WhatsApp finally meets requirements to roll out payments in India
WhatsApp may finally get the go-ahead to launch payments in India. The service debuted as part of a limited trial two years ago but has since been stuck there due to regulatory issues cited by the Indian government. Now, however, it seems that the Facebook-owned company has cleared all those hurdles and set to begin a nationwide (and fully compliant) roll-out. Here's more.
All data localization requirements met, says NPCI
In a letter to RBI last month, the National Payments Corporation of India notified that WhatsApp has met five pending data localization parameters that were needed to broadly launch its payments service. "WhatsApp has satisfied the data localization requirement based on the CERT-In auditor's report and we hereby are giving ICICI Bank (WhatsApp's UPI payment partner) the approval to go live," NPCI noted.
Affidavit filed with Supreme Court last week
After receiving the letter, RBI filed an affidavit with the Supreme Court, noting that "WhatsApp has fully complied with the requirements" of its data localization's circular and that NPCI has permitted the company's partner to go live. The affidavit was filed in response to a petition about WhatsApp's failure to comply with Indian laws, filed by Delhi-based think-tank Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change.
Final decision still pending
Now, the court will announce a hearing date to give its decision on whether WhatsApp Pay should be allowed to expand broadly in the country. If allowed, which is expected to be the case given full compliance, payments will be enabled for 400 million Indians using the messaging service. This will make WhatsApp the biggest rival of Paytm, Amazon Pay, PhonePe, and Google Pay.
No official timeline for roll-out yet
In response to these developments, WhatsApp's spokesperson said, "We understand that NPCI is satisfied with WhatsApp's compliance of the Reserve Bank of India's payment guidelines on data localization. Our team has worked hard to meet these standards." The person added that the company is excited to take payments services to all of its Indian users but did not provide a targeted roll-out timeline.
But, the company will not stop at payments
Once the payments service becomes available, WhatsApp will push to offer more financial products in India, which is its biggest market by users. This, as recently announced by the country's head, will include credit, insurance, and pension products for lower-income individuals and those in rural parts of the country and eventually help digitize small and medium businesses.