WhatsApp, which has over 400 million users of its messagingservice in India, plans to roll out its much-awaited payments service in thecountry later this year, more than a year after it began testing the offeringhere.
The Facebook-owned company has been testing its paymentsservice in the country since last year with about a million users, but couldnot launch full-fledged services as it has been awaiting regulatory approvals.
Speaking at an event here on Thursday, WhatsApp Global HeadWill Cathcart said the company's vision is to make sending money as easy assending messages on the platform.
"We built payments based on the UPI standard, partneredwith banks here in India… We believe that if we did this right, it willaccelerate financial inclusion and bring more people in India's fast-growingdigital economy. We can't wait to provide the service to more of our users allacross India later this year," he said.
Cathcart, however, did not clarify whether the company hasreceived a go-ahead from the regulator and policy makers on the planned launch.
WhatsApp's service, which would compete against the likes ofPaytm, PhonePe and Google Pay, is yet to be rolled out nationally in India. Thecompany, which has over 1.5 billion users globally, is looking at rolling outpayments service in other markets as well.
WhatsApp's ambitious payment services' blueprint in Indiahas been caught in a bind over concerns around authentication and its datastorage practices. In the past, its home-grown rivals have alleged thatWhatsApp's payment platform has security risks for consumers and is not incompliance with the guidelines.
In October last year, WhatsApp had said it had developed asystem to store payments-related data in India as part of compliance with theregulator Reserve Bank of India's policy on storing such data locally.
In May this year, WhatsApp had told the Supreme Court thatits trial run was likely to be completed by July, and that it will not launchpayments services in India without fully complying with the central bank norms.
RBI, last month, had clarified that all data related topayments, including those processed abroad, must be stored only in India. Also,in case the payment processing is done abroad, the data should be deleted fromthe systems there and brought back to India within 24 hours, it had stated.
Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, during his address at theevent, said "…400 million Indians are using WhatsApp, out of the base of1.5 billion" and that he expects the local number to rise to abillion-plus in the next three years.
In 2017, the company had said its India user base was atover 200 million. However, it hasn't provided an official update to that numbersince then.
"And I can assure you in the next three years, it willbe a billion plus from India," he said.
WhatsApp is partnering with the Women Transforming India(WTI) Awards 2019, flagship initiative of Niti Aayog and will provide supportamounting to USD 100,000 for the WTI winners.
The WTI Awards, which Niti Aayog organises in partnershipwith the United Nations, recognises stories of exceptional achievements bywomen who are breaking the glass ceiling and challenging stereotypes throughbusinesses, enterprises, and initiatives aimed at solving key societalchallenges.
"Small businesses are the backbone of a strong economyand I am proud of the role WhatsApp can play in helping build the nextgeneration of India's women entrepreneurs," Cathcart said, pointing outthe importance of investing in building digital skills.
He said the company will pilot enhanced WhatsApp trainingmodules with startups.