Messaging application WhatsApp is planning to partner with banks and financial institutions for the expansion of banking services in rural areas, the company’s India head Abhijit Bose said on Wednesday.
To ensure people’s access to financial services such as insurance, microcredit and pension, Facebook Inc-owned platform was also planning to pilot certain products and services, Bose said during the Global Fintech Fest.
India is the biggest market for the application with 400 Mn users. It also had 15 Mn users on its business platform, many of who were small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The company said that it had already partnered with HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank, among others, allowing them to send automated text messages to customers.
“We now want to open up with more banks… over this coming year to help simplify and expand banking services, especially to the rural and lower-income segments… we also aim to expand our experiments with partners for other products that RBI highlighted as basic financial services, starting with micro pensions and insurance,” Bose added.
The company began testing its UPI-based digital payments platform WhatsApp Pay, back in 2018 in India. A full-scale national rollout is yet to happen, but the company launched the application in Brazil last month.
Besides working on enhancing access to financial services in India, the company has also been working with ecommerce companies in the country, in a joint bid to integrate the kirana stores into India’s ecommerce supply chain. Last week, Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani, during the company’s 43rd AGM, talked about online grocery store JioMart working with WhatsApp to create growth opportunities for small and medium businesses (SMBs) such as the kirana stores.
In April, JioMart had gone live on WhatsApp for three suburbs near Mumbai — Thane, Kalyan and Navi Mumbai — only for the service to be discontinued a few days later as offline retailers were faced with a shortage of workers, with a lot of them leaving the city for their home states during the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
The same month, ecommerce giant Amazon launched its ‘Local Shops on Amazon’ programme to help local shopkeepers and kirana store owners sell their products online.