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WhatsApp's digital payments push will begin in India

The service is expected to debut in the next six months.
Andrew Dalton, @dolftown
April 5, 2017
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Three years after buying WhatsApp, Facebook still hasn't quite figured out how to make money off of messaging service's massive user base. According to a report from India-based media company The Ken and confirmed by Bloomberg WhatsApp will be jumping into the digital payments space, starting with the service's 200 million users in India.

Facebook Messenger has gradually rolled out mobile person-to-person, in-store and online payments over the years, but this would be WhatsApp's first entry into the space. While WhatsApp will be competing directly with Alibaba-backed PayTM in the market, the messaging service may be able to gain an advantage with it's sheer number of users and some support of the Indian government.

India has more WhatsApp users than any other country and, according to the Financial Times, Indians are already using the platform as a digital marketplace similar to Craigslist or other classified listings in the US. Although WhatsApp and Facebook have butt heads with the Indian officials over data sharing in the past, the new effort will reportedly adopt the government's Unified Payments Service (UPI) which launched last year as part of the country's "Digital India" initiative.

"India is an important country for WhatsApp," the company wrote in a statement to TechCrunch, "and we're understanding how we can contribute more to the vision of Digital India. We're exploring how we might work with companies that share this vision and continuing to listen closely to feedback from our users." According to a job posting, WhatsApp is currently seeking a Digital Transactions Lead who will be based at the company's Menlo Park headquarters and can navigate India's Aadhaar digital ID service and while growing the forthcoming payments service beyond the subcontinent.

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