WhatsApp announces pilot program to bring digital payments to 500 villages

WhatsApp announces pilot program to bring digital payments to 500 villages
Photo Credit: Pixabay
15 Dec, 2021

Meta (formerly Facebook) owned messaging platform WhatsApp, today, announced an initiative that aims to familiarise rural smartphone users with digital payments. The company said that the pilot program, called Digital Payments Utsav, will cover 500 villages across Karnataka and Maharashtra, and aims to provide access to digital payments through WhatsApp Pay to these users. The announcement was made at the annual Fuel for India 2021 event, which began today.

Abhijit Bose, head of India at WhatsApp, said that the program is part of WhatsApp’s plans to onboard “the next 500 million to the digital payments ecosystem”. “We will continue to contribute meaningfully in this journey of educating users at the grassroots, so they can trust digital payments, as they gradually make the transition from a ‘cash-only’ way of financial life,” he added.

WhatsApp kicked off the program in the Kyathanahalli village in the Mandya district of Karnataka today, helping users sign up for the government Unified Payments Interface (UPI) platform and setting up their UPI accounts. The company will also inform users about safety and best practises to be followed while using digital payments.

The company said that the initial response for the program has been “encouraging” and it has been able to onboard village grocery stores, beauty parlours and others onto its payments platform. 

While WhatsApp says that the program aims to bring more people to digital payments, it could also be integral to the company’s own strategy. The UPI payments market in India is led by Google Pay and PhonePe, which accounted for 1447.84 million and 1911.21 million transactions in November, respectively. In comparison, WhatsApp accounted for 2.11 million transactions during November. 

WhatsApp hasn’t been allowed to roll out its payments platform to all of its 400 million plus users in India though. The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) had earlier allowed the company to bring ‘payments on WhatsApp’ to 20 million users, which was increased to 40 million in November this year.