WhatsApp, which has been running a pilot of its payment service in the country with 1 million users, said on Tuesday that it has built a system which stores payments-related data locally in India to comply with the Reserve Bank of India’s guidelines on data localisation.
The RBI had, on April 5, put out a circular stating that all payment system operators in the country must move to a system of storing transaction data within India by October 15. So far, WhatsApp is the only major overseas payments player to have confirmed its intent to comply with the circular.
However, it is still not clear whether WhatsApp will get the regulatory approval from the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) for a full-fledged roll out of its payments service as it has not clarified whether such data is being shared with any third party like its parent firm Facebook. The ministry of electronics and IT had raised this query and also advised the NPCI to accord approval only once it clarifies whether it shares data with any third party.
In a statement, a WhatsApp spokesperson said, “In India, almost 1 million people are testing WhatsApp payments to send money to each other in a simple and secure way. In response to India’s payments data circular, we have built a system that stores payments-related data locally in India. WhatsApp payments is useful for people in their daily lives and we hope to expand the feature to all of India soon so we can contribute to the country’s financial inclusion goals.”
According to a report by Credit Suisse released earlier this year, WhatsApp has 230 million daily average users in India.
The WhatsApp statement on storing the payments data locally comes at a time when several other payment firms have requested the government that the deadline of October 15 be extended and that they be allowed to store one copy in the country instead of full data localisation.
So far, the RBI has not announced any modification to the April circular even as finance minister Arun Jaitley met RBI deputy governor BP Kanungo on Monday.
The RBI has been receiving fortnightly updates from payments firms operating in the country on progress made towards compliance with its data localisation norms. The companies expected to be most affected by the circular are the Indian branches of Amazon, Mastercard, Visa, Truecaller, PayPal, American Express and Whatsapp. Some Indian firms such as One97 Communications-owned Paytm and Flipkart-owned PhonePe have, however, spoken in support of the circular.
Compliance with the data localisation circular may turn out to be crucial to some players’ digital payments foray. For instance, State Bank of India is understood to have so far kept on hold its decision to join WhatsApp’s payments platform pending full compliance by the firm.