After close to two years of intense deliberations, and a rather failed attempt at introducing in-app payments, Whatsapp has now reportedly received the required regulatory approvals in India, to roll out its very own payments service, Whatsapp Pay. NPCI, the digital payments body that grants such approvals in India, has given a go ahead for a phased roll out to Whatsapp, sources told Business Standard.
“The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has granted WhatsApp permission to operate its digital payment service in a phased manner,” a person aware of the matter who did not wish to be named told Business Standard. The report further mentions that this will be a phased roll out, with the service first going live for 10 million before a full fledged roll out.
The approvals came in after the Facebook-owned messaging app agreed to Indian Government’s strict data localisation policies. The report says, that WhatsApp has assured the regulators that it will comply with the data localisation norms – a key factor behind the delay of the WhatsApp’s payment service launch.
Whatsapp entering India’s highly competitive digital payments space is set to change the game altogether. The platform accounts for well over 400 million users in India. Once the service rolls out to all of these users, it would dwarf the current dominance that Google Pay, Alibaba-backed Paytm enjoy. More importantly, it is highly likely for users to switch to Whatsapp Pay from their current app, considering the ease of keeping one lesser app in an already cluttered average smartphone screen.
Mark Zuckerberg, during the recent Q4 earnings call, had hinted towards this roll out. He had then said, “We got approval to test this (payment services) with one million people in India back in 2018. And when so many of the people kept using it week after week, we knew it was going to be big when we get to launch”. For Whatsapp and Zuckerberg, this could finally present an opportunity to have some level of monetisation happening through the 1 billion users strong messaging platform. Investors have been increasingly putting pressure on the social media company to look for ways of monetising the instant messaging platform.
India currently, is the hotbed for digital payments. And all of this, thanks to Government’s aggressive push towards a digital-only economy, a stance which continues to draw criticism from certain sections of society. Nevertheless, the Indian digital payments juggernaut, aided by UPI, continues to roll, with UPI itself crossing over a billion monthly transactions in October last year.
We have written to Facebook for a comment, and will update the story once we receive the same.