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WhatsApp India's Maiden Profits Brings Glad Tidings Amid Troubles WhatsApp's India business reported a profit after tax of INR 57.18 lakh for FY2019

By Shreya Ganguly

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Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp has been locking horns with the Indian government since last year over issues related to launch of its payment business and spread of fake news. Amid issues, WhatsApp has recorded a revenue of INR 6.84 crore for FY 2019. This is the first time the social media company reported its India revenues.

According to a filing with the ministry of corporate affairs, the company also reported a profit after tax of INR 57.18 lakh for the fiscal compared with a loss of INR 5 lakh in the previous year. These results mark a huge leap for the company as it had reported nil revenues for FY18.

WhatsApp's Revenue Source

According to the filing, WhatsApp attributed the revenue to its IT-enabled business processes and outsourcing services. For the uninitiated, WhatsApp Business is a standalone app which was launched in 2018 to make interacting with customers easy by providing tools to automate, sort and quickly respond to messages. The app especially focuses on making communication easier for small businesses and also help them have a presence on the platform.

Several media reports had revealed that 77% of Indian SMEs on WhatsApp agree that the messaging app has helped them connect with users across the country. About 62% believed that using WhatsApp Business helped them increase sales. Earlier this year, the company revealed that nearly 5 million businesses used WhatsApp Business.

Profits Rise, Yet Disappointed

While the company reported its maiden profit in India, it could not gain the trust of Indian officials for launching its payment service in India. Earlier this month, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) told the Supreme Court that the company is not compliant with data localisation norms. The central bank also asked NPCI to not allow a full-scale launch of WhatsApp Payment in India.

The launch of WhatsApp Payment has been delayed for over a year after the Indian government said the service can only be launched after WhatsApp complies with the localisation norms and also opens an office in India and hires team here.

While the company was reportedly planning to have an office in India and also hired Abhijit Bose as its India head, the company is not yet compliant with Indian norms, according to RBI.

Israeli Spyware Controversy Fuelled Trouble

In the latest privacy-related controversy, reports said spyware "Pegasus' snooped into the phones of 1,400 people across the world earlier this year through WhatsApp. According to reports, the spyware had hit 121 Indians and breached data of 20 users among them. The issue came into the light after the company filed a case against Israel-based surveillance firm NSO Group in the federal court, accusing them of allegedly being involved in the breach.

According to WhatsApp, it came across the cyber-attack in May this year wherein its video calling feature was being compromised to send malware to users. The targets were mainly diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials. "This attack was developed to access messages after they were decrypted on an infected device, abusing in-app vulnerabilities and the operating systems that power our mobile phones," WhatsApp said in a statement.

Last week, the ministry of electronics and IT-run the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team had also alerted users about a new vulnerability wherein hackers can attack the messaging platform using MP4 files.

Shreya Ganguly

Former Features Writer

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