After nearly two years of waiting, short messaging app WhatsApp has finally got the permission to start its digital payments venture in India. The feature will be available in 10 Indian regional language versions of WhatsApp from today (November 6).
Commenting on the same, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “This secure payments experience makes transferring money just as easy as sending a message. People can safely send money to a family member or share the cost of goods from a distance without having to exchange cash in person or going to a local bank.”
He noted that WhatsApp’s latest payment feature has been designed in partnership with the National Corporation of India (NPCI) using the Unified Payments Interface (UPI). The messaging app has also onboarded five leading banks in India — ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank, the State Bank of India, and Jio Payments Bank — to process these payments.
Zuckerberg believes that the combination of WhatsApp and UPI’s unique architecture can help local organisations address some of the key challenges of this time, including increasing rural participation in the digital economy and delivering financial services to those who have never had access before.
“When people can access financial tools, they’re more empowered to support themselves and others or start a business. Long term, we need more innovation that gives people control over their money, and making payments easier is a small step that can really help,” he said.
Though WhatsApp Payments has been planning its India launch since 2018, it has been stuck due to data localisation compliance causing delays. Even though India is WhatsApp’s largest market with more than 400 Mn users, it had to start off its digital payments venture from Brazil.
Earlier in February, WhatsApp Payments had come close to a roll-out in India NPCI had reportedly approved the launch of WhatsApp Payments, but in a phased manner. Under this, WhatsApp Payments was allowed to offer its services to only 10 Mn Indian users initially, but could also aim for a complete roll-out once it had RBI’s approval. However, NPCI had reportedly retracted the order and told WhatsApp to waid for RBI’s nod.
WhatsApp’s arrival in this market is at a time, when UPI has crossed 2 Bn monthly transactions. Talking about UPI payments, Zuckerberg said, “With UPI, India has created something truly special and is opening up a world of opportunities for micro and small businesses that are the backbone of the Indian economy. India is the first country to do anything like this.”
Some key players in the segment are PhonePe, Paytm and Google Pay. According to a Mint report, published in July 2020 citing sources, Google Pay is the largest player among the UPI payments platforms with nearly 42% market share, followed by Flipkart-owned PhonePe with 35% share. The data for Paytm and Amazon Pay has not been revealed.
With the growing popularity, NPCI has decided to cap the share of the total number of transactions that a third party application can process at 30% of the total volume of transactions processed in UPI. The move, which was announced last night (November 5), will impact PhonePe and Google Pay which have a market share higher than 30%.