WhatsApp to roll out payments feature

Chennai: WhatsApp will roll out its payments service in India this year following a year-long pilot, its global chief Will Cathcart has said, as the Facebook-owned messaging giant taps an upsurge in digital payments in its dominant market.

WhatsApp is ubiquitous across India, where data consumption is surging thanks to cheap internet, but a full launch of its payments feature had been delayed amid some false messages circulating on the platform that have led to mob lynching and more government scrutiny, according to local media.

The Menlo Park, California-based firm has also been trying to comply with Indian regulations including data storage norms that require all payments-related data to be stored locally. “It’s a regulatory approval question in India at this point,” Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Thursday on the company’s earnings conference call in reference to WhatsApp Pay.

“We’re also working beyond India in a number of other countries and hope to have this rolled out to a large percent of the people who use WhatsApp within the next year,” he added. WhatsApp now has about 400 million users in India, a person familiar with the matter said, encompassing almost a third of India’s population of 1.3 billion. The person did not wish to be named because they were not authorised to discuss the matter with the media.

WhatsApp’s payments feature would compete with a crowded market in India that includes Alphabet Inc’s Google Pay, Softbank- and Alibaba-backed Paytm and Walmart’s PhonePe, all of which are used, especially in cities, to pay for everything from groceries to Uber rides.

Digital payments, lending and e-wallet services have been growing rapidly in India, led by a government push to bring more of the country’s cash-loving merchants and consumers into the formal economy.

NT Bureau