WhatsApp's much-awaited BHIM UPI-compliant payment service, which has been dragging since 2016, is expected to be rolled out in the first half of the current year as the instant messaging platform is in the process of complying with data localisation regulations. Following this it will undergo a security audit before its gets the final approval from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
Sources said the Facebook-owned platform is in the "advanced stages" of complying with the RBI norms on data localisation. "They are fulfilling the compliance criteria, following which there will be a security audit by the National Payments Corporation (NPCI) and then it will be eligible to seek RBI’s approval," added one of the sources.
The company has been running a pilot for its service, WhatsApp Payments, with close to 1 million users. Other players in the space include Google Pay, which leads the payment service providers (PSPs) market in India followed by Paytm, PhonePe, BHIM app and Axis Pay.
Another source said, "Google has fulfilled the localisation requirements and is undergoing an audit. It will soon get the approval from the RBI.
For WhatsApp, it seems they will take a little longer as they are yet to comply. Their service should ideally be operational during the first half of this year."
WhatsApp has for long been trying to roll out its payments services as it wants to tap the burgeoning digital payments market in India, but its efforts have not bore fruits so far. In July last year, its global head Will Cathcart lead a team of senior officials to India to meet officials from RBI, NPCI and the ministry of electronics and IT (MeitY), including IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. During media interactions, Cathcart had said, "the firm intends to launch its payments services this year (2019)".
India is an important market for WhatsApp, which accounts for 400 million of its total 1.5 billion users across the globe. The company has already lost a lot of ground to players like Google, Paytm and PhonePe, but wants to ensure that it does not miss this opportunity.
At present, there are more than 45 third party apps like Google Pay, Amazon Pay, Flipkart and PhonePe, as well as over 140 banks like Paytm Payments bank, Airtel Payments Bank and Axis Bank providing UPI-based payments services.