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WhatsApp aims to become the go-to platform for small businesses and first-time insurance buyers and is counting on its Unified Payments Interface (UPI)-based payments feature, which is now live across India, besides its new business-centric features.

The Facebook-owned messaging platform aims to gain market share against established payments rivals such as Google and PhonePe. Though WhatsApp has over 400 million active users and 15 million business users in India, it has been a late entrant in many segments, such as payments or micro insurance, which are also offered by other payment apps. PhonePe has sold more than 500,000 insurance plans in April-August period this year.

“Our aim was to make sending money to family and friends as easy and as secure as sending a message or attaching a photo. I am delighted to share with you that WhatsApp Pay is now live across the country through our bank partners State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, and Axis Bank," said Abhijit Bose, chief executive, WhatsApp India, on the second day of the virtual event, Facebook Fuel for India.

“People who are new to digital payments need a simple, secure and trusted way to get on boarded and complete the last and important leg of any transaction. WhatsApp Pay can be that bridge for many. I am really excited about the prospects of WhatsApp Pay," Bose said.

WhatsApp Pay was rolled out in November but the feature was not available to many users initially. WhatsApp processed just over 300,000 UPI transactions, according the National Payments Corp. of India’s (NPCI’s) November data. Industry experts said the company needs to offer more incentives and rewards to get buyers to shift from other payments apps to WhatsApp Pay.

WhatsApp will start offering micro-insurance products on its platform by the end of this year, Bose said. It will first offer affordable health insurance plans from SBI General Insurance Co. Ltd. The company also plans to offer micro-pension products and has tied up with HDFC Pension Management Co. and pinBox to offer retirement plans.

Small-ticket insurance covers, also known as sachet or bite-size insurance, are non-comprehensive plans, focusing on specific needs and come with a low premium and lower cover. Such plans have gained a lot of traction following the coronavirus outbreak, especially among first-time buyers from smaller cities.

“It’s always our endeavour to enable and provide insurance solutions and make them accessible and affordable like other essential services. We have designed specific products that will take care of the healthcare needs in an affordable and problem-free manner and will be available through WhatsApp," said Amar Joshi, chief business officer, SBI General Insurance.

Improving customer experience while engaging with businesses on WhatsApp is another focus area for the company. It will continue to invest in the business application programming interface, offering features and flexibility for the entire ecosystem in India to build customized customer experiences. “We want to make it easier for consumers to connect with and buy from their favourite businesses, both large and small, over our platform," Bose said. WhatsApp will continue to bring new features and tools to the WhatsApp Business app, designed especially to help small businesses and kirana stores grow and scale, he said.

abhijit.a@livemint.com

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