Facebook is reportedly close to launching its WhatsApp payments service in India.
The service has been in beta mode in India since early 2018 for a million users, but the nationwide debut has been delayed due mainly to government regulations. Sources told Bloomberg that Facebook recently completed an audit that required it to show that all data involved in payments will be stored on servers only in India. The report will soon be submitted for approval to India’s banking regulator, the Reserve Bank of India.
WhatsApp will face tough competition in India. Amazon is going after the market with Amazon Pay UPI for Android, while Google Pay already counts 45 million Indians as customers and Apple Pay also has plans to enter the market. At the same time, Paytm, the local digital payment company that has the backing of Alibaba, the Chinese eCommerce giant, is the leader in the market.
But WhatsApp has an estimated user base in India more than 300 million at its disposal, which means it can win over market share from rivals and change the industry, according to Arnav Gupta, an analyst who tracks digital payments at Forrester Research.
“Everybody from eight to 80 years old in India are clued into WhatsApp, giving it phenomenal reach,” Gupta told Bloomberg. “Besides, peer-to-peer businesses like MakeMyTrip and BookMyShow, which are already using WhatsApp, will find it very easy to route payment transactions through the messaging app.”
WhatsApp declined to comment on the audit. “WhatsApp looks forward to providing WhatsApp Payments based on the UPI standard to all users in India and we continue to work with our local partners towards a shared goal of supporting a more Digital India,” spokesman Carl Woog said in an email.
Despite its popularity, WhatsApp has also faced criticism in India, with its messaging service used to spread fake news and rumors, including some that led to almost two dozen lynchings in the country.