Digital Payments
Being rolled out through Messenger, Facebook Payments is currently available in a few countries such as the US, UK, and France.

That WhatsApp has not been able to fully launch its payments service in India though the beta version has been in place for a fairly long period is already known. It now appears that parent Facebook also is keen to launch a peer-to-peer (P2P) payments service on its Messenger platform.

Top-ups and recharges may be the starting point for this ‘payments’ feature to be built into the Facebook Messenger app. It is understood that Facebook is already offering this service to its customers in countries like the US, the UK and France. Facebook had gone on record once earlier that the company had no plans for the Messenger app to carry the payments feature for Indian customers.

Facebook has explained that a full-fledged rollout of the Payments feature on both Facebook and WhatsApp has been delayed due to the data security issue following the Cambridge Analytica episode. The current level of service only takes care of the low-end payments as indicated above.

But the more interesting piece of information emerging now is that the P2P payments model that Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp will offer would have cryptocurrencies included in the mix. This may not come as a surprise to those who have followed the moves of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, particularly in setting up an exclusive blockchain division and appointing a senior pro to head the project.

The blockchain division could play a key role in Facebook’s plans to launch the P2P payments feature on its platforms enabling people to make payments to one another in cryptocurrencies if they so desire. This facility may be made available to the Indian customers as well, it is learnt.

Speaking of WhatsApp Payments in India being launched, there is still no clarity on the issue with the RBI and the IT ministry firm on WhatsApp fulfilling their conditions on having a physical office in the country and being able to hold all data it collects from Indian customers in servers located within India’s geographical boundaries. There is also the issue of 2-stage identity verification which is still to be resolved. Some reports, however, claim WhatsApp is already offering its service to Indian customers.

WhatsApp is using the UPI gateway of the National Payments Corporation of India which most other firms, like Paytm, Flipkart’s PhonePe, Uber and Ola have all latched on to.

NCPI, meanwhile, has come out with its next version, UPI 2.0 and if both Facebook and WhatsApp end up offering the payments facility on their platforms, they have the potential to become the largest in the business, with around 420 million collective users in India alone.