WeChat is planning to launch a UPI app, likely called WeChat Pay, by the end of May-June. It is in the process of obtaining a payments license, reports Entrackr. The report adds that the Chinese parent of WeChat, Tencent, has partnered with Axis Bank, HDFC and ICICI, and would like to create its own UPI handle. In China, WeChat Pay can be used to pay for utilities and financial transactions and works like a wallet. Users of WeChat get a payment account by default. However, in India, WeChat itself has failed to take off (see here and here).

In India, WeChat Pay will compete with established digital wallets like Paytm, MobiKwik, Google Pay, which is now testing offline retail payments, BHIM and more. WeChat’s parent company Tencent is an investor in the messaging app Hike, which also started offering payments from 2017. In India, Tencent’s investments are across the board, some of which include Dream11, Gaana, Ola, Byju’s and Flipkart. Interestingly, earlier this week, Chinese company Xiaomi launched Mi Pay, its UPI payment app, for Xiaomi smartphone users in India. Note that WhatsApp hasn’t yet been allowed to launch payments in India, and is still in beta mode.

WeChat’s India history

WeChat launched in India in 2012 in partnership with Ibibo. At the time, Tencent had a 20% stake in ibibo (MIH India), and Naspers 80%, which was restructured in 2013. In 2013, the Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB) proposed a ban on WeChat, citing concerns of national security. In response to the ban, WeChat said that it complied with all local laws and regulations.In 2014, Nilay Arora, the then VP of Marketing and Business Development at WeChat, started heading Tencent’s India operations, after Rahul Razdan left the company. At the same time, it launched in app games within WeChat and launched its API for businesses.

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WeChat vs WhatsApp

In India, WeChat’s Pay’s most interesting competitor would be WhatsApp Pay, which first rolled out beta-testing in February 2018 and was supposed to launch in March 2018. However, full rollout of the service has been delayed multiple times over concerns of users’ privacy and compliance with RBI’s mandate on localisation, which WhatsApp said it had complied with in October 2018.

While Chinese companies may see a potential market in India, WhatsApp has 200 million monthly active users in the country, and its ‘stickiness’ factor could possibly prevent its users from trying new messaging and payment platforms.

WeChat China statistics

All statistics for 2018: WeChat claimed to have over 1 billion users daily. In the same year, it claimed to have sent 45 billion messages, 410 million audio and video calls daily. Tencent said that WeChat was used 6 times more than what it was 3 years ago. The average number of contacts per WeChat account had doubled compared to 3 years ago. 63 million users above the age of 55 opened their WeChat account at least once a month in 2018. WeChat passed 1 billion monthly active accounts in February 2018. It competes with AliPay, Baidu Wallet and Sina Weibo.

Also read: UPI transactions grew marginally to 674.2M in February 2019; Rs 106,737.1 Cr transacted