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WhatsApp UPI payments spotted in beta version; Will it get its own financial address?

WhatsApp is getting closer to enabling payments over the unified payments interface (UPI) as the feature was spotted on a beta version of the app. Wabetainfo reported late last night that version 2.17.295 will enable “immediate bank-to-bank transfer with the UPI.”

MediaNama downloaded the beta version the app but were unable to access the feature as it is still hidden. From the screenshot, users will have to agree to WhatsApp Payments and the bank’s terms and privacy policy. Currently, there is no indication which bank WhatsApp has tied up with for payments but Ajay Kumar, additional secretary for the ministry of electronics and IT, tweeted out that WhatsApp Payments will be powered by the National Payments Corporation of India’s (NPCI) BHIM app.

The UPI saw a 12% growth in the total transaction volumes taking place between June and July 2017. The Number of transactions grew by 1.28 million in July 2017 whereas the total amount transacted increased by, up by Rs 313 crores. In June 2017, volume had increased by 1.19 million and amount transacted had grown Rs 333.05 crores.

Financial address?

Note that it is also unclear if WhatsApp will be getting a financial address of its own, something like shashi@whatsapp. Samsung Pay, despite being powered by Axis Bank, has its own UPI handle called @pingpay.

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The draft paper for the UPI said that it was technically possible to create a financial address. So it should be possible for WhatsApp to create a financial address such as @whatsapp. As Nikhil had pointed out, this will have implications for banks and a customer’s identity.

What the UPI essentially does is that uses a unique identity outside of a bank account number, and unbundles identity from an account.  This will enable transferring money from identity to identity, and that is linked on the back-end to an account. In future, that account could be held by a Bank, a Payments Bank or a wallet: it’s almost irrelevant, as to where the money is stored.

What is more interesting in the draft guidelines for the UPI also mentions the provision of creating a “one time use” addresses or “amount/time limited” addresses to customers. WhatsApp may finally get a one-up on Snapchat and pioneer ephemeral payments.

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