WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging app, is working quietly to launch person-to-person payments on its platform within the next six months, said four sources with knowledge of the matter.

The initiative is seen as strategic for Facebook and currently being driven out of the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Its career page lists, among other roles, an opening for a digital transaction lead with knowledge of UPI, Aadhaar and BHIM, to be based out of Menlo Park.

WhatsApp has no team in India as yet. But with over 200 million Indian users already, its entry into the payments space is likely to be pivotal for the entire sector.

There exist a slew of digital options in India currently for both person-to-person and person-to-merchant type transactions. These include prepaid wallets and prepaid cards, UPI (Unified Payments Interface), real-time bank transfers via IMPS and the soon-to-be-launched Aadhaar Pay. But much of this is very nascent, and there is a considerable overlap.

Thus, the protocol chosen by a giant like WhatsApp could potentially tilt the balance towards a leader.

The Ken understands that Whatsapp’s primary choice in this regard is UPI.

WhatsApp first admitted to being interested in launching payments in February, when its co-founder Brian Acton visited India. Interesting, his visit was exactly a year after Facebook shut down its controversial zero-rating programme, Free Basics, in India.

All sources requested not to be named because they are not authorised to speak with the media. The Ken sent an email to Facebook with details and specific questions on WhatsApp’s plans. The company in an email response did not contest any of the details but said, “India is an important country for WhatsApp, and we’re understanding how we can contribute more to the vision of Digital India. We’re exploring how we might work with companies that share this vision and continuing to listen closely to feedback from our users.”

Wallets out, UPI in

On 20 March, India’s Reserve Bank issued a mouthful of a circular titled “Master Directions on Issuance and Operation of Prepaid Payment Instruments (PPI) in India”. 

Jitendra Gupta, MD, PayU India

The PPI guideline is killing the use case of wallets. A wallet as an instrument may not exist in the future. It may become a sub-optimal option when compared to the UPI experience

In a single shot, the RBI had proposed a whole range of restrictions on PPIs, or as you might know them better, wallets. These included stricter know-your-customer (KYC) norms on par with banks; at the upper end, an imposition of limits on the money that could be stored.

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.

View Full Profile

Subscribe to read this story

The Ken is the only business subscription you need. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

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.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? 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.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. 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?

Just write to us at support@the-ken.com with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at info@the-ken.com or follow us on Twitter.