You’re at work. It’s 6 pm, and you need a cab home. You pull out your smartphone, open WhatsApp, find the Uber chat window, and type:

Hi, I want a cab to go home from work

“At what time?” asks Uber.

In 15 mins

What kind?

Uber Go

That will be Rs 250 ($3.5). Your driver Amit will be here in 15 mins. Here are his details. You can track the ride in this link.

You’re in the cab, and you’ve decided what you’re cooking tonight. On another WhatsApp chat window, you order a few groceries from your neighbourhood mom and pop store.

Hi, show me my frequently ordered items

A catalog with frequently purchased items pulls up. You choose from it. Milk- 1 Lt, Eggs -6 nos, Onion-1 kg, Tomato- 500 gms. You set ‘delivery to home’.

“That will be Rs 200 ($2.8),” says your grocer and sends a payment link. “Your delivery will be home by 8 pm.”

You’re home. It’s 8 pm. Your groceries just arrived. You’ve chopped vegetables and are ready to cook. Suddenly, you realise there’s no gas left in your gas cylinder. Sigh. You bring out the induction.

But you still need gas, right? You open up yet another chat window on WhatsApp.

Hi, I would like to get a gas cylinder refill

Ok, give me your consumer number

It is 70xxxxx26 

Ok I have taken your order, we should deliver it in two days

That’s three different things you did in one app. That’s the future Facebook wants for messaging app WhatsApp, which it bought for $19 billion in 2014. While the first two scenarios are still fiction, the third one is very real.

An example of how companies are using conversations to sell

 

That’s right. A WhatsApp message is all you need to get a refill booking from the cooking gas cylinder agency Indane.

Ubers and groceries can’t be far behind. 

Since 2018, WhatsApp has been enabling businesses around the world to reach out to users to notify them about their purchases. In India, online travel agencies such as the MakeMyTrip and its subsidiaries—GoIbibo, RedBus—and online movie booking platform BookMyShow are already using WhatsApp instead of text messages to notify users of their purchases.

AUTHOR

Arundhati Ramanathan

Arundhati is Bengaluru-based. She is interested in how people use money in the digital age and how new economies will take shape based on that interaction. She has spent over 10 years reporting and writing on various subjects. Previous stints were at Mint, Outlook Business and Reuters.

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