To Pay or not to Pay?

Despite being around for some time now, WhatsApp Pay has few takers in India PHOTO: Getty

With privacy-conscious users making the shift to alternative messaging apps, WhatsApp’s payment feature is finding few takers

The ongoing pandemic which necessitates adherence to social distancing has led to a sharp increase in UPI payments in India. Despite the increase that came about when the country started phased unlocking in 2020, WhatApp Pay, the messaging giant’s payment method has found few takers here.

In February 2020, WhatsApp received NPCI’s approval to roll out its digital payment in a phased manner. Subsequently, in December 2020 the company was allowed to roll out its payment method to around 20 million users out of its overall user base of 400 million in India.

Since then WhatsApp has been slowly integrating UPI payments in its interface for users.

First introduced in Android devices, WhatsApp payment options are yet to reach the millions of iOS users in the country as an added feature. However, iOS users can set up and use WhatsApp’s UPI payments if they receive an invite from an Android user.

What is surprising though is the lack of enthusiasm among users, when made aware, of the feature. The Patriot talked to shopkeepers in different areas of Noida and Delhi, especially amongst smaller shops now relying heavily on UPI payment methods like Paytm and Google Pe for their smaller day to day transactions. Most of them were either unaware of or were unwilling to use WhatsApp’s payment feature. Even urban amongst urban users, the adoption of WhatsApp Pay seems to be low and the reasons are not unfounded.

“ I don’t see the need to use WhatsApp Pay at the moment because we already have enough options like Paytm and G-Pe which are in common usage. Besides, the recent controversy over the way WhatsApp uses user data and how it is introducing changes in its policy has left me in doubt if I should be using WhatsApp at all, leave alone its payment option”, says Mansi Dua, a journalist based out of Noida.

In recent months, WhatsApp has faced flak over the updates it made to its user policy wherein the company wanted users to assent to sharing their data with the messenger’s parent company Facebook and with small businesses for better targeting of advertisements.

This update to the privacy policy was announced in January 2021 and users had till February to accept the policy; however, due to a backlash from users across the world and in India, the company has given more time to users to accept the new policy.

WhatsApp Pay screenshots

To make matters worse for WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram have gained immense popularity and increased their reach manifold in the timeframe when it was embroiled in the privacy policy controversy.

WhatsApp has been at loggerheads with tech giant Apple over the latter’s changes in policy where it plans to hand users greater control over how their data is handled while forcing app developers to inform users what data they share with third parties. Based on this information, Apple plans to grade the apps in its app store so users have a better understanding of their data and how it is used by apps.

Facebook on its part launched a media campaign accusing Apple of using its dominant position in the market to control apps and leverage it for their own gains at the expense of small businesses that depend on targeted advertising using platforms like Facebook to connect with their users.

However, Facebook’s move seems to have backfired as reports suggest that millions of users are more inclined to favour Apple’s approach to privacy than Facebook and WhatsApp’s. A testament to this is the mass migration of users in Europe and India to alternative messaging apps.

Amidst the row over privacy policy, WhatsApp has even taken to running full-page advertisements in popular newspapers to assure users that their data is safe. However, despite their efforts, more and more people seem to be moving on to other messaging services.

Thus in the current scenario, it would not be unwise to say that WhatsApp Pay will find few takers– especially now that users want a greater say in how transparent privacy policies of popular apps are. The current situation is that few users are aware while even fewer are willing to use WhatsApp Pay is here to stay.


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