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On 8 February, Facebook-owned WhatsApp quietly launched the much-anticipated feature in India—person to person payments. To almost universal rave reviews. (The Ken originally broke the news of this being in the works back in April 2017).

“Payments opens up huge new data stream for Facebook,” said a senior executive of an e-commerce company who requested not to be named.

Transactional revenue from this is merely incidental for companies like WhatsApp. Because what’s more valuable is the financial transaction data that it suddenly has access to. (Sensitive details like account number and pin details are stored in the partner banks’ servers.)

Currently, WhatsApp is battling it out at the Supreme Court on the kind of data that it has shared with its parent, Facebook.  

Facebook waited 17 months before adopting a radical new payments protocol and seems to have the best product out there. Against competitors like PhonePe (owned by Flipkart), Google’s Tez, Paytm*, and the Indian government-promoted BHIM.

Close to nearly a million of WhatsApp’s 270 million active Indian users have access to payments within their apps, said a source who is familiar with the rollout. It’s an incredible feat of engineering and marketing timing.

Or is it?

Okay, quiz time. Pick the right statement from those below. (Hint: Only one of them is correct.)

  1.     Google’s UPI-based payments app Tez allows to only send money to those with a Gmail address or an Android phone
  2.     Paytm users can transfer money using UPI only to other Paytm users
  3.     Flipkart-owned PhonePe allows payments only to Flipkart users
  4.     WhatsApp users can send money only to those who use WhatsApp and have enabled the payments feature within it

Do you have your answer?


Arundhati Ramanathan

Arundhati is interested in how people use money in the digital age and how new economies will take shape based on that interaction. She writes the newsletter Ka-Ching! every Monday. She lives in Bengaluru and has spent over 12 years reporting and writing on various subjects.

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