Alibaba-backed Paytm will launch a messaging service to take on Facebook’s WhatsApp by the end of the month, according to company sources. Paytm – which counts Japanese conglomerate Softbank as one of its investors – will integrate a new feature on its platform that will allow users to chat and exchange audio, pictures and videos, two people aware of the development said. They did not want to be named as they are not authorised to comment on the matter. When contacted, a Paytm spokesperson declined to comment. One of the persons said the new feature has been in the works for about three months now and will help the company further increase user engagement on its platform. Interestingly, the development comes at a time when WhatsApp itself is working on foraying into the digital payments space.
India is the largest market for WhatsApp with over 200 million monthly active users as of February 2017. Globally, one billion people use WhatsApp every day. In February, WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton had met IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to discuss ways in which the popular messaging app could contribute to India’s vision for digital commerce. The other person familiar with Paytm’s plans said that once the service rolls out, it could be be bigger than WhatsApp as its current userbase itself is over 230 million. Besides, homegrown messaging platform Hike — which has over 100 million users — is also rolling out an in-app electronic payments service to capitalise on the rising digital transactions in India.
E-payments in India surged after the country banned old high-value currency notes late last year. Since then, firms like Paytm have rapidly increased their market share. Digital payments in India would jump nearly 10 times to USD 500 billion by 2020, according to a 2016 report by Boston Consulting Group.