SureCash is a widely used MFS for disbursing government allowances, stipends, and other government transactions. Like Bikash, Nagad, or Upay, SureCash started its journey as an MFS platform. However, SureCash focused more on digitizing government and private institutions’ transactions, rather than bringing mobile financial services to the general public of the country. Several rumors about SureCash have surfaced in recent years for various reasons, including reports from Bangladesh Bank and other news outlets. In 2016, Rupali Bank began disbursing stipends to Bangladeshi students through SureCash, but the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education issued a warning against SureCash, alleging that many students’ funds are stuck there. Besides, once 5 banks provide service through SureCash but currently, only state-owned Rupali Bank is providing MFS service through SureCash.
SureCash founder and CEO Dr. Shahadat Khan were born in 1967, in Bikrampur of Munshiganj district. After completing Secondary School Certification from Khilgaon Govt. High School and Higher Secondary Certification from Dhaka College, he completed his graduation from EEE Department of BUET. Following graduation, he worked at BUET in the CSE department before receiving the Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship and moving to the University of Victoria for higher studies. Later, he joined a startup there and was appointed as CTO of the startup in just 3 years.
In 2006, he moved to the country to establish a branch of the company in Bangladesh. After coming to Bangladesh, he noticed that Bangladeshi IT experts develop software for foreign clients like Japan, the USA, and the UK, but those are not being used at all in the country. Due to this, he started thinking about what kind of product could be developed for the people of Bangladesh. Although mobile phone use is already growing in Bangladesh, only 30 percent of the population has access to financial services. Due to this, the concept of SureCash arose to provide financial services to this population through mobile devices.
In 2010, Dr. Shahadat Khan started working with Surecash at his home in Khilgaon. A few months later, he took office in Mohakhali and hired two employees. His idea was to create a platform – SureCash, which would be able to build the payment platform and software, support the back-end, perform agent networking and distributional channel, develop business, and run joint marketing campaigns, and any bank would tie up with SureCash to offer mobile banking services to their customers. SureCash started its journey in collaboration with First Security Islami Bank and Bangladesh Commerce Bank in March 2012. First Security Islami Bank’s mobile banking service was named FSIBL First Pay SureCash. While other mobile banking services focused on person-to-person payments, SureCash focused on government payments and school and college fees. On May 19, 2013, National Credit and Commerce Bank also started offering mobile financial services to its customers using SureCash’s platform. In 2014, SureCash and First Security Islami Bank collaborated to bring WASA’s bill payment services to FirstPay SureCash customers. That same year, Jamuna Bank also started offering mobile banking services through the SureCash platform.
In April 2015, Osiris Group invested $7 million in SureCash as part of a Series-B seed round. In the Series A round, SureCash also got money from a group of Japanese experts in the e-commerce industry. In October of the same year, BCB Bank started a mobile payment system through SureCash so students at Eden Women’s College in Dhaka could pay their fees through their phones. SureCash has also made a deal with Ansar VDP Development Bank to pay Ansar forces’ salaries. In December, SureCash made a deal with Sandhani Life Insurance to make it easier for employees to get paid and for customers to pay for insurance in installments. The same month, Bangladesh Bank Adarsha High School made a deal with SureCash to receive their students’ school fees. That year, the platform got the Award of Excellence from Bangladesh Bank for its overall performance. In 2016, Grameen Shakti signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with SureCash to let 1.6 million rural customers pay their installments with SureCash. The same year, QUBEE also began using SureCash to collect online bills. Grameen Bank, Bangladesh’s most prominent microfinance organization, also signed an agreement with SureCash to move its microlending program online. Also, Other educational institutions like Dhaka College, Govt. Titumir College and more started to work with SureCash and the platform’s partner banks to receive students’ fees.
In the same year, the state-owned Rupali Bank teamed up with SureCash to offer its customers mobile banking services, and the Rupali Bank SureCash app was released. Then, in June, the Bangladesh Ministry of Education’s Directorate of Primary and Public Education signed an agreement with Rupali Bank SureCash to distribute government stipends to students, which went into operation in 2017. Later, SureCash also started to work as a way for e-commerce platforms to accept payments. First, Bagdoom, a popular e-commerce site in Bangladesh, started working with SureCash to give its customers a way to pay for things online. Aside from this, SureCash also teamed up with Payza, an online payment service based in London. By doing this, Payza members could use SureCash’s agent network to make deposits and other financial transactions, with Bangladesh Commerce Bank acting as a middleman. The partnership between SureCash and the A2I Project of the Government is another important collaboration from 2017.
In 2018, the National Sports Council started using SureCash for salary disbursements of their football coaches and other players. In addition, students in primary school who had to move because of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project were also given an education allowance through SureCash. In the same year, SureCash made a deal with Bangladesh Tourism Corporation and Rupali Bank to act as agents. This means that all Bangladesh Tourism Corporation hotels and motels can be reserved and booked through SureCash. Aside from this, SureCash works with the SME and Special Programs Department of the Bangladesh Bank to give students scholarships for the Skills for Employment Investment Program (SEIP) project, which helps students improve their skills. In 2019, the ride-sharing app Pick-Me made a deal with SureCash to collect their ride-sharing fees and pay riders a commission. The same year, Surecash also made a deal with SSL, the country’s largest fintech payment service provider. Also, Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board (BREB) has made a deal with SureCash to collect electric bills. At the moment, SureCash has 2 billion users and 180 million agents.
What Happened to SureCash?
Bangladesh Bank investigated and found that since 2016, around 19 million student stipends worth Tk 120 billion have been held back from SureCash. In the contractual arrangement with SureCash, Rupali Bank was in charge of giving out this scholarship, so when Bangladesh Bank asked the management of Rupali Bank about it, they didn’t have any answer. Moreover, both Rupali Bank and SureCash failed to notify the Directorate of Primary and Public Education that this stipend money was not being disbursed. In an interview with Business Standard, SureCash CEO Shahadat Khan said that the school headmaster asked for the pending accounts to stay pending because a student had lost his SIM card. A source for Jamuna News also said that about 76 lakh taka had been taken out of SureCash’s pending accounts, even though people can only use these accounts for mobile phone recharges and cash-ins. When asked about this, Shahadat Khan said, “The students took out this money before the accounts were overdue.
According to MFS policy, a customer must have a NID card in order to open a mobile banking account. But a source for Jamuna News says that out of SureCash’s two crore customers, 60 lakh, do not have a NID card. Also, an investigation by the Bangladesh Bank found that 3 lakh NID cards were used to open up multiple SureCash accounts. The report also said that about 10,000 SureCash agents out of 1,80,000 do not have valid NID cards. A report from Business Standard says that SureCash’s software has almost no built-in way to check if one NID card is being used to open multiple accounts. SureCash officials said they are not responsible for customers not having NID cards. Instead, Rupali Bank is the one that checks the KYC of its customers. When asked about KYC verification, Rupali Bank said that every year the “Department of Primary and Public Education” would give them a list of their students’ names, addresses, and mobile banking numbers so that scholarships could be given. So, Rupali Bank thought checking KYC or NID cards separately was optional.
According to a source from The Business Standard, Bangladesh Bank’s investigation showed that 37 SureCash accounts have negative balances. If a customer has a negative balance, it means they have taken out more money than they have in their account. Bangladesh Bank said that because of a bug in the SureCash software, customers were able to take out more money from their main account balance. In this case, the people in charge of SureCash said that out of 2 crore customers, only 37 had a negative balance of 1 to 1.5 taka in their account, which was fixed later. Also, according to the rules and guidelines that Bangladesh Bank set for MFS Business, SureCash has broken the rules about the number of transactions and the amount of money in mobile wallets many times. The MFS regulation says that the amount of money deposited in the agent wallet and the distribution wallet against the e-money issued must be the same. But SureCash has an irregularities of about BDT 5 crore in agent banking, which, if proven, could be considered illegal money laundering.
In the wake of these events, the banks that worked with SureCash began to stop doing business with SureCash one by one at different times. At the moment, SureCash is only used by Rupali Bank, which is owned by the government. In an interview with Business Post, the CEO of Pragati Systems said that the company no longer has anything to do with how SureCash works. Through a sister business, the company has been giving Rupali Bank services and solutions for its SureCash platform software. At the moment, Pragati Systems Ltd. works mostly with TallyKhata and TallyPay to handle accounting for domestic SME platforms and digital payment services, respectively.