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Trai seeks to know whether WhatsApp, Google Duo and Skype should be subject to regulatory and licencing norms that apply to telecom operators. Photo: Bloomberg (Bloomberg)
Trai seeks to know whether WhatsApp, Google Duo and Skype should be subject to regulatory and licencing norms that apply to telecom operators. Photo: Bloomberg (Bloomberg)

WhatsApp wants your money

  • WhatsApp pay could soon dominate India's online payment space
  • WhatsApp has an active user base of 400 million in India

WhatsApp Pay could be back on your screen, after a trial run that got scotched by India’s data localization norms. Unconfirmed reports have surfaced that its owner, Facebook Inc., has agreed to comply with those, and may already have got an okay from the National Payments Corporation of India to kick off operations as a payment app.

If that is true, then WhatsApp pay could soon come to dominate the country’s online payment space. Simply put, WhatsApp has an active user base of 400 million Indian users, as last estimated, and it is socially observed to be mainly what telecom handsets are used for, nowadays. Large numbers flick this chat app on as soon as they wake up, and check updates as the very last thing they do before going to sleep. If a payment option gets added on, then it’s likely to attract usage in huge volumes right from the word go.

That might also create a winner-takes-most dynamic that competition authorities worldwide are becoming wary of. Its incremental costs on a payment service are likely to be super low, and the app already enjoys network effects beyond anyone’s dreams. It is entirely conceivable that its users will make it their primary means of transferring day-to-day sums of money to those they need to pay. This could push other payment apps off phone screens. However, the likelihood of such an outcome is not reason enough to block an idea that could spell convenience for millions and help the country go cashless faster than ever before.

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