We’ve known for some time now that WhatsApp has been working on a digital, peer-to-peer payments system. We just learned that the Facebook-owned company appears to have just launched the service in beta stage in India, TechCrunch reports. According to TechCrunch, select users in India have noticed the feature popping up in both the iOS and Android version of WhatsApp, with many users celebrating the launch on Twitter.
In April 2017, the company had confirmed that it was working on a payments service specifically for India after local media reported on the upcoming feature. WhatsApp has now done a launch of the feature in beta form.
WhatsApp is hugely popular in India, even more so than Facebook itself. Because of several factors, like high-speed internet not being widespread, simple text messaging and other standard features are built into WhatsApp and are more efficient on mobile when compared to more data-heavy software like the main Facebook app itself. This has led to an Indian WhatsApp user base of more than 200 million daily active users. India as a whole has surpassed the US for the first time last year in total time spent using mobile apps per month, according to mobile analytics firm App Annie.
In order to get this feature off the ground, WhatsApp has reportedly signed up a number of Indian banks. The company also makes use of the Indian government’s Unified Payments Interface, or UPI, framework, which allows for instant funds transfer between participating banks. This makes payment transfers within WhatsApp all the more easier.
At this time, it’s not clear when the payments service will come out of beta and fully launch, or if it will ever make its way to Europe or North America any time soon. WhatsApp has launched the service in beta form in India, so it could be a while before we see the feature progress to other parts of the world. Only time and success of the feature will tell.