In the midst of issues concerning the spread of fake news and misinformation through its platform, Facebook-owned WhatsApp is seeking the ‘green light’ from the Indian government to officially launch its Unified Payments Interface (UPI) based payments service in the country. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during the company earnings call on Wednesday confirmed the anticipation. Zuckerberg, 34, also hinted at the global expansion of WhatsApp Payments that has so far been in testing mode in India. Last week, it was reported that the government is holding up the plans of the Menlo Park, California-headquartered company for a nationwide launch of its payments service majorly over concerns about how users’ data will be stored. It was also recently found that the Reserve Bank of India has directed payments firms to store their data locally for “unfettered supervisory access”. The move gives a competitive advantage to Paytm, which is facing the heat with the growth of payments taking place through WhatsApp since it claims to store all its data natively in the country.
“We’ve been testing payments on WhatsApp in India, and it gives people a really simple way to send money to each other and contribute to greater financial inclusion,” said Zuckerberg while addressing to Facebook’s investors during the recent earnings call. “And of the people who have tested this, feedback and usage have been very strong. All signs point to a lot of people wanting to use this when the government gives us the green light. And in the meantime, we’ve broadened our focus to building this for other countries so we can give more people this ability faster.”
Zuckerberg also suggested that Facebook is in plans to make a “business ecosystem around messaging” on WhatsApp as well as the Messenger app over the next five years. This is indeed important for the social networking company as it is aiming to take on the likes WeChat that is already offering payments and other business-focused services to the masses in China.
The latest statement from Zuckerberg comes amidst the ongoing development between the Indian government and Facebook to legalise the payments model on WhatsApp. It was last week reported that the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) asked WhatsApp and its partner banks to provide details about the payments system. The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) was also requested to confirm that the instant messaging service is “fully compliant” with its requirements.
Notably, the delay in the formal launch of WhatsApp Payments is giving a space to local payments giant Paytm as well as global rivals including Google’s Tez and Sweden’s Truecaller to expand their presence in the country. The instant messaging app started the testing of its payments service back in February to compete against the competition.
The regulation of digital payments through WhatsApp has been on hold in the middle of its fight in India against the spread of misleading information. The company already released full-page advertisements to create awareness on how to effectively use its instant messaging model. It also started curbing the option on its app to forward messages to restrict the circulation of fake news through its platform.
WhatsApp has over 1.5 billion monthly active users worldwide, and of that global userbase, it has more than 200 million active users in India. This gives a huge potential to Facebook to initiate its payments model in the country before its expansion to other countries.