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Walmart-owned payment company PhonePe launches WeChat-like messaging feature

WhatsApp has been struggling to launch its payment tool in India.

Picture by Avanish Tiwary

In a move to emulate what WhatsApp has been trying to do—launch a payment tool within its chat-based app—Walmart-owned payment company PhonePe has gone ahead and launched a chat feature.

The company said users can now have a conversation with each other while requesting money or confirming the receipt of payment without needing any other messaging app. The in-payment chat tool, currently open to over 185 million users, is integrated within the money transfer flow feature on PhonePe.

PhonePe users need to open the app and select a contact from their phone’s contact list and choose between the two options: ‘Chat’ and ‘Send’. Users can click on ‘Chat’ to send a message and click on ‘Send’ to make a payment.

“PhonePe chat makes it really easy for our users to send money to their contacts while having a conversation. A user’s transaction history on the PhonePe app is displayed in the chat flow, making it a highly engaging experience,” Rahul Chari, co-founder and CTO of PhonePe, said in a statement.

Chari said the company will roll out new features in the coming weeks such as group chat, which will make it easy for users to request or collect money from friends and family on the platform.

A similar in-payment chat feature was launched in 2017 by PhonePe’s arch-rival fintech company Paytm, which shut down within a year of its launch, citing “high costs.” During the launch, the Alibaba-backed company had called its WeChat-like feature “Inbox,” a new messaging platform that allowed Paytm users to share pictures and videos as well.

Meanwhile, Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp has been struggling to launch its peer-to-peer payment tool WhatsApp Pay for the public for a few years, as it got entangled in India’s regulations and data compliance rules that mandate all companies to store user data in the country. Since 2018, it has been running a test run with one million users of its 400 million user base in India.

“We have our test going in India. The test really shows that a lot of people are going to want to use this product. We’re very optimistic that we’re going to be able to launch to everyone in India soon, but of course will share more news when we have that,” Zuckerberg told analysts during an earnings call last October.

India currently has over ten million merchants who accept digital payments using UPI (Unified Payments Interface)—a payment tool that allows peer-to-peer instant money transfers via mobile means.