WhatsApp is getting bigger in India — not just as an instant messaging app but also as a standalone platform that offers banking services to customers of commercial banks in the country. At the Facebook ‘Fuel for India’ virtual event on Wednesday, ICICI Bank announced that over two million customers had adopted banking services on WhatsApp. The commercial bank is also among five banking partners that are powering WhatsApp’s payment feature, which is initially available for up to 20 million users in the country.
ICICI Bank launched its banking services on WhatsApp in April and hit the mark of one million customers in July. The services enabled bank customers to check their account balance, view their last three transactions, and find their nearest ATM and bank branch through the instant messaging app.
“The initiative helped our customers bank conveniently and remotely without visiting the branch during the pandemic,” said Bijith Bhaskar, Head – Digital Channels and Partnership, ICICI Bank, in a statement.
Apart from offering its banking services, ICICI Bank is among the few banking partners enabling payments on WhatsApp, a service that received a green signal from the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) last month and is currently live for 20 million users.
Similar to ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and HDFC Bank, the two other partners for the payments feature on WhatsApp, also see potential in the messaging app to support their customers.
“As a digital ally, WhatsApp has the potential to support our customers in a seamless manner through servicing, onboarding and managing grievances, all, on the same platform,” said Sanjeev Moghe, EVP and Head – Cards and Payments, Axis Bank.
HDFC Bank Country Head for Payments Business Parag Rao stated that partnerships with platforms including WhatsApp was another important step towards achieving financial inclusion.
Before the formal launch last month, WhatsApp had been testing its payments service in the country for quite some time. The platform owned by Facebook also faced antitrust allegations. But the Competition Commission of India (CCI) said in its order in August that it did not find any contravention of antitrust laws.
The NPCI last month allowed WhatsApp to roll out payments support based on the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) in a “graded manner”. However, WhatsApp on Wednesday announced the feature was live in the country.
WhatsApp currently has over 400 million users in India. The payments feature is, however, limited to roughly five percent of that user base. The list of banking partners for payments on WhatsApp includes State Bank of India and Jio Payments Bank — alongside ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, and Axis Bank.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday said that he has sought to push deeper the payments feature of WhatsApp in the country.