It’s clear that WhatsApp Business is Meta’s golden goose in India.
Of the 13 years that WhatsApp has existed, the Business chat arm—which allows merchants and businesses to directly interact with consumers—has existed for four. Half of its life sped by during the pandemic, when, luckily for WhatsApp, businesses really needed to connect with consumers online. WhatsApp Business has used this need to grow really fast, especially in India, where half a billion people use WhatsApp.
And it has been busy. In the past six months, it has introduced a catalogue feature (in November 2021), doubled its pricing (in February 2022), and as of April, even posed an open challenge to Indian telcos by launching the provision for promotional messaging.
According to sources in the know, WhatsApp is now in talks with government-owned oil and gas producer Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) to become its primary channel of communication, instead of text messages. This would mean that the 85 million users who reach out to BPCL for LPG LPG Liquefied petroleum gas LPG is a fuel gas used in heating appliances, cooking equipment, and vehicles. supplies could now be doing it via WhatsApp Business!
To facilitate this, WhatsApp decided to fund BPCL instead of charging it, said sources close to the companies. Last year, WhatsApp gave the corporation Rs 1 crore (~US$128,590) from its promotional budget to perfect its WhatsApp Business chatbot, among other things.
And now, BPCL is planning to integrate its UFill app—an online payment service for fuel—with WhatsApp Pay as and when it’s launched for merchants.
None of this came about overnight. WhatsApp Business has been steadily building its capacity to become a quasi-superapp in India.
In the last two years, it has built deep relationships with banks, insurance and utility companies, and expanded its reach in retail and travel. For banks such as HDFC, ICICI, and Yes Bank, WhatsApp Business has emerged as a credible alternative for transactions. Any transaction that a customer can make on a bank’s mobile app can also be done on its WhatsApp channel—right from fund transfers to bill payments.
Digital banking savvy users, aged 18-30, who make almost 20% of WhatsApp’s user base, are using this bank transaction feature. They use it for transferring payments, paying utility bills and insurance premiums, said Utpal Chakraborty, who led the artificial intelligence team at Yes Bank till late-2021. Most of the transacted amount is in the range of Rs 500 to Rs 2,000 (US$6.43 to US$25.72), he said.
Now it wants to become the primary mode of messaging for businesses.