A month and a half after receiving regulatory approval from the National Payment Council of India (NPCI) to roll out payments on its messaging platform, WhatsApp has unveiled plans to offer financial services like health insurance and micro-pension products in India.
The American tech firm is partnering with the domestic financial services players including SBI General for health insurance cover and HDFC Pension for National Pension Scheme (NPS) products that will be available on its chat platform, Abhijit Bose, head of India for WhatsApp, said on Wednesday during Facebook’s Fuel for India 2020 event.
According to WhatsApp, some of these micro-finance products that it has been piloting over the last few months could go live by the end of this year.
“The ability for people to get insurance covers – life and health – can protect the financial security of households from unforeseen expenses especially during the pandemic,” said Bose. “We hope that these projects will make it much easier for micro-pensions and health insurance to be scaled hopefully to every Indian regardless of location and income.”
The Facebook-owned company, which received the nod from Indian regulators to operate WhatsApp Pay in early November after almost three years of running it in beta, is currently allowed to extend its payment service to a maximum of 20 million users for peer-to-peer transactions.
According to the company, WhatsApp Pay is now live on UPI (Unified Payments Interface), the government-backed real-time payment system, with four Indian banks–State Bank of India, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, and Axis Bank. It has also reached the 20-million user limit. Further expansion of the service can be done only after getting a green signal from India’s central bank RBI and NPCI.
Although WhatsApp Pay at present is available to only 5% of its 400 million user base in India, it has laid down the foundation for the company to build its financial services ecosystem in its largest market.
This comes at a time when WhatsApp is charting out its future growth plan in India. During the event, Bose listed four key areas of growth for the South Asian nation, beyond its core messaging service. These include extending the WhatsApp Business platform to more users; partnering with local businesses and governments to offer niche solutions in the field of agriculture, trade, and education; expanding WhatsApp Pay, and scaling social welfare projects.
“UPI is a transformative service and we jointly have the opportunity to bring the benefits of our digital economy and financial inclusion to a large number of users who have not had full access to them before,” Bose added.
Earlier this year, WhatsApp was reportedly seeking to roll out a credit and loan facility to the users transacting on its platform to tap the soon-to-be USD 100 billion digital lending market.
However, as of now, WhatsApp Pay is yet to pick up among its users as it processed only 310,000 transactions worth USD 1.7 million in its first month of operation.