After a long two years of speculations, evaluation, and discussion Facebook operates WhatsApp has now finally got success to gain the permission of unified payments interface (UPI) managing body National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) for the launch of WhatsApp Payments in different phases.
WhatsApp started offering payment services to 1 million users in India in 2018 as beta testing, however, it hasn’t been able to formally launch the service in the country due to delay in regulatory approval.
Now after getting the approval from NPCI, the WhatsApp Payments will be rolled out in a phased manner, in the first phase of the rollout WhatsApp will offer payment services to over 10 million users of India. “Pending other compliance points, the messaging platform will be able to do a full rollout.”
The NPCI approval follows the Reserve Bank of India’s go-ahead. WhatsApp has assured the RBI and NPCI that it will comply with the data localization norms, a source said. WhatsApp’s resistance to the government’s stand on data localization was a key reason behind the delay in the company’s payment service launch.
Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said if WhatsApp meets the regulatory norms from RBI and NPCI, then it should be allowed to start digital payment operations in the country.
The full rollout would make WhatsApp Pay one of the largest mobile payments services in India beating Paytm. WhatsApp Pay will compete against Google Pay, PayTM, Amazon Pay, PhonePe, etc. The biggest advantage for WhatsApp would be its already-established active user base of over 400 million users in India.
“We differentiate between payment systems that are built on top of the existing financial infrastructure like what we’re trying to do with WhatsApp payments or when we make payments in Instagram Shopping, and our work with something like Libra that is trying to build some new technological infrastructure,” Zuckerberg said.
One of the prime reasons behind the delay in the launch of WhatsApp Pay in India is the number of data compliance issues that Facebook needs to address. The Indian government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had expressed their concerns over some of WhatsApp’s features.
Data compliance issues and regulations have kept WhatsApp Pay launch in abeyance for quite some time, despite a successful test run of the payments service with one million users in the country.
Cyber experts in the country have also considered WhatsApp Pay as a threat to the Indian digital banking ecosystem especially when looking at some of the recent vulnerabilities found in the messaging app.
“We have our test going to India. The test really shows that a lot of people are going to want to use this product. We’re very optimistic that we’re going to be able to launch to everyone in India soon, but of course, we will share more news when we have that,” Zuckerberg told analysts on an earnings call this week.
A report published by KPMG in August last year had said that digital payments in India are growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.7 percent in the number of non-cash transactions.
Online payment gateway RazorPay in a separate report highlighted that India observed a massive 383 percent growth in digital payments from the financial year 2018 to the financial year 2019.
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