Inventory Management for Mobile Money Agents in the Developing World
37 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2017 Last revised: 17 Jun 2022
Date Written: June 16, 2022
Problem Definition: Mobile money systems—platforms built and managed by mobile network platform opera- tors (MMPOs) to allow money to be stored as digital currency—connect millions of poor and “unbanked” people to the formal financial system. Unfortunately, low service levels due to the sub-optimal management of cash and digital currency (e-float) inventory impede the development of these ecosystems. Accordingly, we seek to answer the question: how should agents manage inventories of cash and e-float? Academic / Practical Relevance: This paper extends inventory theory to the mobile money context, unique in that sales of cash generate inventory of e-float and vice versa. In doing so, we address a key pain point for an emerging sector that improves lives at the base of the pyramid. Methodology: We develop an analytical heuristic to determine initial stocking levels for cash and e-float, and analyze its performance on simulated and actual data. Results: By partnering with a MMPO, we tested the performance of the heuristic inventory policy with data from more than 35 million transactions. The heuristic captured 99.9998% of the optimal profit on simulated data, and on actual data, could increase agents’ profits by an average of 15.4% if they followed the recommendations. Managerial Implications: We develop a pragmatic inventory policy that performs nearly optimally. We also analyze under which conditions the performance deteriorates, and examine heterogeneity among agents with respect to the heuristic’s impact on their performance. Thus, we equip MMPOs with guidance as to whom to target and how. By contributing to service level and profit improvements, this work can make mobile money a more effective financial inclusion tool in the developing world as well as improve the livelihoods of agents.
Keywords: Mobile money, inventory management, base of the pyramid, developing world, poverty alleviation, operations management
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