WhatsApp Pay Will Expand to More Countries This Year: Zuckerberg

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Despite a delay in launching WhatsApp Pay in India owing to data compliance issues, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that the peer-to-peer, UPI-based payments feature will be rolled out in several countries in the next six months. Data compliance issues and regulations have kept WhatsApp Pay launch in abeyance for quite some time, despite a successful test run of the payments service with one million users in the country in 2018.

“We got approval to test this with one 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”, Zuckerberg said during the company’s earnings call on Thursday. “I’m really excited about this, and I expect this to start rolling out in a number of countries and for us to make a lot of progress here in the next six months”, he added.

Beyond WhatsApp Payments, the company is working on several other efforts to help facilitate more commerce from Facebook Marketplace to Instagram Shopping and its work on Facebook Pay or the digital currency Libra. “We’re taking a number of different approaches here, ranging from people buying and selling to each other directly to businesses setting up storefronts, to people engaging with businesses directly through messaging and a number of things on payments ranging from existing — using existing national systems like India’s UPI to creating new global systems”, said the Facebook CEO, hailing the UPI system again.

The peer-to-peer, UPI-based WhatsApp Pay service will reach over 400 million users — especially the small and medium businesses (SMBs) — to boost digital inclusion in the country. “Having small businesses succeed is not only key to creating broad economic growth where everyone can support themselves, it’s also important to maintaining healthy communities since small businesses are often where people come together”, said Zuckerberg.

The Indian government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) have expressed concerns over some of WhatsApp’s features in complying with the regulations. “On payments, we’re focused in different places with different products. For things like Instagram and even a lot of what we’re doing on Facebook, it’s a lot more developed countries. For WhatsApp, it’s the biggest countries on WhatsApp. So countries like India and Mexico and Brazil and Indonesia will make up a large part of the community on WhatsApp”, he elaborated.

On elections, Zuckerberg said they are very focused on election integrity. “We were behind in 2016, but after working to protect elections in countries across the world from the EU — in the EU to India to Mexico to the US midterms for the past few years, we think our systems are now more advanced than any other companies”, he told the analysts. “There’s still going to be debate about what kinds of political speech should be allowed, especially as the 2020 elections heat up. But by any objective measure, our efforts in election integrity have made a lot of progress”, he noted.

Zuckerberg said the daily active users reached 1.7 billion, up 9 per cent compared to last year, led by growth in India, Indonesia and the Philippines. “DAUs represented approximately 66 per cent of the 2.5 billion monthly active users in December. MAUs grew 178 million or 8 per cent compared to last year. We plan to continue to disclose Facebook-only community metrics through late 2020”, he added.

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