WhatsApp finally moves to raise its India payments game. But is it too late?

WhatsApp finally moves to raise its India payments game. But is it too late?

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Pratik Bhakta

122 reads
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Pratik Bhakta

122 reads

After being a fringe player in UPI sweepstakes, WhatsApp is trying to be aggressive in India as it lays the groundwork to become a super-app. Can it gain a meaningful market share in the hyper-competitive payments space, build localised services and avoid the privacy minefield?

March 28, 2022

11 Min Read

WhatsApp made its ambitions to become India’s WeChat, an all-purpose consumer app with payments as a vital feature, abundantly clear four years ago. The plans made sense: the messaging platform, owned by Facebook (now Meta), had over 200 million daily active users in the country then. 

The figure has since soared to 412 million, the highest for any app in India. Setting up financial services and commerce for such an enormous base, as WeChat has done so successfully in China, seemed too lucrative an opportunity to pass on. But unusually for a Mark Zuckerberg venture, things moved at a plodding pace.

WhatsApp Payments, an in-chat feature, was introduced to a relatively small base of 1 million in 2018. Over the next three years, it contended with a raft of regulation, especially data localisation and a cap on how many users it can onboard for transactions, going live for more people in phases. PhonePe and Google Pay, meanwhile, captured the bulk of transactions on the Unified Payments Interface.

After the tentative start, WhatsApp is finally shifting gears, thanks to some high-profile corporate partnerships and a gradually improving equation with authorities, including RBI that seems satisfied with its data-localisation efforts. 

About four months ago, the company won approval from the National Payments Corporation of India, which manages UPI, to double the number of users it can potentially register for transactions to 40 million. The CapTable understands that it is pushing for the limit to be raised again, this time by several notches.

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