This could be a significant advance in Meta’s push to make WhatsApp an essential utility in India.
Today, India’s Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology has announced that Indian citizens will now be able to access various official documents via WhatsApp.
Integrating with its Digilocker digital documentation initiative, the program will make WhatsApp a more important connector, in even more ways, which could help to reinforce the value of the app for Indian users.
WhatsApp is currently the most popular messaging platform in India, with over 487 million users. And as India’s digital transformation continues to take shape, more and more people are becoming increasingly reliant on WhatsApp to stay connected, with Meta also looking to build in more options for bill paying, money exchange, shopping and more.
In many ways, Meta’s looking to replicate the way messaging apps are used in China, where WeChat has become an essential tool for many day-to-day interactions.
Indeed, amid the COVID outbreak, the significance of WeChat was underlined once again, with Chinese citizens required to show their health status via barcodes in both WeChat and/or Alipay in order to catch public transport, or travel to certain areas.
Chinese users regularly use their digital identity, via messaging apps, to conduct virtually all of their day-to-day transactions, including shopping, transport, utilities payments, banking, etc.
As per The South China Morning Post:
“Many people outside China either still haven’t heard of WeChat or they think it’s the country’s equivalent of popular messaging service WhatsApp or social media giant Facebook. For many people in China, WeChat is much more – it is not an overstatement to say it’s an indispensable part of their everyday lives.”
Meta has tried, at various stages, to replicate the utility of WeChat with western users, starting with its push to integrate messenger bots in 2016, to the addition of games to expand usage, to rolling out Facebook Pay (soon to be Meta Pay) in various markets.
Those efforts haven’t seen Messenger expand beyond a messaging platform, which has stunted Meta’s efforts to monetize its messaging apps. But in India, where social media adoption is still evolving, it sees significant opportunity to make messaging a more essential element for the nation’s 1.4 billion citizens.
For comparison, the US, Meta’s biggest market in terms of revenue, has a population of 332 million people.
You can see, then, why Meta is so keen to build on WhatsApp’s presence in the Indian market, which this integration will certainly help with, while Meta’s also rolling out new business tools, like recurring notifications and WhatsApp Cloud hosting, which are available for free for now, but will eventually become paid tools.
India is where Meta wants to see the biggest take up of these functions, with each step further cementing the app as a key utility for the region.
Again, up till now, Meta hasn’t been able to effectively monetize WhatsApp, despite paying $19 billion for the app in 2014. This is the strongest pathway to building it into a necessary layer for business interactions, which will help Meta dominate in another new market, while also driving significant future revenue opportunities.