WhatsApp to roll out payments in India this year

People are seen as silhouettes as they check mobile devices whilst standing against an illuminated wall bearing WhatsApp Inc's logo in this arranged photograph in London, U.K. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

WhatsApp will roll out its payments service in India this year following a year-long pilot, its global chief Will Cathcart has said, as the Facebook-owned messaging giant taps an upsurge in digital payments in its dominant market.

WhatsApp is ubiquitous across India, where data consumption is surging thanks to cheap internet, but a full launch of its payments feature had been delayed amid some false messages circulating on the platform that have led to mob lynching and more government scrutiny, according to local media.

The Menlo Park, California-based firm has also been trying to comply with Indian regulations including data storage norms that require all payments-related data to be stored locally.

“It’s a regulatory approval question in India at this point,” Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Thursday on the company’s earnings conference call in reference to WhatsApp Pay.

“We’re also working beyond India in a number of other countries and hope to have this rolled out to a large percent of the people who use WhatsApp within the next year,” he added.

WhatsApp now has about 400 million users in India, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday, encompassing almost a third of India’s population of 1.3 billion. The person did not wish to be named because they were not authorised to discuss the matter with the media.

WhatsApp’s payments feature would compete with a crowded market in India that includes Alphabet Inc’s Google Pay, Softbank- and Alibaba-backed Paytm and Walmart’s PhonePe, all of which are used, especially in cities, to pay for everything from groceries to Uber rides.

Digital payments, lending and e-wallet services have been growing rapidly in India, led by a government push to bring more of the country’s cash-loving merchants and consumers into the formal economy.

“Payments services are critical to … bringing millions more people into India’s fast-growing digital economy,” Will Cathcart, WhatsApp’s global head, said in New Delhi on Thursday.

Cathcart was speaking at an event held to announce a tie-up with India’s top government think tank NITI Aayog to promote women’s entrepreneurship.

“We can’t wait to provide this service to our users across India this year,” Cathcart said.

WhatsApp will use India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI) standard used by many other digital payments services, which is growing rapidly — UPI processed over 750 million transactions last month, rising from about 246 million a year earlier.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.