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WhatsApp: The Future of Business As we all thankfully leave 2020 behind, one of WhatsApp's top priorities in 2021 is to leverage our platform to enable businesses of all sizes to scale their reach and distribution

By Abhijit Bose

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Over the last few years, we have seen a significant shift to using messaging to get information and engage with businesses across the world. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has only further truly highlighted the urgency for digitization as business messaging platforms and apps have become a lifeline for people and businesses to connect when there is no other alternative.

As we all thankfully leave 2020 behind, one of WhatsApp's top priorities in 2021 is to leverage our platform to enable businesses of all sizes to scale their reach and distribution, and to allow the hundreds of millions of Indians using WhatsApp to have access to important services for their families and communicate easily with the businesses of their choice.

As businesses across the world reopen and expand online, people will continue to look for simple ways to get in touch with them to ask questions, get information or find something they might like to buy. In a survey conducted by The Harris Poll, 77 per cent of adults in India agreed that they prefer messaging a business when they need to contact them now more than they did prior to the pandemic. To meet this demand, WhatsApp has provided two ways for merchants and service providers to support their customers and grow their business—both of which have seen significant adoption and growth in 2020.

Small Businesses can use "WhatsApp for Business", a version of WhatsApp designed specifically for small businesses and kirana shop owners. Through WhatsApp for Business, shop owners can create catalogs and simplify ordering with their customers. Today, more than 175 million people message a WhatsApp Business account every day across the world, and we expect this number to continue to grow as businesses continue to rely on versatile digital platforms to communicate and sell products. In India, already more than 15 million small business users use WhatsApp for Business to connect with their customers. Around 81 per cent of surveyed adults agreed that messaging is a quick and easy way to communicate with a business and 76 per cent are more likely to do business with a company that they can contact via messaging.

India is WhatsApp's largest market and the vibrant micro and small business ecosystem is one of our primary sources for feedback for our product roadmap. We recently announced the launch for new features like the shopping button and carts will make the shopping experience more intuitive and seamless, for both customers and businesses. With the Shopping button, we have made it possible for people to discover a business' catalog, browse products and start a conversation about an item they see, with just one simple tap. Our recently launched "Carts button' will now allow customers to select multiple items they want to buy and then send them as a message directly to the business. I am certain that this will be a game-changer for business messaging and a significant step ahead in our vision towards the growth of conversational commerce.

For larger businesses, WhatsApp's API is a way for their support and sales processes to be automated. Customers can now "Say Hi" to get in touch with them to ask questions, get information or find something they might like to buy from their favourite businesses through automated conversational workflows and bots. This makes commerce as simple and comfortable as "Saying Hi" to your family every day on WhatsApp. The API has been adopted by many of leading private sector companies ranging from financial institutions to ed-tech companies, to retail merchants.

Moreover, we believe that the WhatsApp Business API can play a critical role in accelerating financial inclusion, education, skilling, and health services to the underserved. Pilots are underway to allow people anywhere in the country to discover and decide to buy micro-pensions, and health insurance; connect with government services, and access their bank all on WhatsApp.

One example is social tech-startup CabDost, which leverages WhatsApp to generate awareness and connect with over 50,000 individuals in the gig workforce, to provide financial advisory and literacy services. WhatsApp acts as their one-point customer support platform owing to its simple use, vast user base and conversational nature. We will continue to invest in seeding and scaling Social Impact programs over the Business API. The addition of WhatsApp Pay will help turn access to information about these services into actual access to and distribution of these services.

The digitization of our economy is irreversibly underway, accelerated by COVID-19. People no longer want to make a phone call or send an email when it comes to business interactions. They want to send a message and get a quick response. In building out our roadmap for enabling and digitizing businesses, we have always focused on the consumer experience first. At the heart of all this are our core principles of simplicity, reliability, privacy, and security—and we feel these are the reasons people trust and will be comfortable engaging with businesses on WhatsApp.

From the business side, WhatsApp is in many ways the most democratic platform for commerce in India. The evolution of digital commerce has been—up until now—a fight for downloads and deals with a "SuperApp". With WhatsApp, a small kirana shop has the same reach and digital presence on a consumer's phone as any large business in India. And the fact that the consumer chooses their favourite business to initiate a conversation, not the other way around, is the reason that businesses of every segment and size could see resilient ROI and engagement from their customers in a fast-moving digital world.

Abhijit Bose

Head of India, WhatsApp

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