The digital payments space in India will get heated up as WhatsApp Pay enters the fray in full swing. The Facebook-owned messaging app had already launched a pilot scale payment channel with 1 million subscribers. It was not able to progress further since the Reserve Bank of India came down heavily on the norms to be complied with before it can permit WhatsApp Pay to be expanded to a full-fledged payment app. Some of these norms include storing data within Indian shores and having a physical office in India with a compliance executive who could listen to complaints by customers if things were to go wrong.
The reports now emanating from the company through sources indicate that WhatsApp has since completed the processes required to be in full compliance and should be approaching the RBI for the final approval any time soon. A security audit will have to be conducted by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) before RBI can give the green signal.
WhatsApp will be offering the BHIM UPI payment route on its app like so many others are already doing.
Google Pay is right there on the top with others like Paytm, PhonePe and others offering similar digital app-based financial services.
WhatsApp has a strong 400-million strong subscriber base in India and the messaging app would want to tap this vast resource first to enlist customers for its digital payments app. With all present indications, WhatsApp Pay should kick off in the first half of this year itself.
The finality to their efforts for the past over 2-3 years in trying to launch the payments business possibly crystallised during the visit to India by Will Cathcart, WhatsApp’s global head in July last year. He held several meetings with the authorities in India, including those from RBI and NPCI. He met the Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad as well, and the officials in the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeiTY). At that time, Cathcart had assured that WhatsApp will be launched in 2019 itself. By that reckoning the company is behind schedule.
UPI has been the most successful payments backbone in India, with some 40 digital wallets and 140 banks offering this payment interface to millions of customers.