The company’s TOT Money product is a software-based mobile payment processing service. Users make purchases in retail locations by providing their mobile phone number to the cashier, then opening a text message that contains a transaction-confirmation number and confirming the number with the cashier. Several leading carriers in Russia’s mobile phone industry have adopted the TOT Money payment service since its launch in July.
The service became available in September to 64 million customers of MegaFon, the second-biggest provider of mobile phone service in Russia. Net Element processed mobile phone transactions for MegaFon customers totaling 35 million rubles, or about $1.1 million, from Sept. 1 to Sept. 15. In August, Net Element started processing mobile phone payments for some of the 100 million-plus subscribers of Mobile TeleSystems, also known as MTS, a mobile telecom carrier in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, the former republics of the old Soviet Union. MTS customers used TOT to conduct transactions totaling 80 million rubles, or about $2.5 million, in August.
Piovanetti said the main geographic focus of TOT Money is Russia, where a growing number of mobile phone users have prepaid accounts with telecommunications carriers. "Russia is a pretty exciting place," he said. "We want to capture some of that growth."
Kozko said Net Element’s engineering staff continues to develop 3-D technology for deployment on some of its websites. One is Motorsport.com, a racing news website with an archive of more than 1 million racecar driving photographs and videos. Brazilian-born Fittipaldi, the former Indianapolis 500 champion, serves as chairman of that business unit. Net Element’s investment in 3-D technology has cost "a lot of money," Kozko said, "and we are looking to unleash it, at least in the Motorsport space, this year."
But the current focus on mobile payment processing technology may be Net Element’s best hope for achieving profitability in the foreseeable future.
"A lot of this mobile commerce stuff will be built on top of what we already have," Kozko said. Google and other giant technology companies are in hot pursuit of the mobile e-commerce market, but "they are chasing it from different directions, from chips and hardware, which is so much slower to catch on than software ... We’re going to tackle it from a software point of view."