18:00 GMT28 November 2020
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    Since 2016, a large chunk of Indians have conveniently adopted ways of digital transactions facilitated by the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) systems. Regulated by the Reserve Bank of India, the mobile-only UPI allows India’s over 500 million internet users to process instant inter-bank money transfers in real-time.

    Following Google’s UPI platform, “Google Pay”, which has witnessed raging success in India, Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp on Friday announced that it is starting to roll out its own in-app digital payments feature in the country.

    WhatsApp, which has over 200 million users in India, has begun to release the feature in a phased manner. To start with, 20 million WhatsApp users in India will get the payment feature in the first phase of its roll-out.

    The instant messaging app took to Twitter to share the official announcement just hours after the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) granted approval to WhatsApp to release its UPI-powered in-chat payments in the country. NCPI oversees the UPI payments infrastructure and monitors its functions. 

    ​“We’re excited to share that starting today, people across India can securely send money to friends and family through WhatsApp! We’ve received approval from Indian authorities, and payments is now available for all our users in India,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a video message, while noting that, “with UPI, India has created something truly special and is opening up a world of opportunities for micro and small businesses that are the backbone of the Indian economy. India is the first country to do anything like this.”

    WhatsApp Pay is working with five Indian banks – ICICI, HDFC, Axis Bank, Jio Payments Bank and the State Bank of India – on online transactions which will be facilitated by the payment feature.

    Early in 2018, WhatsApp began testing its payment feature with one million Indian users. Over the last two years, WhatsApp Pay has had to find its way out of a regulatory maze set up by various Indian authorities who had concerns over the security of user data.  

    NCPI’s nod to roll out the feature however, makes it evident that the government is satisfied with WhatsApp Pay’s policies and terms.

    To ensure that no single app processes over 30 percent of all monthly UPI transactions, NCPI is also working on norms to enforce a cap on all third party UPI apps including WhatsApp Pay and Google Pay, among many others.

    Netizens are thrilled by the rollout of WhatsApp pay: while the ones who have already gotten the feature are sharing screenshots, the others are awaiting their app update – Twitter is buzzing with reactions.

    ​I am from India and updated my whatsapp from play store just now, not able to see the payment options.. I am on Beta program is that the issue? Please advise. pic.twitter.com/qAdEuUjGtE

    ​A 2019 report by Indian firm Razorpay – which is also a UPI platform, said that these payment systems grew by a whopping 442 percent between 2018-2019 in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Delhi alone, indicating the positive status of its country-wide adoption. After being launched in 2016, the system has seen transactions worth $250 billion so far. 

    For India, the process of digitisation was kick-started in 2016, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi stopped printing INR 1,000 ($14 approx.) and INR 500 ($7 approx.) banknotes, that comprised 86 percent of all banknotes circulating in the country, to stem corruption.

    Today, millions of small business owners including street-based vegetable and food vendors across the country use UPI payments in India – with just two requirements – a bank account and a smartphone.

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