Messenger WhatsApp is preparing to launch the function of direct money transfers between users. The service will first be launched in India, the largest market for WhatsApp, where more than 200 million people use the messenger.
Payment processing will be handled by UPI, an interbank payment system supported by the Government of India. The WhatsApp team plans to launch the new feature within six months.
WhatsApp considers India to be one of the top priority development regions. In February, the co-founder of the messenger Brian Acton visited the country. There he met with the Minister of Communications and Information Technology and admitted that his company is considering integrating payment services into WhatsApp.
Other players are also showing active interest in India. In-app direct money transfer, this week included Swedish startup Truecaller. The service is provided in partnership with the Indian ICICI Bank, which also uses UPI.
So far, nothing is known about the commission that will be charged from users, and the timing of the distribution of the service around the world. Now the application has more than 1.2 billion users and this huge base needs to be monetized somehow. WhatsApp once charged a token annual subscription fee, but it was canceled in 2016 because it was a barrier to the service’s audience growth. A new way to monetize the messenger that does not interfere with the popularity of the messenger is to receive a commission from money transfers.
In Facebook Messenger, the function of sending money appeared back in 2015. The functionality is carried out using a Visa or MasterCard linked to the account, while Facebook does not take a commission for its services. However, Facebook messenger is not as popular in India as WhatsApp, and the penetration rate of bank cards in the region is still very low.