That WhatsApp was working on business features to be launched in the future has been clear for a while now. People just didn’t know when. That has just changed.
Facebook recently advertised the job, Digital Transactions Lead in India, and as one of the job responsibilities, the advert says the person will work cross-functionally with other teams supporting digital transactions on WhatsApp and help scale global support for digital transactions on WhatsApp.
India is WhatsApp’s biggest market with more than 160 million active users. The app has generally been more successful in parts of Asia and Africa than in North America and Europe. For the simple reason that SMS was expensive in these markets.
Last year, WhatsApp said they were exploring ways to contribute to “India’s vision for digital commerce.”
The recent job advert is clear; this is not just about India, but introducing payments on the app globally, eventually.
WhatsApp’s global competition in messaging, WeChat, Messenger and other apps, already have payments enabled as part of the messaging ecosystem. They also allow businesses to use their platform with bots and other innovations enabled by APIs.
WhatsApp however has taken time to introduce the business features. This move hopefully means soon, one of the biggest headaches for businesses in Asia and Africa is solved. How soon? A report by an Indian publication says the payments features may be rolled out within 6 months.
The problem for WhatsApp in terms of rolling out payments fast, is that they have to work with third parties providing the payment gateways in the markets they roll out. Companies like VISA, Mastercard and mobile money providers and aggregators. This is very much unlike other features that don’t depend on third parties.
In Zimbabwe WhatsApp is the primary communication tool, thanks mostly to WhatsApp bundles that are sold by the mobile operators. Ordinarily, users of the app just buy WhastApp bundles, leaving out the rest of the internet. Not because they don’t like the rest of the internet, but data is just too expensive so they can only afford, and they prioritise WhatsApp.