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.


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.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at [email protected] detailing the error or queries.