WhatsApp is in the final stages of regulatory clearances for the commercial launch of its much-awaited payments service with the instant messaging platform having approached the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for approval, sources in the know of development said.
The company had initiated the process for the launch of its BHIM UPI-compliant payment service over three years ago.
Sources said WhatsApp has agreed to the data localisation norms set by the RBI for payments-related data, and at present, an audit is being conducted for that. When contacted, a WhatsApp spokesperson did not offer any comments.
The Facebook-owned company is already running a pilot for the service, WhatsApp Payments, with close to 1 million users. Other players in the space include Google Pay, which leads the payment service providers (PSPs) market in India followed by Paytm, PhonePe, BHIM app and Axis Pay. The development coincides with the visit of WhatsApp’s top officials to India last month.
Its global head, Will Cathcart lead a team of senior officials to India during July-end and met officials from RBI, NPCI and the ministry of electronics and IT (MeitY), including IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. WhatsApp’s vice president of global policy and communications, Victoria Grand was also part of the entourage.
During his interactions with the media, Cathcart said that the company intends to launch its payments service this year. He also said that the company has complied with the data localisation requirements. After meeting Cathcart on July 25, Prasad told reporters, “They are going into digital payment also in accordance with RBI architecture and NPCI requirements. I have heard them and have instructed my departments to encourage them if they comply. If they meet the regulatory requirements, they must be encouraged”.
India is an important market for WhatsApp, which accounts for 400 million of its total 1.5 billion users across the globe. The company has already lost a lot of ground to players like Google, Paytm and PhonePe, but wants to ensure that it does not miss this opportunity.
Digital payments is an still largely an untapped market in India with the country clocking more than 822 million UPI-related transactions worth more than Rs 1.46 lakh crore during July 2019. At present there are more than 45 third party apps like Google Pay, Amazon Pay, Flipkart and PhonePe as well as over 140 banks like Paytm Payments bank, Airtel Payments Bank and Axis bank providing UPI-based payments service.