Whatsapp is under pressure in India. The Indian government recently accused Whatsapp of inciting the recent mob killings in India and the government basically asked Whatsapp to deal with the fake news problem, or else…
With Whatsapp users in India making up a large part of the messaging services overall user base, Whatsapp has reacted and added some test features to shift the way they are viewed by the government and these include limiting the number of messages that can be forward by Indian users.
The issue at hand…
Why am I focusing so much on Whatsapp-Indian relations when we are supposed to be talking about payments? Well, the feature will debut in India first and Whatsapp is actually waiting on a green light from the Indian government to introduce payments.
Back at the Investor call that saw Facebook’s share price drop plummet last week, Mark Zuckerberg talked about the new soon to be introduced feature:
All signs point to a lot of people wanting to use this when the government gives us the green light. And in the meantime, we’ve broadened our focus to building this for other countries so we can give more people this ability faster.
It makes sense that this feature would debut in India, as the country has over 200 million of the total 1.3 billion user base.
I think this feature is a while off from seeing the light of day. In India, there’s still some questions as to when it will be launched as the IT Ministry is more concerned with how Whatsapp will deal with the issue of misinformation rather than the payments issues.
In Africa overall, I think it will take some time before this feature comes here for a number of reasons. We have multiple currencies that have wildly varying rates and valuations. This will make striking regulatory deals with central banks in Africa a logistical nightmare for Whatsapp, as they have to negotiate with a number of banks.
“But WeChat has been doing this all along!”
Well, WeChat has been doing this for a while and that’s true but there is some context necessary. The payment option was only available for Chinese users and was only recently opened up to users outside that region, so in all honesty it was much easier for WeChat to navigate regulation since that was a market specific feature.
Similarly, it will take time for Whatsapp to actually strike the deals necessary for this to become a truly widespread and frictionless feature. One would assume because of the more global nature of Whatsapp they’ll roll out support for Visa and Mastercard quicker than WeChat but for certain countries this may remain a feature they aspire to use for a long time. Anyway, it’s interesting to see what this feature becomes and how it will work once it’s introduced. This could be the only way for Facebook to monetize Whatsapp and Messenger.
Finally a way to monetize Whatsapp?
Zuckerberg indicated that the plan is to make “a business ecosystem around messaging” on WhatsApp as well as the Messenger app over the next five years. Facebook bought Whatsapp for $19 billion back in 2014 and questions have been raised as to how they would monetize the service as it has been free all along and advertisements did not look like a viable path to follow. It seems those questions are now being answered and the payments will finally offer Facebook return on the investment they made almost half a decade ago
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