WhatsApp Pay India Launch Later This Year, Says Global Head Will Cathcart
WhatsApp Pay beta is being tested by about a million users in India since last year. (Source: BloombergQuint)

WhatsApp Pay India Launch Later This Year, Says Global Head Will Cathcart

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Facebook Inc.-owned WhatsApp, which has over 400 million users of its messaging service in India, plans to launch its much-awaited payments service in the country later this year, more than a year after it began testing the offering here.

WhatsApp Pay’s India launch has been delayed due to regulatory hurdles, including authentication and data storage practices, though the beta version of the payments services is being tested by about a million users in India since last year.

Speaking at an event in New Delhi on Thursday, WhatsApp Global Head Will Cathcart said the company's vision is to make sending money as easy as sending messages on the platform.

"We built WhatsApp payments based on UPI, partnered with banks here in India... We believe that if we did this right, it will accelerate financial inclusion and bring more people in India's fast-growing digital economy. We can't wait to provide this service to more of our users all across India later this year," he said.

NITI Aayog Chief Executive Officer Amitabh Kant, who was present at the event, said "...400 million Indians are using WhatsApp, out of the base of 1.5 billion" and that he expects the local number to rise to a billion-plus in the next three years.

Cathcart, however, did not clarify whether the company has received a go-ahead from banking regulator Reserve Bank of India and policymakers on the planned launch.

WhatsApp Pay, which would compete against the likes of Paytm, PhonePe and market leader Google Pay, will be rolled out in other markets after the India launch. They have alleged that WhatsApp Pay has security risks for consumers and is not in compliance with guidelines.

In October last year, WhatsApp had said it has developed a system to store payments-related data in India in congruence with RBI’s data localisation norms.

In May, WhatsApp told the Supreme Court that the trial run was likely to be completed by July and that it will not launch the payments service in India without fully complying with the central bank's norms.

The central bank had last month clarified that all data related to payments, including those processed abroad, must be stored only in India. Also, in case the payments processing is done abroad, the data should be deleted from the systems there and brought back to India within 24 hours, it had stated.

The payments service aside, WhatsApp is partnering with Women Transforming India Awards 2019, the flagship initiative of NITI Aayog and will provide support amounting to $100,000 for the WTI winners.

The WTI Awards, which NITI Aayog organises in partnership with the United Nations, recognises stories of exceptional achievements by women who are challenging the stereotype through businesses, enterprises, and initiatives aimed at solving key societal challenges.

"Small businesses are the backbone of a strong economy and I am proud of the role WhatsApp can play in helping build the next generation of women entrepreneurs," Cathcart said, pointing out the importance of investing in building digital skills.

The company will also pilot enhanced WhatsApp training modules with startups.

Also read: WhatsApp Global Head May Meet IT Minister, RBI Officials During India Visit

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