WhatsApp had gone live with UPI payment service in India 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 payment service from the world's largest messaging app has had a very slow start in the country, which the company counts as its largest market. It currently has a paltry 0.01% share of the UPI payments volume dominated by PhonePe and Google Pay. This is partly because the service is still restricted to 20 million users as of now, as per NPCI.
Speaking at Global Fintech Fest 2021 on September 30, Manesh Mahatme - Director Payments, WhatsApp India said they are scaling up the service in a phased manner right now and partnering with NPCI to work through the scale.
That said, the Facebook-owned messaging app now wants everyone to know it has a payments service and is rolling out new features and marketing initiatives to drive its discoverability. "Our focus right now is to drive awareness of our payments feature on WhatsApp and to build new use cases to transact," Mahatme said.
WhatsApp's camera icon in the app home screen now lets users scan any UPI QR code to pay across more than 20 million stores in India. It is also making the payment icon more visible to users by featuring the Rupee icon directly in the chat composer between the attachment and Camera icon. WhatsApp said it has started rolling out this feature and should be available to users in India over the next few weeks.
Mahatme said they want to make sending money as easy and simplified as sending a message and both the Rupee and Camera icons are two of the most iconic and recognizable symbols that all Indians understand, regardless of where they are, how old they are and how sophisticated they are in their digital payments journey.
"Millions of Indians today click on the WhatsApp camera icon and use that to take a picture and send it. We believe true inclusion is when customers don’t have to navigate their way through their phone to make a payment. An arrival point is when payments just “fits” into a customer’s intrinsic behaviour," Mahatme said.
Mahatme also previewed an upcoming feature wherein users will be able to send stickers with payments. "We believe stickers and images will truly democratise payments as they did communications" he said. In the future, WhatsApp also plans to open it up for everyone to create stickers relevant to them and that part of the country.
Elaborating on WhatsApp's digital payments vision for the country, Mahatme said the firm's vision is to empower Indians with access to payments and financial services, thereby accelerating economic empowerment and financial inclusion.
"For cultivating and onboarding the next 500 million to the digital payments ecosystem, users need to be driven by simplicity, trust and inclusivity" he said.
Earlier this week, WhatsApp India head Abhijit Bose said they will also work with rural and cooperative banks
to accelerate the adoption and usage of digital banking for their underserved customer base. The firm's collective goal is not to scale payments, but rather to scale solutions, which will be enabled through payments and fintech, Bose said.