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Updated: WhatsApp appoints Abhijit Bose as India head

WhatsApp has appointed Abhijit Bose as its India head. He will build the WhatsApp office in Delhi NCR (Gurgaon), WhatsApp’s only office outside the US as of now. He will join WhatsApp in early 2019.

A company statement says Bose “and his team” will work on WhatsApp Business, which was launched this year and now has 1 million users. Bose joins the company from payments firm Ezetap where he was CEO, and which he also cofounded.

Bose’s appointment comes after continued government pressure on the company to set up an office in the country. During WhatsApp CEO Chris Daniels’ visit to India just two months ago, the IT Minister RS Prasad told him that WhatsApp needs to have an Indian office and cooperate with law enforcement to prevent the misuse of the app. Around the same time, MeitY had told WhatsApp that it could go ahead with its payments service only after setting up an office and team. There has also been widspread backlash against WhatsApp with regard to the platform’s alleged role in multiple incidents of lynchings in the country trigerred by misinformation spread on the platform.

WhatsApp has been facing regulatory hurdles from the RBI over its data localisation directive that all payments related data be stored locally. The confusion was compounded by the draft Data Protection Bill, 2018, which has its own localisation norms. WhatsApp announced in October that it had developed a system to store payments data locally in the country. However, the RBI has still not given a green light to WhatsApp, it has not issued clarity on the authorities’ localisation policy.

Damage control?

Between the multiple lynchings and now, WhatsApp has tried a few things:

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  • It hired Komal Lahiri as the WhatsApp grievance officer for India, she is based out of the US
  • It launched a campaign with Jio to spread awareness on fake news in a few states
  • It rolled out a beta feature which detects suspicious links on the platform

Also read: Exclusive: Government makes notices to WhatsApp, responses public

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This story has been updated with contextual information about WhatsApp’s operations in India.

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