WhatsApp’s payment service will roll out in India by next week to all users, according to a report in Bloomberg. The report quotes people familiar with the matter and that WhatsApp will make Payments live with three partners, instead of the original plan of going live with four. WhatsApp Payments in India is based on the Unified Payments Interface, which allows for direct bank-to-bank transfers. WhatsApp is currently testing Payments in beta with some users on iOS and Android, though it has been steadily adding new features to the service.
In India, WhatsApp will partner with HDFC Bank Ltd, ICICI Bank Ltd and Axis Bank Ltd to process the transfers, adds the report in Bloomberg. In the beta version of WhatsApp Payments, only ICICI Bank is listed as an official partner for now. The report also notes that State Bank of India will join as a partner later on.
With UPI, while the app can be built by a developer, the actual processing of the money transfer needs to be done by a bank. This explains why WhatsApp will have to tie-up with these partners. For example, the Google Tez app, which is also a Payments app for India, has HDFC, ICICI, Axis and SBI bank as partners to process the payments. However, a user will be able to add any of the UPI-supported banks to their WhatsApp account to allow for payments.
For WhatsApp Payments will be a big focus in India. In fact in April, WhatsApp had put out a job advertisement for an India head where the focus is on Payments. According to the requirement, WhatsApp is looking for someone who has experience in the Payments space as well, in order to drive the strategy around this particular feature.
WhatsApp has over 200 million users in India and is one of the most popular messaging apps in the country. In a market like India, which has a population of one billion plus, WhatsApp’s dominance gives it a significant advantage over the competition. Adding Payments will give it another use case, which could help the app cement its position further. WhatsApp’s Business app is already available for download in India.
However, WhatsApp’s Payments roll-out has seen some criticism in India, especially from other digital payment apps like Paytm. Paytm’s co-founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma had accused Facebook and WhatsApp of building a walled garden, when Payments was first rolled out, arguing that it did not support interoperability, which is one of the key requirements of UPI. Later the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the body responsible for UPI had said that WhatsApp’s Payments was only in beta-testing, and that all features would rolled out when the service went live.
WhatsApp Payments is now supporting other features like sending payments to any UPI account, and not just those on the WhatsApp platform. WhatsApp has also added the ability to scan a QR code to make, receive payments, which was missing when the feature first began rolling out.