WhatsApp Payments to launch in six months, Facebook to focus on growing SMB payments and ads

WhatsApp Payments to launch in six months, Facebook to focus on growing SMB payments and ads
Photo Credit: Reuters
31 Jan, 2020

With a renewed focus on commerce and payments by Facebook, WhatsApp Payments may finally see the light of day in India. 

Speaking at Facebook’s Q4 earnings call for the financial year 2019, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the payments feature on WhatsApp messenger app will be rolled out across geographies within six months. 

“We got approval to test this with a million people in India back in 2018, and when so many of the people kept using it week after week, we knew it was going to be big when we get to launch. I'm really excited about this and I expect this to start rolling this out in a number of countries and for us to make a lot of progress here in the next six months,” Zuckerberg said during the Menlo Park, California-headquartered company’s earnings call.

CFO Dave Wehner expects the revenue and fee opportunity for transactions on the peer-to-peer UPI based payments platform to be small and not exactly a huge revenue opportunity. 

“It's really about giving people and businesses the ability to send and receive money to one another as easily and securely as they send a message,” Wehner said.

However, the payments business is likely to make the ads business lucrative to the Small and Medium Businesses the company is targeting for revenue generation.

The social media giant is also hopeful that the integration of WhatsApp with the ads business of Facebook and Instagram will help the group monetise. 

“As you can complete more payments in WhatsApp and Messenger, you would expect it to be worth more for businesses to bid more there, which is why we're so far focused on making it so that the payments can be free or really as cheap as possible, because we think that, from a business perspective, we will get some of the value just by having the services be more valuable for businesses and the ad prices that they'll bid in the auction,” Zuckerberg said. 

WhatsApp Payments has been in the pilot mode since its launch in India in 2018. In July 2019, Will Cathcart, global head of WhatsApp, asserted the platform is compliant with the Reserve Bank of India’s data localisation requirements.

However, the Pegasus spyware incident put a spanner on traceability of WhatsApp as well as new launches in 2019. 

India, with 400 million MAUs (monthly active users) on WhatsApp, as on July 2019, is among the top markets for the platform. Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia are the other key markets. 

Affordable internet access in developing markets, especially, India, Indonesia and the Philippines has contributed to the growth in DAU (daily active users) on Facebook-owned apps including Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. DAUs reached 1.66 billion globally for the year ending December 31, 2019, up 9% compared to last year. The group recorded 2.5 billion MAUs at the end of the year, an increase of 2% year-over-year.