WhatsApp seeks RBI nod to expand payment service to all users

WhatsApp chief is reported to have written to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), seeking a formal nod to expand payments services to all its 200 million users in India. 

The development comes at a time when competitors like Google have forged ahead with their payments offerings.
The messaging app, which has drawn government ire over spread of fake messages on its platform, is yet to receive regulatory clearance to launch full-fledged payments operations in India.
It may be noted that WhatsApp had during test runs amassed nearly one million users, and it is almost two years since it first began discussions with the government on its payments services plans.
WhatsApp is currently piloting WhatsApp payments, and its chief Chris Daniels has now written to the RBI urging that a formal approval be granted to take the payments product to all its users in the country.
"I write to request your formal approval to immediately expand WhatsApp's BHIM UPI (Unified Payments Interface) compliant payments product to all users in India, giving us the opportunity to offer a useful and secure service that can improve the lives of Indian people through digital empowerment and financial inclusion," Daniels said in the letter addressed to the RBI governor.
According to the letter dated 5 November, WhatsApp's partner banks have also submitted a request for formal approval.
WhatsApp said it is working closely with the Indian government, National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), and multiple banks, including payment service providers, to expand the payment service to more people.
"Today, almost 1 million people are testing WhatsApp payments in India. The feedback has been very positive, and people enjoy the convenience of sending money as simply and securely as sending messages," the company's spokesperson said, responding to a specific email query on the recent plea to the RBI.
WhatsApp also stated that it has ensured that the payments data is stored in India, immediately after the RBI came out with a directive outlining the new payments data storage requirements in April this year.
"Today, (the) RBI has unfettered supervisory access to payments data as prescribed by the RBI circular…," PTO cited the letter as stating.
The Facebook-owned company has also demanded a "level playing field" for all companies that offer payment services, including "a certain and transparent regulatory and operating environment".
WhatsApp has also made a case for scaling up its operations by citing the productivity gains that have accrued to Indian small business as a result of the digital tool, and expressed its deep commitment to the market.
"Based on feedback from NPCI and our bank partners, we are confident that we are fully compliant with the UPI checklist, have made all necessary submissions and have passed the security audits required to launch WhatsApp Payments," Daniels said.