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WhatsApp Hits 400 Mn Users In India Ahead Of WhatsApp Payments Launch

WhatsApp Hits 400 Mn Users In India Ahead Of WhatsApp Payments Launch

WhatsApp has doubled its monthly active user base from 2017 to 2019

The instant messaging app will be rolling out the UPI-based WhatsApp Payments by the end of the year

But government is still considering the privacy implications of WhatsApp Payments

Facebook-owned WhatsApp has control over the Indian market when it comes to messaging and communication. NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant announced at a recent WhatsApp press event that the app has over 400 Mn monthly active users in India.

The last time WhatsApp officially announced its India user base, it claimed to have 200 Mn users. That was in early 2017, so the numbers have doubled since then. While WhatsApp did not dispute Kant’s claims, it also did not deny the figure. Due to its popularity among all sections of the society, Kant added that “WhatsApp’s future is obvious in India”.

The instant messaging app, which has over 1.5 Bn users all over the globe, has plenty of competition around the world, with Telegram, Hike and others being rivals, but none have achieved the scale of WhatsApp in terms of the user base, and have much lower market share.

WhatsApp’s Secret Weapon: 400 Mn Users

But the bigger deal is that WhatsApp is also planning to launch a peer-to-peer UPI payments service. Whatsapp Payments as it is known right now launched a beta test last year with a sample size of a million users but was struck down soon after for violating UPI payment guidelines.

Since then it has been stuck in beta mode and was recently revived for a second pilot run. It’s said to be ready for a launch in the market by the end of the year, though the government still has some qualms about the

It will be competing with PhonePe, Google Pay, Paytm, Amazon Pay and others in the UPI payments race, but WhatsApp already existing user base and the ease with which it can activate these users is a threat to the existing players – even with their deep pockets.

Paytm, founded by Vijay Shekhar Sharma, got its boost after demonetisation and digitisation of the Indian economy. The platform is said to have about 350 Mn monthly active users as of June 2019, according to a company official. The company is also planning to double its transactions from 5.5 Bn in 2018-19 to 12 Mn by 2019-20, which has become a challenge with WhatsApp rolling out WhatsApp Payment to 400 Mn users.

WhatsApp Payments Still Draws Concerns

WhatsApp global Chief Will Cathcart, in the press conference, has announced a tie-up with NITI Aayog to promote women entrepreneurs. The partnership plans to build up a new generation of entrepreneurs and change-makers by launching a “gateway of opportunities” and digital skills training program.

The messaging app has also announced a partnership with the Indian School of Public Policy, to introduce a series of privacy design workshops for future policymakers. The workshop is to educate the students about the importance of privacy-centric designs to boost the positive impact of technology in India.

But concerns about privacy still linger. The government is still concerned about some aspects of WhatsApp Payments including the privacy policy. The primary concern is that the Facebook-owned messaging app might share Indian users’ data with Facebook and Instagram, which might put the user’s non-commercial information at risk.

The government is said to have asked the UPI’s parent body, National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to delve into these concerns and make sure that user data being shared on UPI-based payment platforms such as WhatsApp and Google Pay is secure.

To which, WhatsApp has reportedly told the government that, “Facebook and its non-WhatsApp subsidiaries do not use WhatsApp UPI transaction data for any commercial purposes.”

However, WhatsApp’s privacy policy states, “To send payment instructions to payment service providers (PSPs); maintain your transaction history; provide customer support,.., we share the information we collect under this Payments Privacy Policy with service providers including Facebook.”

Under the WhatsApp’s payments privacy policy, the information collected by WhatsApp Payments include timestamps of when the payment was sent, received, and requested on the app, along with the date and time and reference transaction number of each payment. Also, the company agrees to collect the sender and receiver’s names and BHIM UPI Ids.

Further, at the time of payment activation registration, users’ have to provide their bank’s name to WhatsApp and permit the app to use their account for payments. However, the company claims to not store any customer payment sensitive data such as debit card number, card expiry date, PIN, OTP, or BHIM UPI PIN. WhatsApp says it does not have access to BHIM UPI PIN as it is encrypted by NPCI.