WhatsApp Pay has been stuck in a bureaucratic sea of impediments and restrictions in India for two years now. The Facebook-owned messaging service was struggling to fully comply with the financial institutions of the country to move to the next stage.
However, in what could finally result in a full scale roll out of Whatsapp’s digital payments service in India, the RBI has submitted a filing in the Supreme Court, according to which National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has intimated the banking regulator that WhatsApp is now in full compliance with data localisation norms related to its payment service.
WhatsApp pay has been in testing for over 2 years for now, with about 1 million users in its largest market for IM globally. While the company did not plan to test the feature for 2 years, because who does, its expansion has been obstructed time and time due to regulatory compliances with India’s financial institutions.
Earlier in November, NPCI, the body that regulates all digital payments in India, thwarted a full scale expansion due to non compliance of the data localisation norms. WhatsApp then approached Deloitte to audit its compliance. In February this year, after almost two years of its experimental run, NPCI reportedly gave a green light to put Whatsapp Pay into operation in a phased manner. However, the plan never took off.
Today, the regulatory body, for the first time, has finally confirmed that the service is in fact in complete compliance.
With compliance in place, a full scale roll out is pretty much on the horizon. Presumably, all infrastructure is in place, considering 1 million users in India are already using the service, and a Brazil roll out just happened recently. This will also allow WhatsApp to finally make some money, for the platform is inherently free and does not serve ads. This will also mark perhaps the first attempt by Whatsapp to monetise at least part of its userbase in India. While it isn’t clear how exactly Whatsapp will charge, but its existing business offerings could be combined to offer a paid plan to businesses, which will now include payments as well.
The company however hasn’t had a smooth run of its payments service elsewhere so far. Whatsapp Pay, which officially debuted through a launch in Brazil, ran into legal troubles just days after its launch. Brazil’s central bank has effectively suspended the digital payments platform in the country by ordering Mastercard and Visa — top WhatsApp payment partners — to immediately stop money transfers via the payments service.