WhatsApp is set to launch its new payment service, which will allow users to transfer money securely via the app, in India this year.
Following a year-long pilot in the region, the Facebook-owned messaging giant is planning to officially roll out the service in one of its most lucrative markets.
In May at Facebook’s F8 conference Mark Zuckerberg announced a raft of upcoming changes to its family of brands, including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, including the introduction of product catalogues and instant payments to the latter.
“Payments is one of the areas where we have an opportunity to make it a lot easier. I believe it should be as easy to send money to someone as it is to send a photo,” Zuckerberg said.
Despite the feature being tested in India for a year WhatsApp has been forced to delay its release in India, where the messaging app is ubiquitous, due to numerous regulatory and social issues.
Firstly, Facebook has been struggling to meet Indian regulations which require all payment-related data to be stored locally.
Secondly the app has come under increased scrutiny from the Indian government after a spate of “WhatsApp lynchings”, which have seen 46 people killed since 2017.
These resulted from the spread of rumours and misinformation via WhatsApp, accusing various individuals of child abduction and organ harvesting with no evidence and encouraging violent mobs to take revenge.
One in three Indians is thought to use WhatsApp, representing around 400 million people, and digital payment methods have been growing rapidly thanks to a government push to modernise the country’s economy.
WhatsApp’s global head Will Cathcart said: “Payments services are critical to … bringing millions more people into India’s fast-growing digital economy”.