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WhatsApp Introduces Shopping Button The platform got the green light for payment services and went live in India last week

By Prabhjeet Bhatla

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Facebook-owned WhatsApp in its effort to make the shopping experience better during this year's festive shopping season has introduced a shopping button on the platform to make it easier for people to discover a business' catalog so they know what goods or services it offers. This will make it easier for businesses to have their products discovered which can help increase sales.

The ongoing spread of COVID-19 has become one of the biggest threats to the global economy and financial markets. To contain the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, India, like many countries across the globe, is taking several measures, including a nationwide lockdown; limiting movement of the entire population; shutting down public places and transport, and urging the public to stay indoors, maintain social distance, and work from home. The resulting economic disruption is a huge and short-term decline in activity for businesses, both large and small.

With economic growth expected to be severely hit, the financial outlook of the digital payments sector is no different and will follow a similar trajectory, at least in the short term. But the industry's stability and potential for innovation will play an invaluable role in rebooting the economy in the new normal.

Payment systems have demonstrated that they are dependable and durable, and continue to command a high level of confidence from the general population. However, the closure of businesses and the lockdown have resulted in lower transaction volumes overall.

According to a recent survey by The Harris Poll, 76 per cent of adults in India said, "I am more likely to do business with/purchase from a company that I can contact via messaging than one that I cannot."

According to a November 5 statement released by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the authority has given approval for WhatsApp to "Go Live' on UPI (Unified Payments Interface) in the multi-bank model. The app can expand its UPI user base in a graded manner starting with a maximum registered user base of 20 million in UPI.

In addition, the NPCI has said that a third-party app can process only up to 30 per cent of the total volume of UPI transactions (calculated basis the total volume of transactions processed in UPI during the preceding three months on a rolling basis). The new entrant, WhatsApp needs to comply with the regulation by January 1, 2021, while incumbents have been given two years to meet the guideline.

Earlier, the platform had been working to secure all required regulatory approvals in India for its payments service. The Competition Commission of India in August dismissed a complaint alleging that WhatsApp used anti-competitive practices in the country's payment applications market, according to a report by S&P Global.

WhatsApp's massive user base would have been its biggest edge over rivals. Even though NCPI's restrictions have put that vision run on hold for now, experts believe, not all is lost.

The cross-platform messaging service claims that more than 175 million people message a WhatsApp Business account every day, and more than 40 million people view a business' catalog each month – including more than 3 million in India.

For the last two years, the platform has provided its WhatsApp Business app and WhatsApp Business API (application programming interface) to help businesses of all sizes manage their chats. To that end, WhatsApp plans to increase its investment in the areas of shopping, Facebook Hosting Services, and business sales.

In the shopping space, the company is expanding ways for people to check out available products and make purchases right from a chat. The establishment also attempts to make it easier for businesses to integrate its features into their existing commerce and customer solutions. This will help many small businesses who have been most impacted during this time.

Businesses have varying technology needs and want choice in the companies they work with to host and manage customer communications, particularly with remote work increasing. So, in an effort to expand their partnerships they are providing a new option for businesses to manage their WhatsApp messages via hosting services that Facebook plans to offer. Providing this option will make it unchallenging for small and medium-size businesses to get started, sell products, keep their inventory up to date, and quickly respond to messages.

And in order to spike their business sales, they will charge business customers for some of the services they offer, which will help it to continue building a business of their own while they provide and expand free end-to-end encrypted text, video, and voice calling for more than 2 billion people.

In Addition, banks counting HDFC, ICICI, and Kotak Mahindra have also started contribution services such as checking account balances, generating statements, and applying for credit cards, through WhatsApp. Even insurance policies can be bought through the app. The launch of WhatsApp's payment facility will enable the app to offer more such services.

Prabhjeet Bhatla

Former Staff

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