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With new features on the block, WhatsApp Business will begin charging for some services

WhatsApp, Threema

Facebook will now start charging users of WhatsApp for Business for some features, in line with its other services on offer. Facebook is making two other additions to WhatsApp Business including adding a Shopping button which will enable people to add items to a card and check out without leaving the app. These features are going live globally today but will come to India later, as per a statement from WhatsApp.

Facebook has also launched Facebook Hosting Services to host businesses’ inventory and manage chats with customers. According to TechCrunch, this may be an arrangement where WhatsApp sells hosting services to small and medium sized businesses who are already using WhatsApp Business. It’s unclear if and when the hosting service and charges for WhatsApp Business will roll out in India. We have reached out to WhatsApp for more details. 

A WhatsApp business account allows small and medium businesses to directly chat with customers, sell products, and provide customer support. It has over 50 million business users; 175 million people currently message a WhatsApp Business account everyday. As of July, India was reportedly among its largest markets, with 15 million MAUs (monthly active users) of WhatsApp for Business. It seems WhatsApp also plans to add payments to the Shopping feature, but its payments services have failed to take off in the largest markets — India and Brazil — stalled by regulatory obstacles.

In India, online marketplace Meesho — in which Facebook is an investorconnects sellers with customers on social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram. It claims to have 2 million resellers from 700 cities dealing in apparel, home appliances, and electronics. These sellers can be considered as running small and medium businesses, and a majority of them are home-makers.

Facebook is expanding fintech services offered on WhatsApp

WhatsApp India head Abhijit Bose announced in July that the messaging service would pilot multiple projects to deliver insurance, microcredit and pension products to Indians over the 2-3 years, in partnership with banks, NBFCs and technology companies. Several banks, including ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, and HDFC Bank, already use WhatsApp to cater to rural and lower income segments. The same month, WhatsApp had added QR codes to let customers easily connect with businesses.

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WhatsApp’s UPI payments service was piloted over two years ago in India and has been awaited ever since. Facebook and WhatsApp have run into hurdles around India’s data localisation mandate and the related regulatory clearances. At least two different cases have been filed in the Supreme Court against the service. WhatsApp’s UPI payments launch in India is expected to upend the existing ecosystem, as it is the go-to messaging platform, with 400 million monthly active users in the country.

In April, Facebook bought a 9.9% stake in Jio Platforms Ltd, the parent company of Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. Along with this, the Jio Platforms, Reliance Retail, and WhatsApp entered a commercial partnership agreement to push JioMart, Reliance Retail’s small business commerce platform, on WhatsApp. By May, JioMart went live in 200 towns, after an initial pilot in parts of Mumbai. At the time, it had not begun WhatsApp integration.

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