Facebook-owned chat messaging service WhatsApp has resumed the beta test of the WhatsApp Payments services in India, with a select group of users. Caught in a long-standing tussle with the Indian government over data localisation and payments data sharing with Facebook, WhatsApp Payments services had been halted for over a year.
Inc42 can confirm that WhatsApp Payments is indeed working again in India based on first-hand user experience, but there’s still a caveat. It would seem the payments service is not available to all users just year, and only for the users who were part of the original beta test, along with a select group of new users.
Based on our experience, WhatsApp Payments has an easy onboarding process, not unlike Google Pay or any other UPI-based app. WhatsApp asks users to select the bank where they hold an account, seeks permission to send and receive an SMS for authenticating the request, and then fetches the bank account information linked to the user’s phone number.
WhatsApp claims to have 200 Mn daily active users in India, though the company has not updated that figure since February 2018, so there are definitely more users added since then. The beta resumption comes after the company had to put a hold on its payments beta testing in August last year. With regulatory approvals pending for WhatsApp Payments following concerns about data storage and the fake news epidemic on the messaging app, WhatsApp has been having a tough time in India for payments. The Indian government had stipulated that WhatsApp must comply with Indian norms, including:
- Complying with the Reserve Bank of India’s data localisation rules
- Setting up an office in India
- Appoint a grievance officer and formulate a team in India
In May 2018, Inc42 had reported that WhatsApp Payments has partnered with ICICI, HDFC and Axis to launch the payments services. In June 2018, almost 1 Mn people were testing WhatsApp payments at the beta stage in India out of company’s over 200 Mn Indian users.
The company in its FAQ has said, “We’re building a new payment feature for India that enables people to easily send money to each other via WhatsApp. We are beta testing this feature so it’s only available to a limited number of people in India. Please be aware that the payments feature will change over time as we add more capabilities.”
After many discussions with the government over the past year, the company had recently said that it has finally set up its data storage facilities in India and is reportedly preparing for the full launch of its UPI payments app in association with ICICI Bank. Incidentally, ICICI Bank is the partner in the beta test currently.
At an event recently, WhatsApp India head Abhijit Bose said that the social messaging company’s focus is to expand digital and financial inclusion, to help businesses across India.
According to NITI Aayog’s ”Digital Payments (2018 edition)”, India’s digital payments industry is estimated to grow to $1 Tn by 2023. It also suggested that the value of digital payments will likely jump from the current 10% to over 25% by 2023.
Further, Digital payments in India is expected to double to $135.2 Bn in 2023 from $64.8 Bn this year, according to an Assocham-PWC India study. In the face of growing digital payments industry and competition among players such as Paytm, PhonePe and Google Pay, the entry of WhatsApp Payments may cause an unprecedented disruption.