WhatsApp for Business - set to become India's Everything app?

WhatsApp for Business sees new features. (Image – Shutterstock)

WhatsApp for Business targets Indian enterprises

  • WhatsApp for Business unveiled new enhancements at its flagship event in India. 
  • They include verification and payment services for the app in India.
  • India has around 500 million WhatsApp users.

When WhatsApp for Business was first released in 2018, it was designed as a communication tool between businesses and customers. And it lived up to that purpose. After all, WhatsApp is one of the most used social media chat apps in the world.

Used mostly by small businesses, WhatsApp for Business allows companies to answer frequent questions of their customers, provide product-related information, and offer QR codes for customers to scan and chat with businesses.

WhatsApp for Business has 50 million customers. Around one-third of them (15 million) are Indian businesses. WhatsApp has been and remains  a popular chat app in India. Despite some controversies regarding the app’s features, most Indian companies and consumers still prefer the app to any of the competitors that have arisen in the last few years.

Even Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on WhatsApp. The Prime Minister launched a channel on WhatsApp and received over a million followers within a day.

As such, it is no surprise that Mark Zuckerberg, Meta Founder and CEO, continues to focus on improving WhatsApp’s products and services, especially in the Indian subcontinent. At the recent Conversations event in Mumbai, Zuckerberg unveiled several new tools to supercharge businesses using WhatsApp.

In a virtual message, Zuckerberg said the company approaches its messaging products as it has always done with Meta, by looking out for trends in how users use the apps. He added that it’s the same focus that enables them to create simple-to-use and easy-to-scale tools so that businesses can connect with customers in meaningful ways.

WhatsApp for Business Flows in India

One of the innovations announced by Zuckerberg for WhatsApp for Business is Flows. Flows give businesses the ability to create customized experiences within chat threads. For example, companies can offer more experiences for customers, like ordering a meal, booking an appointment, or even choosing train seats without leaving their chat.

Put simply, with Flows, businesses can provide rich menus and customizable forms that support different needs. Flows are expected to be available to companies worldwide using the WhatsApp Business Platform in the coming weeks.

“There are a lot of possibilities here, and businesses can easily leverage the building blocks that we’ve created to build their own unique experiences. Now, for customers, this will be much faster and more convenient than having to jump between apps or websites. And to make it even easier to do business within a WhatsApp chat, we’re also expanding the ways that people can pay for things within a chat thread,” said Zuckerberg.

But here’s the thing. How businesses can integrate this into their current products and services remains to be seen. For example, while Flows gives the possibility of making multiple bookings and appointments within a single chat, it remains unclear whether the integration can support the heavy load. At the same time, while WhatsApp ensures encryption and privacy, how this will be implemented in Flows will also be interesting to observe.

If it works, though, it will potentially be galling to Elon Musk, as it comes closer to the Everything app that has been his long-term goal than anything the Twitter owner currently runs.

Flows will be available to businesses around the world using the WhatsApp Business Platform in the coming weeks

Flows will be available to businesses around the world using the WhatsApp Business Platform in the coming weeks

From Flows to payments

Payment via WhatsApp is already available in Singapore and Brazil. Now India will become the third country to enable the service. According to Zuckerberg, with payments in India, WhatsApp will also support other payment methods, including all UPI (unified payment interface) apps.

This is an exciting move, given the number of UPIs present in the country. Again, integrating these apps may be a concern. Still, Zuckerberg believes that “this will make it even easier for people to pay Indian businesses within a WhatsApp chat using whatever method they prefer.”

A report by India’s Economic Times said that while WhatsApp has more than 500 million users in India, regulators have capped the WhatsApp Pay service to only 100 million people.

Another update is the introduction of Meta Verified to businesses using WhatsApp and other Meta apps. Scams continue to be a big problem for online businesses, and verification tools will let the public know that the company they’re dealing with is verified and authentic. Just like a verification badge on Facebook and Instagram profiles, businesses that subscribe to the service will also get a verification badge.

And yes, verification services by Meta are a paid service for all of their apps. Apart from a verified badge, the verification services include account support, impersonation protection, and additional features to help people find them more easily. Zuckerberg mentioned that WhatsApp has premium features like a custom web page and increased multi-device support.

The service will be tested with small businesses using the WhatsApp for Business app before being introduced to companies on the WhatsApp Business Platform.

The service will be tested with small businesses using WhatsApp for Business app users.

The service will be tested with small businesses using WhatsApp for Business app users

WhatsApp a superApp?

Looking at the integrations, products, and services being introduced into WhatsApp, could the social media chat app become a superapp in the future? After all, the app already supports most superapp services.

A super app is an app that can provide multiple services, including payment, financial, and e-commerce services as well as other personal and commercial capabilities.

WhatsApp already has a vital chat function and is heavily used for businesses in some countries. The app also offers payment services, although these are done through integrations, where WhatsApp acts as a platform.

However, should Meta combine all its apps into one superapp, they could become a powerful and dominant super app worldwide. However, they may also need help to do such a thing, given the number of regulations in place today and the challenges the company faces in some countries.

For now, the success of WhatsApp for Business is probably sufficient for Zuckerberg. Still, his drive and hunger to improve his products and services could see the chat app evolving into something bigger.

And India might just be the right place to test the new features. After all, if WhatsApp can make it in India, it should be able to mirror the success in any other country in Asia – or the world.