WhatsApp on Wednesday said it expects to facilitate the purchase of "affordable sachet-sized" health insurance through its platform by the end of the year as part of its efforts to provide users in India with greater access to financial solutions.
The Facebook-owned company noted that its 'Payments' feature is now available to users across the country (currently up to 20 million users) with support from banking partners - State Bank of India, HDFC, ICICI and Axis Bank.
"WhatsApp is deeply committed to India with over 400 million active users, this is our largest market.
“Our primary focus will always be to provide the most simple, reliable, private and secure experience for people to connect with each other. However, in India we are also building on four other pillars," WhatsApp India head Abhijit Bose said at the Facebook Fuel for India 2020 event.
He added that WhatsApp wants to help further digitise and scale the small business ecosystem of India, make it easier for consumers to connect with and buy from their favourite businesses, and build digital payments across all segments, especially for underserved users in India.
It will also continue to deepen its investments in India by developing and scaling social impact programs, he said.
"WhatsApp has proactively been working on several pilots to help ensure that every adult has access to the most basic critical financial and livelihood services through their mobile device.
“By the end of this year, we expect that people will be able to buy affordable sachet sized health insurance through WhatsApp," Bose said.
He added that these pilots, along with others in sectors like edu-tech and agri-tech, would help support the government's focus on a more digitised economy, especially for rural and underserved segments.
In a statement, WhatsApp said by the end of this year, buying affordable health insurance coverage from SBI General leveraging WhatsApp, will be a reality.
Similarly, with HDFC Pensions and pinBox solutions, WhatsApp will be leveraged to help enable savings for retirement that will be especially beneficial for people who do not have organised employment benefits or a retirement corpus to fall back on.
WhatsApp has designed its payments feature on National Payments Corporation of India's (NPCI) Unified Payment Interface (UPI) system and was granted approvals to go live recently in November this year on a peer-to-peer (P2P) basis enabling people to transfer money.
"We have been approved to launch payment services using UPI, which is truly a revolutionary platform from India, which I believe will become a template for the world," he said.
Last month, Facebook-owned WhatsApp received approval from NPCI for rolling out its payments services in India.
In 2018, WhatsApp started testing its UPI-based payments services in India -- a global first -- with about a million users.
Following the NPCI approval, WhatsApp has started its payments service in the country in a "graded" manner, starting with a maximum registered user base of 20 million in UPI.
WhatsApp -- which counts India as its biggest market with over 400 million users -- will compete with players like Paytm, Google Pay, Walmart-owned PhonePe and Amazon Pay in the country.
Bose said while developing WhatsApp Pay, it put huge efforts to ensure its safety.
"As a result, WhatsApp Pay is secure and highly reliable, and making sure that your life's capital is safe," he said.
Photograph: Dado Ruvic/Reuters