It seems that WhatsApp will have to wait a little longer for the full scale commercial launch of its BHIM UPI-compliant payment service, the process for which began over three years ago in 2016. The instant messaging application is likely to meet the requirement of storing consumers payment data in India by June-July this year and then approach the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for a fresh approval.
At present, the Facebook-owned company is running a pilot for the service, WhatsApp Payments, with close to 1 million users. Google Pay leads the payment service providers market in India followed by Paytm, PhonePe, BHIM app and Axis Pay.
Sources said WhatsApp will approach the banking regulator around July after it makes arrangements for storing and processing payments service data in India.
Last month, the RBI, in an affidavit to the Supreme Court, said that WhatsApp has not met data localisation requirement. “RBI has been following up with NPCI relating to the status of compliance by WhatsApp with respect to the circular. As informed by NPCI vide letter dated November 16, 2018 and email dated February 5, 2019, WhatsApp is non-compliant with the RBI circular,” it informed.
RBI, through a circular on April 6, 2018, mandated all system providers to ensure that data relating to payment systems is stored in India, which include full end-to-end transaction details, information collected, carried and processed as part of the message as well as payment instructions.
NPCI, which is the system provider of Unified Payments Interface (UPI), gives permission to entities like WhatsApp to operate under the multi-bank model of UPI. It is also responsible for any commissions or omissions by such entities. NPCI has to ensure that the entire data related to payment systems operated by such entities is stored only in India.
India is an important market for WhatsApp and accounts for close to 20% of its total user-base. 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. Digital payments is an untapped market in India with the country clocking close to 800 million UPI-related transactions worth more than `1.33 lakh crore during March 2019.