After capturing the C2C domain, the next logical step for WhatsApp was to bite the B2C bullet
Not very long ago, India’s largest online ticketing platform, BookMyShow, quietly collaborated with WhatsApp, which has over a billion users globally and 200 million users in India. The integration enables BookMyShow to send ticket confirmations via the messaging platform to its users. It was part of a pilot test which signaled WhatsApp’s intentions to finally start making money. Soon after, ‘WhatsApp for Business’ was officially announced, creating a potentially ground-breaking touch-point for businesses to seamlessly interact with their customers. It will enable these businesses to create verified profiles, whilst effectively creating a channel to bring all their customer communication at one central place. While it is a clear move aimed towards building a revenue stream, let’s take a step back and revisit WhatsApp’s earlier stance about its idea of monetization.
Five years back in 2012, WhatsApp made a rather explicit statement about placing its user before everything else, even before the idea of monetization. While that statement was made with a direct reference to advertising, it became an important success mantra for the platform. It owns the peer to peer messaging market today, but not before witnessing a historic $19 billion acquisition by Facebook in 2014. In the meantime, Facebook for businesses was catching on, but there was a clear absence of those in the bottom of the business pyramid, as part of the phenomenon. In the Indian context, think the local kirana wala, who is not likely to have a Facebook account, but is more likely to be a user of WhatsApp. Therefore, what Facebook couldn’t do with Facebook for Business, it can now potentially achieve with WhatsApp for Business. And that’s why I think WhatsApp for Business will be revolutionary. With an intrinsically high engagement quotient, WhatsApp has finally gone the WeChat and Line route of monetization, but I foresee the implications being far more disruptive in the Indian scenario, primarily because of the sheer volume and diversity of users that the platform boasts of.
After capturing the C2C domain, the next logical step for WhatsApp was to bite the B2C bullet. And turns out, it has already done its homework. It has proactively received a formal approval from the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)’s to enable its users to make in-app payments using the Unified Payments Interface (UPI). Without creating too much noise, it was a masterstroke that set things up perfectly to make the official announcement of WhatsApp for Business.
I have always equated Facebook to being that enthusiastic and adventurous kid in the classroom, whose primary objective is to outshine its peers. While Google is the more mature, laid-back and secure class representative, I genuinely believe Facebook can give Google some serious competition in local business discovery with WhatsApp for Business. What’s more, it creates a massive window for m-commerce to finally make definitive inroads in the Indian market, whilst making mobile the new social network for businesses. As far as WhatsApp is concerned, being a platform that never took a single penny from its ever-growing user base all this while, this can finally be that big fat pay cheque it was waiting for.