Why WhatsApp Payment Never Quite Took Off In India

This morning has been abuzz with a flurry of commentaries on the pay feature on WhatsApp. Triggered by a print ad, Ashneer Grover, founder and former MD of BharatPay launched a fresh salvo at WhatsApp payment. (source: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/ashneer-grover-slams-whatsapp-pay-calls-it-biggest-failure-in-india-3525192)

True to his observation, the payment feature on the world’s most popular messaging app has not quite taken off. At least, not up until now. With a 0.4% market share (June 2022, Inc42 Media) in transaction volume, WhatsApp Pay does not even make it to the top five of the UPI apps.


I can only speak for myself. Despite being a heavy user of digital payment, I have not yet paid anyone via WhatsApp. Frankly, not even have considered the thought. Nor have I been offered to get paid through it.

A messaging app, where I keep receiving all kinds of random messages every now and then, has limited appeal to me as a go-to app for financial transactions. Especially in the age of widespread UPI fraud (35% rise in UPI fraud between Q and Q2 in 2022).

Trust is sacrosanct in a financial transaction. It scores majorly over ease. When it comes to a financial transaction, I would prefer to use an app for payment which actually looks like a conventional payment app.

Add to that all that paraphernalia – banks, insurance, mutual funds, cards, bills, tickets – that come with it. Aggregation of these conventional points of transaction, although I actually use few of them, strengthens my impression of trust just by their association. A sense of gravitas? Maybe, but I feel that’s essential in a financial transaction.

Is that irrational bias? It may be, but then how often do human beings behave rationally? Behavioural economists know better.

I’ll still be happy to use another app which is dedicated to this purpose.

This dedication is the key. That induces trust.

It may take time for WhatsApp to cross this initial psychological barrier.

It doesn’t yet address any real pain points. There’s ease. There is a saving of a few extra MBs of mobile phone storage. But I’m not desperately looking for it. In absence of that desperation, the feature still looks forced on me.