India to play 'crucial role' in WhatsApp business solutions
Messaging app WhatsApp is working on solutions to enable businesses to use its platform to connect with consumers and India will play a "crucial role" for the product, a company official said on Wednesday.
Last year, the Facebook-owned company had said WhatsApp will test tools that allow users to communicate with businesses and organisations like banks and airlines through its platform. While WhatsApp does not intend to introduce any third- party ads, it is looking at ways to monetise the platform and working with businesses could be a step in that direction.
WhatsApp remains free for consumers.
"We are definitely in building the product phase. So, what you will see over the year is different tests, both for small and large businesses, and figuring out what's a good experience for these businesses on WhatsApp," WhatsApp spokesperson Matt Steinfeld said.
He further said: "India is going to play a crucial role in that."
India is the biggest market for WhatsApp. Of its over one billion users, about 200 million are here. In India, it competes with the likes of Hike and SnapChat. Facebook, on its part, has a strong focus on bringing businesses to its platform as well. Over five million businesses globally actively advertise on Facebook. WhatsApp has been working on introducing features to enhance engagement on the platform. It had recently launched a story feature to allow users to express their thoughts using pictures and animations.
WhatsApp is also attempting to foray into digital payment services, with India as a test bed. The company is looking to hire a digital transactions head for the country. In February, WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton had met IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to discuss ways in which WhatsApp could contribute to India's vision for digital commerce.
"We listen very carefully to feedback from people across India and how to better serve them. India is obviously our largest country and it's going to be one of the most important markets," Steinfeld pointed out.
He added that the company is keen to understand how it can contribute more to the vision of Digital India. Following the government's move to recall old notes of Rs 500 and 1,000 in November last year, there has been a massive growth in digital transaction in India, including credit and debit cards, mobile banking and m-wallets