WhatsApp set to join the Indian mobile money revolution

Facebook-owned WhatsApp is reportedly looking to get into mobile payments and has picked India as the best place to start.

India is in the middle of an ambitious state-sponsored bid to move away from its current cash-based economy to a digital one. The government kick-started the bid by taking a bunch of currency out of circulation, leading to an entirely predictable wailing and gnashing of teeth. The paid seemed to be short-lived, however, indicating the Indian public is willing to adapt.

Various players look set exploit this Digital India opportunity, with Bharti one of the first to move. But there’s no reason why it should be limited to telcos and Facebook looks set to continue with its policy of eating into business areas traditionally reserved for operators.

There has been no formal announcement from Facebook or WhatApp, but subscription-only site The Ken appears to have got the scoop, with all and sundry jumping on the report. Bloomberg got a vague comment from WhatsApp that it wants to contribute to India’s vision for digital commerce.

There’s also this job ad, looking for a Digital Transactions Lead, India at WhatsApp, which lists among the responsibilities: Provide friendly and efficient customer support to WhatsApp users in India with inquiries related to digital transactions, be an advocate for the users of our digital transactions service to the rest of the company, and collaborate with banks to resolve WhatsApp user issues.

So it seems clear that there’s some kind of payment system being introduced to WhatsApp, and that India will be the first to get it. This wouldn’t be the first OTT mobile money move – you’ve been able to transfer money via Google for some time and WeChat in China is widely used for payments. But if Facebook is getting serious about mobile money that puts even more pressure on operators to stake their claim to this potentially massive market.

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