Facebook has launched its WhatsApp payment service for users in India after getting approval from the country’s regulators.
The service first launched in India as a beta in 2018, but a full rollout was delayed for years by concerns about data storage and sharing. It’s an important launch for what is WhatsApp’s biggest market, home to some 400 million users.
For the WhatsApp payment service, Facebook will be working with 5 Indian banks including ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank, the State Bank of India, and Jio Payments Bank.
The unveiling of the payment service was possible now because India’s regulatory body for retail payments, the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), gave its approval to WhatsApp.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a video message: “Now you’re going to be able to easily send money to your friends and family through WhatsApp just as easily as sending a message.”
He also suggested that digital payments were “especially important” during a global pandemic, as they eliminate the need for the in-person exchange of cash.
WhatsApp’s payment system will use India’s national payments infrastructure, known as the Unified Payments Interface or UPI. This allows interoperability between different apps and is also used by Walmart’s PhonePe and Google Pay, two of the largest UPI mobile payment providers in the country, with both controlling around 40 percent of the market.
WhatsApp will take a while to hit these limits, though the NPCI made it clear it will be reining in the Facebook-owned payment service from the get-go. The regulatory body said WhatsApp would only be allowed to launch the service in a “graded” manner, starting with “a maximum registered user base” of 20 million UPI customers.