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WhatsApp to help rural, cooperative banks accelerate digital banking adoption

In July last year, WhatsApp had announced a pilot project with HDFC Pensions and their tech partner pinBox to enable people to sign up for micro pensions.

September 28, 2021 / 03:35 PM IST
WhatsApp had gone live with its UPI payment service in November last year, after receiving a nod from the National Payments Corporation of India(NPCI) nearly two years after its initial pilot.

WhatsApp had gone live with its UPI payment service in November last year, after receiving a nod from the National Payments Corporation of India(NPCI) nearly two years after its initial pilot.

WhatsApp will work with rural and cooperative banks to accelerate the adoption and usage of digital banking for their underserved customer base, India head Abhijit Bose said on September 28.

"Last year, we had highlighted mobile banking services from leading banks which had reached meaningful numbers; however for us, banking via WhatsApp could only be achieved and be inclusive if we could replicate successful mobile banking templates with rural and cooperative banks,"  Bose said at Global FinTech Fest 2021.

Bose said that the first deployments have begun with small finance banks such as AU Small Finance Bank and Equitas Small Finance Bank. "This is a specific segment of banking created by RBI with an objective of financial inclusion for the un-served and underserved sections including small business units, small and marginal farmers, micro and small industries and unorganised entities," Bose added.

In July last year, WhatsApp had announced a pilot project with HDFC Pensions and their tech partner pinBox to enable people to sign up for micro pensions. Bose said the process has now been made more simple and is powered by the integration of both Aadhaar and UPI systems, enabling people to fund micro pensions for themselves or for others.

WhatsApp had gone live with its UPI payment service in November last year, after receiving a nod from the National Payments Corporation of India(NPCI) nearly two years after its initial pilot. However, the service is still restricted to 20 million users and currently has less than a 1% volume share in the market.

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Bose, however, said their collective goal is not to scale payments, but rather to scale solutions, which will be enabled through payments and fintech. "There is no “fintech” if it’s not enabling a transaction of some type. This revolution is uniquely an Indian template because a lot of the common friction points that had blocked small businesses from achieving scale are being solved and powered by our India Stack and the ecosystem building on top of it" he said.

Growth of WhatsApp API platform

Bose said that services using WhatsApp API are also growing with hundreds of businesses and other services now launching every month and the adoption by its users is accelerating. One of the key use cases was fighting COVID through scaling information and access to vaccinations and other services by governments and civic actors.

For instance, MyGov had launched a chatbot early in the pandemic to initially deliver information for citizens on vaccine efficacy and safety and later allow people to check the availability of slots at vaccination centres near them, make vaccination appointment bookings, and download their vaccination certificates.

The chatbot has been accessed by more than 20 million unique users and has enabled more than 1.5 million vaccination bookings on the Facebook-owned messaging app while 6.6 million certificates have been downloaded till date.

A group of volunteers also created a service called CovidAsha to help solve the acute Oxygen supply situation during the second wave of the pandemic. It essentially worked as a two-way marketplace providing relevant, verified, and real-time information to COVID care seekers and also allowed suppliers to provide updates on stock availability. The service is live in seven regional languages and serviced over 2,000 requests per day at the peak of the second wave.
Vikas SN
first published: Sep 28, 2021 02:56 pm

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