(Bloomberg) -- Meta Platforms Inc. is expanding its WhatsApp payment feature to India, letting users in the country purchase goods and services directly from local businesses via chat.
The move, which follows the launch of the service in Brazil and Singapore, taps a market with more than 400 million WhatsApp users. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg announced the plan during an event in Mumbai on Wednesday.
“I am excited to announce that we are bringing this service to India,” he said in prepared remarks. “This is going to make it even easier for people to pay Indian businesses within a WhatsApp chat using whatever method they prefer.”
Meta, which acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for $19 billion, has been trying to generate more revenue by charging businesses for some premium features. The new payment service will support credit and debit cards, along with Indian-based apps that are similar to Venmo or Zelle. It will be free for consumers to use, with businesses paying a processing fee that’s similar to a credit card transaction.
WhatsApp is especially popular in places like India, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico, where it’s common for people to chat with local businesses using the service. More than 200 million companies rely on WhatsApp’s Business App to communicate with customers.
But turning that popularity into revenue hasn’t been an easy path for Meta, which also owns Facebook and Instagram. Zuckerberg has said that the company’s push to monetize WhatsApp has lagged behind efforts at its other social media apps. Bringing payment services to India could draw more users and businesses to the platform, creating a bigger moneymaking opportunity.
WhatsApp’s Business App is currently free, but offers some paid features. WhatsApp also makes money through click-to-message ads, which allow businesses to create ads on Instagram and Facebook that link to a WhatsApp chat. Zuckerberg has said that such ads, which also work on its Messenger app, could generate $10 billion annually for Meta.
WhatsApp also makes money by charging large businesses to have direct conversations with customers. Last quarter, Zuckerberg said the number of companies using paid messaging products doubled from a year earlier.
When Meta first launched payments for WhatsApp Brazil in 2020, the company’s efforts were stalled by regulators over antitrust concerns. It received approval this past March. WhatsApp doesn’t expect to face regulatory pushback in India, where users have already been sending money to family and friends for years.
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