WhatsApp empowers 500 villages in India with access to digital payments

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Instant messaging platform WhatsApp announced on Wednesday the ‘Digital Payments Utsav’, its pilot program of empowering 500 villages across Karnataka and Maharashtra with access to digital payments through ‘payments on WhatsApp’. The announcement – in line with its parent company Meta’s vision to accelerate financial inclusion – was made at Fuel For India 2021, an annual event that showcases the positive impact and socio-economic transformation delivered by the organisation’s family of apps.

Announcing WhatsApp’s game-changing intervention for ‘new-to-digital’ users, WhatsApp India head Abhijit Bose said, “We are committed to accelerating financial inclusion in the country. We have started this pilot programme in 500 villages across Karnataka and Maharashtra as part of our mission to take on board the next 500 million into the digital payments ecosystem.”

He said that WhatsApp’s “ease of use and reliability” can promote the adoption of UPI with users across the society, “including those at the bottom of the pyramid.”

“We will continue to contribute meaningfully in this journey of educating users at the grassroots, so they can trust digital payments, as they gradually make the transition from a ‘cash-only’ way of financial life,” said Bose.

The ‘Digital Payments Utsav’ was launched on October 15 earlier this year at the Kyathanahalli village in Karnataka’s Mandya district, where on-ground facilitators familiarised villagers with the various aspects of digital payments – including signing up for UPI, setting up an account, and the best practices for safely using digital payments.

WhatsApp said that initial results from the pilot programme have been encouraging. Villagers have begun adopting ‘payments on WhatsApp’ as a new model for transactions, it said.

“The village-grocery store or the beauty-parlor owner and scores of other people and small and medium businesses are now accepting and receiving payments digitally using ‘payments on WhatsApp’” the company said in a statement.

It also provided a number of testimonials from villagers, who participated in the pilot and shared their experience at the Meta Fuel for India event.

Chidananda KJ, a gram panchayat member of the Kyathanahalli village, said, “Withdrawing money from banks in villages used to be tedious and time-consuming, and ATMs usually do not have cash. Things have become much easier because of payments on WhatsApp.”

“I’ve been running my parlour for the past ten years,” said Shruthi K, the owner of a beauty salon. “Old customers prefer to pay by cash. I don’t have my own UPI-ID. So when new customers want to pay digitally, I give them my son’s WhatsApp QR code.”

WhatsApp has also recently placed the iconic symbol in its chat, thus making it recognisable and easy for people across segments to use the digital payments feature. Additionally, the messaging platform has also equipped its main camera to scan QR codes, adding another layer of convenience for users to make payments on WhatsApp, thus enabling in the process access to 20 million QR code-accepting stores in the country.

As part of WhatsApp’s India roadmap for payments, the platform plans to make significant investments behind ‘Payments on WhatsApp’ over the next six months in order to accelerate its growth across India. Notably, for the payments feature, WhatsApp has partnered up with NPCI and RBI in achieving the shared objective of scaling the adoption of UPI and enabling financial inclusion for those most in need.

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