WhatsApp definitely knows how to increase its already gigantic customer base. With the monthly active users reaching up to 1.2 billion globally, this Facebook Inc.- owned messaging application is all here again with its Business and payment app. But now the question remains, are these apps enough to rope in more users?
In the beginning:
The idea had its inception from the Facebook at work, which aids business personnel to directly approach their customers. WhatsApp’s biggest market with over 200 million active users had no such separate means to interact with their customers. So, according to Neeraj Arora, Vice-President, Whatsapp, this is definitely something experimental and things are being figured out to see how it would actually benefit both the big and small-sized businesses and the way users will react to it. In a recent interview from his Mountain View office at California, USA, he added, “Today, WhatsApp is mostly about talking to your personal contacts. And we have done a very good job at that. If we extend that to business and allow them to connect with their users and the users, in turn, can connect to businesses they want to connect with, that is where we can make money”.
Why is the need felt?
Facebook, which acquired WhatsApp with $19 in February 2014, already had a similar kind of business app to its name. According to a report, at present, there are 450 companies wit Facebook at Work, and the additions are being regularly announced. As per Brian Acton, the co-founder of WhatsApp, while the Facebook at Work is mainly dedicated to the big business houses such as International Business Machines Corp, WhatsApp for Business is mainly projected for the innumerable small merchants, neighbourhood shop owners and doctors who are already the WhatsApp users and want to reach out to a large number of people.
Another factor is also popping up here, i.e., Facebook also has its own successful Messenger to its name. So this might also lead to an overlap of the users. Also, this would mean the similarity of the apps being merged at some point of the time. To this, Arora regarded that the partnership mainly occurred because at that time WhatsApp amalgamated with FB on various things like technologies and learning all about fighting spams. But this doesn’t mean that the strategy of the product would be altered.
Arora also added that in spite of being complimentary in various ways, they actually cater to the needs of different kind of users. In his words, “ There are distinct differences too. For instance, FB Messenger is basically for friends on FB to connect on FB whereas WhatsApp connects you with your friends in your address book. Also, FB Messenger is much richer by way of features than WhatsApp and can do a lot more than WhatsApp can. FB Messenger has 1.3 billion global users. WhatsApp has 1.2 billion users. Our product roadmaps are different. It is good for users so that they can opt for whatever they choose”.
Now, being the payment app:
WhatsApp is also trying its luck to foray into the payment section. The primary reason being demonetization which has to lead to a lot of activity being centered around the digital space. So, WhatsApp being the biggest network, are just assessing the space.
The plan, which has no deadline yet , has started the course of action by talking to the State Bank Of India(SBI), the National Payments Corporation of India(NCPI), and similar financial institutions to launch payment via the Unified Payments Interface(UPI), which facilitates the quick transfer of money between two bank accounts. The users just need to click on an Indian Rupee camouflaged button to send the money.
Now, moving onto this payment genre won’t be a cakewalk for WhatsApp as this will lead to the direct competition of the App with other payment apps in India such as Paytm , which has already 25o million users to its name and in all probability on the verge of acquiring FreeCharge and also the Bharat Interface for Money(BHIM), an app developed by the NPCI, MobiKwik, Oxigen, Hike Wallet(Hike Messenger) and Samsung Pay, apart from the telecom service providers such as Bharti Airtel Ltd, and Vodafone India Pvt. Ltd, having payment banks, and the Jio app from Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.
Talking of competitions, WhatsApp for Business will face a tough one from the global competitors like Twitter’s ‘Direct Message Card’ feature, Microsoft Corp, which has enabled Skype Chat into any business website and of course, the newly launched Business Chat from Apple Inc.
Also, the often being asked question remains about the possibility of a potential mix of private and enterprise chats beside the security and cross-border compliance and the regulatory issues.
To all these questions being raised, Arora has given one single answer that WhatsAPP’s main concern has always been the security of its users, and will ensure that it is never compromised. Talking of competitions, he concluded that, “From day one, it has always been about staying focused on what we want to do. Having said that, we keep an eye on the competition, which is good for the ecosystem.”