the wholesale market “Central de Abastos” in Mexico City, Mexico January 11, 2019. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril/File Photo

The administration of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador recently announced measures aimed at making financial services more affordable in a nation where more than half the population is unbanked.

It is planning a digital payments system run and built by the central bank that will allow Mexicans to make and receive payments through their smartphones free of charge. A pilot roll-out for the platform, known as CoDi, is expected by March.

“In the future, it will no longer be necessary to have a bank in the sense of a traditional, established bank,” said Arturo Herrera, Mexico’s deputy finance minister. “Mobile phones will become banks.”

Phone-based banking has proven a hit among the poor in other emerging markets such as China, India and Kenya. Those efforts have been driven by private sector companies that offer user-friendly, affordable apps.

Whether Mexico’s state system will prove as nimble and easy to use remains to be seen. And it will initially require help from the very same banks that for decades have shut out low-income Mexicans with pricey fees.

Other hurdles include Mexico’s spotty telecoms. While cell phone and internet coverage have improved in recent years, basic infrastructure is still missing in many remote areas.

“Mexico has a lot of the key ingredients to succeed, but it’s not plug and play,” said Monica Brand Engel, a partner at Quona Capital, a global venture capital firm that invests in fintechs focused on the unbanked in emerging markets.

CATCH-22

An estimated 42 million Mexicans lack bank accounts. Steep fees and past scandals have put many off the country’s mainstream banks. Many shun accounts to stay off the radar of tax collectors.

That hobbles Mexico’s growth. Coffee farmer Martin Romero is a prime example of why.

His small town in the state of Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s poorest, has no bank branch. Romero is paid in cash. He travels hours to pay bills and is unable to save or borrow for larger expenses.

“Of course I would like a bank account,” Romero said. “That way we could save at least a little of what we earn.”

While many Mexicans applaud Lopez Obrador’s push, some fintech executives are grumbling about getting shut out of the loop.

To use CoDi, consumers must have an account with an institution participating in Mexico’s existing interbank payments system, which will power the new platform.

Jaime Cortina, director of operations and payments at the central bank, said the goal was to develop a payment method that Mexicans could use to make payments between each other, in shops and online.

Current members of the system include established institutions such as BBVA’s Bancomer, Banco Santander and Citigroup Inc’s Citibanamex. Fintechs that want to join need an electronic payment institution license, a process that new players fear could take up to a year.

That presents unbanked Mexicans with a bizarre Catch-22: To access the government’s free mobile payments system, at least initially, they would have to open accounts with banks that many do not want to join or cannot afford in the first place.

Adolfo Babatz, CEO of payments startup Clip, said Mexico’s government should be looking to fintech entrepreneurs to bring true innovation to the financial system, not banks that have benefited from high barriers to entry. His Mexico City-based company has created a low-cost mobile credit card reader that fits on smartphones.

Mexico should “look at the examples from the rest of the world,” Babatz said.

In Kenya, for example, mobile payment system M-Pesa was launched in 2007 by a private company, mobile network operator Safaricom. M-Pesa is now a surrogate bank account for millions of users. In China, hundreds of millions of previously unbanked consumers have flocked to Alipay, the payment app owned by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial.

GRAY ECONOMY

Low-cost banking alone may do little to lure Mexicans out of the shadows. Nearly 57 percent work off the books, according to government data. An estimated 90 percent of transactions are done in cash.

“People who work and live in the informal economy do not want to be taxed,” said Carlos Lopez, director for retail strategy and new digital business at Mexico’s largest bank, BBVA Bancomer.

Herrera, the deputy finance minister, told Reuters the government is making efforts to reduce cash in circulation to cut down on money laundering and corruption, and to draw more people into the formal economy.

He said the administration plans to transition to direct deposit or digital wallets to dispense welfare benefits over the next 18 months. At present, many Mexicans rely on government-issued cards that can be used at ATMs to withdraw their benefits in cash.

He also expressed optimism that fintechs would bring needed competition to the money transfer business, reducing the cost of remittances sent home by Mexicans abroad.

Slideshow (2 Images)

But even in cosmopolitan Mexico City, a future of cashless payments seems far off for people such as Paula Martinez. She sells traditional sweets, chewing gum and single cigarettes from a wooden basket in the fashionable Roma neighborhood.

The mother of three does not have a bank account, and says she and her husband have never considered it.

“We don’t earn enough,” Martinez said.

Reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher and Anna Irrera. Editing by Neal Templin and Marla Dickerson.

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Ottawa’s not-for-profit book publisher provides Ottawa authors with hardcover printing

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Are you a writer in Ottawa seeking to become a self-published author? It has now become much easier to put your work up for sale and exceed your book sales target.

In previous times, authors were only able to publish their work traditionally and this process had many restrictions. Now with self-publishing, it is very easy for writers to get their work in front of their readers without spending lots of time and money.

Even with self-publishing, it is still important to choose the right platform as many authors who are in a haste to publish, easily fall victim by investing in the wrong platform and overlooking the key principles of success.

Despite how popular self-publishing has become amongst aspiring authors, only a handful of self-published books achieve high sales. In fact, only less than 1 per cent of most self-published books are really good and less than 5 per cent can pass as decent. 

Now, with professional guidance, self-publishing platforms like AgoraPublishing.com stand out from the rest particularly because of their commitment to ensuring that your work is of top quality, allowing it to attain mass marketability effortlessly.

Based out of Ottawa, Agora Publishing is a not-for-profit book publishing agency that has over the years supported self-published authors to achieve their book sales target. The agency has been in operation for over 20 years, consistently serving writers all around the globe who seek to take advantage of their numerous full-service options which are not provided by other competing platforms like Lulu or CreateSpace.

Unlike other comparative services that are driven by for-profit ethics, Agora Publishing pays critical attention to the quality and readiness of the writer’s manuscript, copy editing, book cover design and other areas of the book production and marketing process. They also provide professional hardcover printing services, which is a rarity for most self-publishing platform who only focus on producing digital copies.

While digital media has disrupted other industries such as news publishing and the entertainment business, a lot of readers still love to own physical books. According to a 2019 report by the Association of American Publishers, of almost $26 billion made from book sales in the U.S., book print made up over 90 per cent ($22.6 billion) of sales revenue compared to $2.04 billion for ebooks. These figures include genres such as trade, education as well as fiction and points to the fact that hardcover books are still very relevant.

“I think the e-book bubble has burst somewhat, sales are flattening off, I think the physical object is very appealing. Publishers are producing incredibly gorgeous books, so the cover designs are often gorgeous, they’re beautiful objects,” said Meryl Halls, managing director of the Booksellers’ Association in the U.K. in CNBC report.

Agorapublishing.com stands out from other self-publishing platforms and has become a great option for writers who want to self-publish high quality and mass marketable books in Ottawa in both digital and print formats.

The agency provides a host of professional community-driven services which include ISBN registration, book cover design, the book’s internal graphic design and typesetting, copy editing or substantive editing, book website design, author news blog design, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), the writing of informative promotional articles, distribution, printing, and many more.

Even with a captivating manuscript, having a below-par book cover can contribute to a dent in sales. Some new authors try to save cost by patronizing cheap homemade book covers that look inferior and this can drastically affect sales as readers still “judge a book by its cover”—especially cheap-looking books.

Nonetheless, platforms such as AgoraPublishing.com seek to serve writers in Ottawa with free professional consultation and advice on the readiness of their manuscript for production and a hands-on approach to ensuring that writers are provided with a high level of service at all levels of the production process. This way, your book goes through rigorous quality checks to ensure that only the best is made available to the public.

Agora Publishing has built a successful roadmap for its authors which includes their book production and marketing strategies. Their team of professionals work with authors to print highly durable and beautiful hardcover books with quality prints to attract the attention of book buyers.

Racing into the world of self-publishing can hit you with a cruel reality, therefore the only chance for success is having proper planning and preparation. AgoraPublishing.com provides Ottawa writers with expert services, handling the entire process for you to ensure your book attains the desired success almost instantly.

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Book Self-Publishing: AgoraPublishing.com is the best choice for Ottawa authors

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For writers in Ottawa, it is now easier than ever to put your work up for sale by becoming a self-published author. Unlike traditional publishing, self-publishing makes it very easy for writers to get their work in front of their readers without spending lots of time and money.

However, for many self-published authors who are in a haste to publish, they easily fall victim by overlooking key principles of success, leading to the failure of their books in achieving the desired sell-out rate.

Quite a large number of authors who are new to self-publishing get so many basic things wrong. Now, with professional guidance, self-publishing platforms like AgoraPublishing.com stand out from the rest particularly because of their commitment to ensuring that your work is of top quality, allowing it to attain mass marketability effortlessly.

Unlike other self-publishing platforms (CreateSpace, Lulu etc.), Agorapublishing.com is a great option for writers who want to self-publish high quality and mass marketable books in Ottawa.

Published authors earn money through book sales by receiving royalties—a percentage of the book’s retail price. The obvious way a published author makes money is through book sales. In traditional publishing, you could expect to receive around 8 to 15 per cent royalty on each book sale depending on your status as an author, the publisher, or your target market.

However, authors in Ottawa are choosing to self-publish with Agora Publishing as they can earn much more money from royalties. When you self-publish your book, you can earn much more in royalties.

One of the most common reasons for poor sales for Ottawa authors is being in a haste to self-publish a book without adequate planning. Some upcoming authors share the misconception that having a book means it’s go-to-market ready. But there must be adequate planning, enough promotion, a considerable amount of followership, amongst others.

Racing into the world of self-publishing can hit you with a cruel reality, therefore the only chance for success is having proper planning and preparation. Professional services like AgoraPublishing.com provides Ottawa writers with expert services, handling the entire process for you to ensure your book meets the highest standards. This way, you are certain that your work would attain success almost instantly.

Irrespective of how captivating your book might be, to capture the attention of readers, there needs to be some form of marketing. However, a lot of self-publishers make the mistake of assuming that once they’ve acquired the services of a publicist, listed it on Amazon and made social media posts, it is enough marketing.

Contrary to that belief, getting your book as much attention as needed requires you to exhaust every available marketing options at your disposal. AgoraPublishing.com provides professional marketing services to Ottawa authors and this makes it possible for their books to achieve a high number of sales.

For most traditional publishers in Ottawa, they tend to prioritize authors who have already created a specific niche. This leaves aspiring and relatively unknown authors with nothing more to do than wait in line before their book gets any sort of attention. Self-publishing is a much appealing option because no one is excluded or given preferential treatment; anyone has the potential to become a best-selling author. If you have good material, you can publish your book with professional guidance from Agora Publishing.

If you are worried about your book getting rejected by traditional publishers in Ottawa, self-publication with Agora Publishing is the best option for writers. It doesn’t matter how controversial your content is, opting to self-publish gets your work into the marketplace faster.

For self-published authors in Ottawa, they have more control over their work and choose any country, through any channel, and in any format (print, eBook, or audio) they want it sold. With help from Agora Publishing, authors can decide where and when to sell the book and the best way to promote it to reach a global audience.

Nonetheless, even with a perfect manuscript, having a below-par book cover can contribute to a dent in sales. For some new authors—in a bid to save cost—they tend to patronize homemade book covers that carry an inferior look. This can drastically affect sales as readers and book buyers do “judge a book by its cover”, especially terribly cheap-looking book covers.

Another quality check for any book that more often than not fails is the book description. Having a book description that is two-sentence long doesn’t qualify either does a lengthy preview of the first chapter.

Nonetheless, platforms such as AgoraPublishing.com provides Ottawa authors with unprecedented quality control and checks on all books to ensure that only the best is made available to the public.


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Book Self-Publishing: AgoraPublishing.com provides quality control that Amazon’s KDP lacks

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Many of today’s best-selling writers have chosen the path of self-publishing to become authors, bypassing traditional publishing. However, getting a highly successful self-published book can be quite a difficult task.

Technology has opened up new possibilities in the book publishing industry, changing the way publishers communicate with authors. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has adopted a more digital experience for customer interaction, but there is a tendency to overlook the fact that self-publishing platforms such as AgoraPublishing.com provide much better quality control.

While the implementation of chatbots for customer interaction seems like a fascinating idea, human interaction is still the most preferred choice of communication. Verbal communication is faster, easier, and more effective than typing messages back and forth.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “Humans generally speak at 125-175 words per minute and can listen at a rate of up to 450 words per minute. In contrast, the average typist does 38-40 words per minute — and that’s on a full-fledged keyboard, not on a mobile phone.”

The success of a book is attributed to the level of planning, preparation and the amount of hard work put into it before it is launched into the market. For authors, even after hitting the shelves, there is still the need to diligently follow up on book sales and revise your plan wherever necessary.

While the idea of using a chatbot for customer communication might sound very progressive, the most preferred choice for authors remains human interaction and there are various reasons for that.

In the younger generations, many people are getting accustomed to the use of automated forms of customer service through mediums such as chatbots. However, human interaction is overall still the most preferred choice.

When trying to solve a customer service issue, 83 per cent of consumers would rather talk to a human than lay complaints via digital channels, according to research from Accenture Strategy. Despite the ability for Amazon’s KDP chatbot to respond to queries much faster or provide similar answers, it simply cannot provide the same feeling and assurance that speaking to a human at Agora Publishing provides.

Additionally, Agora Publishing provides offline accessibility while Amazon’s KDP chatbot requires internet connection before it can be accessed. Therefore, you would need to either download the app or visit their website to initiate a conversation with the chatbot or access the knowledge base content. This isn’t very reliable as in the event of poor internet connectivity, human-based customer service would always provide the authors with the required support.

Robots would always be robots; and while Amazon’s KDP chatbot is built on a framework loaded with different algorithms and scripts, no amount of programming would be enough to replace a human’s distinct ability to read subtle details from a person’s mood or language.

For example, if an author contacts a publisher and becomes agitated due to poor sales during the first few days of publishing, even the most sophisticated chatbot would never be able to replicate the warm, calm and empathetic response that a customer service representative would provide.

Additionally, in the cases of delayed publishing, having a conversation with an actual person who can provide a detailed explanation and subsequently apologize for the delays can be much more soothing to the customer than interacting with a chatbot.

Amazon’s KDP chatbot is capable of providing authors with basic help on some common issues, but unlike Agora Publishing, they are incapable of resolving every challenge that authors often need assistance solving.

For example, if an author needs help deciding what name would be best for a biography a deceased loved one and has questions about the cover design, royalty rates and marketing techniques. All of these multiple questions would come sequentially with each question and answer leading to the next. A chatbot would be unable to handle this kind of complexity due to the multiple requests being made by the author.

In conclusion, while technology has made self-publishing much easier than before, a human agent is still the most effective way to communicate with publishers. They can sympathize with an author wherever necessary before proceeding to provide detailed responses to every query.

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