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WhatsApp India to introduce micro-pension and health insurance soon

WhatsApp Pay screenshots
Source: WhatsApp

WhatsApp India will soon launch sachet-sized health insurance and micro-pension products with the backing of SBI General Insurance Company and HDFC Pension Management Company, respectively, said Abhijit Bose, Head of WhatsApp India during Facebook’s Fuel for India 2020 virtual conference. “During COVID-19 the ability for people to get immediate and targeted health and life insurance can protect families’ financial security from emergency expenses. We hope that these projects will make it much easier for micro-pensions and health insurance to be scaled hopefully to every Indian regardless of location and income,” he said.

The messaging platform will soon allow consumers purchase affordable sachet-sized health insurance policies micro-pension products, through WhatsApp and its financial services partners, Bose said. Beyond the secure messaging service, WhatsApp strategy in India is based on other four pillars namely, digitising small businesses, easier access to business services and merchants of all sizes, digital payments and scaling social impact programs, he said.

“We have designed specific products that will take care of healthcare needs in an affordable and hassle-free manner, and will be available through WhatsApp,” said Amar Joshi, chief business officer, SBI General Insurance Company.

“We are partnering with banks and financial institutions so people can get help and services without entering a local branch. Even as WhatsApp has become a way for hundreds of millions of people in India to communicate we feel we are just getting started,” Will Cathcart, WhatsApp’s global head, said on Tuesday.

WhatsApp Pay off to tepid start

Earlier last month, the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) green lit WhatsApp Pay’s launch in India through a graded manner. It capped the user registration to 20 million, though the service had been in a beta-testing phase, restricted to only 1 million users, for nearly two years. This was primarily due to concerns over the company’s compliance with data localisation norms. The company also faced several legal challenges over the last few years.

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Even as NPCI gave its nod to WhatsApp Pay’s launch, it introduced a market share cap of 30% on UPI players beginning from January 1, 2021, ostensibly to ensure that WhatsApp’s UPI service does not crowd out other players in the UPI ecosystem. Since WhatsApp has over 400 million users, an unrestricted launch of its UPI service would burden the existing UPI infrastructure which has been witnessing a rise in technical outages and transaction failures in the last two month.

Despite its dominant presence among smartphone consumers in India, WhatsApp Pay’s launch has got off to a tepid start. In November, it registered only 310,000 transactions worth ₹13.87 crore. In comparison to its global counterparts, Google Pay processed 960 million UPI transactions worth over ₹1.61 lakh crore and Walmart-backed PhonePe processed 868 million transactions worth over ₹1.75 lakh crore during the same month, according to NPCI data. WhatsApp’s UPI payment service is supported by ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank, the State Bank of India and Jio Payments Bank.

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