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Why WhatsApp Payments failed to click in India

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New Delhi, Oct 2: Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which kicked off its ambitious peer-to-peer (P2P) digital payments pilot project in India in 2018 with nearly 10 lakh users, has failed to make it a success ever after more than three years of its inception, as the transaction value of Unified Payments Interface (UPI) payments continues to break all records in the country.

In the month of September, 3.65 billion transactions worth Rs 6,54,351 crore were recorded. Major UPI players in India currently are PhonePe, IPO-bound Paytm and Google Pay. PhonePe continues to dominate transactions — almost half the market size at 47 per cent, followed by Google Pay at 35 per cent.

The current figures are dismal for the Mark Zuckerberg-run platform. The late entrant WhatsApp currently has a mere 0.01 per cent share of the UPI payments volume, according to the latest NPCI data.

After facing regulatory roadblocks and data compliance issues with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for more than two years, WhatsApp finally went live with the UPI payment service in India in November last year, after receiving a nod from the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).

The Facebook-owned messaging service had received approval from the NPCI to take UPI live in a phased manner.

WhatsApp Payments is still restricted to the cap of some 2 crore users in the country, the growth has stalled and numbers evidently paint a sorry picture.

What has failed WhatsApp, which has more than 40 crore users in India, to fast-track its payments feature in a country, dominated by the likes of Paytm, PhonePe and Google Pay?

Industry experts feel it is a mixed bag, led by the heated political debate on the security of key financial data, latest Facebook data-sharing row, insufficient messaging for its users and uncertainties over the regulation landscape.

“WhatsApp Payments needs to be seen with microscopic eye, primarily because in payment you will be dealing with sensitive personal data and cyber security is going to be an essential building block component for WhatsApp to demonstrate its due diligence,” Pavan Duggal, one of the nation’s top cyber law experts, told IANS.

Prabhu Ram, Head, Industry Intelligence Group (IIG), CyberMedia Research (CMR), said that for India, WhatsApp has been the de facto messaging app of choice for long now.

“Leveraging WhatsApp’s reach and scale in other spheres, such as mobile payments, would seem an easy and natural step forward for the platform. However, WhatsApp’s strong brand resonance around messaging is hindering WhatsApp’s uptick in payments,” Ram told IANS.

A case against WhatsApp Payments is still pending in the Supreme Court for compliance of data localisation as per the RBI’s April 2018 circular. The Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change (CASC) had taken WhatsApp to the court.

The data protection debate has reached its nadir in India in the last couple of months, and the government, the RBI and the NPCI are constantly evaluating the risk of allowing social media apps into the digital payment ecosystem.

In such ‘trust deficit’ times, it is all the more difficult for WhatsApp to cement its position in the digital payments space.

WhatsApp on Thursday unveiled the Indian rupee symbol in its chat composer to make sending payments using its platform easier for users in India.

According to the company, with these latest updates, Payments on WhatsApp will become more inclusive and intuitive.

‘Bharat’ needs simple solutions that remove the friction to learn ‘How to Pay’, an inclusive product that is simple, relatable and easy to access for rural and urban users alike and a platform like WhatsApp that they can trust, to drive adoption, said Manesh Mahatme, Director (Payments), WhatsApp India during the Global FinTech Festival (GFF) 2021.

He said that the company is “scaling up in a phased manner right now” and “we are partnering with the NPCI to work through this scale”.

The platform is also reportedly working on a feature for payments called ‘cashback’ for its Indian users. The users will be able to receive cashback by using WhatsApp Payments after 48 hours.

However, the road to success is still too far for WhatsApp Payments in a country that is fast growing in digital transactions.

“To succeed in a hyper-competitive digital economy, WhatsApp would need to invest in understanding evolving consumer perceptions, and leverage that for creating user awareness and understanding around new WhatsApp use cases,” said Prabhu.

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realme expands India footprint, opens 100 exclusive retail stores

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New Delhi, Oct 8: Smartphone brand realme on Friday announced a new milestone with the launch of 100 new exclusive stores pan India.

All of these stores will have the latest products from the realme TechLife ecosystem, including smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other gadgets.

“I am proud of achieving this new milestone, as it testifies to our capability to meet consumer needs despite all odds and challenges during the pandemic period. We will continue to maintain the strong pace of mainline expansion and deepen consumer experience. The love we have received from our users has made us more enthusiastic and energetic towards this offline expansion,” Madhav Sheth, Vice President, realme and CEO, realme India, Europe and Latin America said in a statement.

realme has focused on offline expansion into Tier II and Tier III cities. realme will also open its flagship store in Gujarat, where customers can experience a smart and connected life through smart gadgets.

The smartphone maker has set targets to unveil 300 realme exclusive stores by 2021 and expand it to 1000+ stores by 2022.

realme led the India market in 5G smartphone shipments, capturing more than 22 per cent share in Q2 2021, as per a report by Counterpoint Research.

The company said that its next goal is to achieve a dual-100 million target — shipping another 100 million handsets by the end of 2022 and completing the same milestone within the 2023 calendar year.

According to Counterpoint, realme took the sixth spot with 15 million shipments and 135.1 per cent year-over-year (YoY) growth in the second quarter of 2021.

Out of 100 million realme users worldwide, 50 million users are from India alone.

Amid the chipset shortage, the company is targeting six million handsets and two million IoT products for the upcoming festive season.

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Android 12 will provide robust enterprise trust and security: Google

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New Delhi, Oct 8: Google has made Android 12 open-source earlier this week and now, the company has said it is focused on helping organisations achieve the right balance between protecting employee privacy and equipping IT with necessary security and controls.

Android 12 introduces user privacy enhancements for all managed devices, including improved transparency of admin controls.

“Work profile users will be able to approve (if allowed by their IT admin) or deny sensor-related permissions, such as location and camera, to work profile apps. On fully-managed devices, IT admins can choose to give their users this same control,” Google said in a statement late Thursday.

To further protect user privacy, admins will be able to set up WiFi networks for employees through a new network API that doesn’t require user location permissions.

Hardware device IDs for personal devices have also changed.

“Now, instead of solely hardware-based identifiers, companies can use a combination of hardware and employer-specific identifiers that help preserve employee privacy if they leave their organisation,” said Google.

For Android 12, Google has added additional controls to help enterprise IT teams reduce security risks and ensure tighter monitoring of business data.

A key addition is network logging for the work profile, to give organisations added control and reporting for their work data, while still protecting user privacy in the personal profile.

“We’re also empowering IT to decide what input method editors (IMEs) employees can use in their personal profiles to reduce the risk of using a rogue keyboard that could capture data on the device. IT will also have the ability to disable USB signaling for anything but charging, reducing the risk of USB-based attacks,” the tech giant explained.

Admins can now easily set password requirements that meet modern security best practices by choosing between pre-set password complexity levels.

IT admins will also have the option to slice their 5G network and dedicate connectivity to all apps on a fully-managed device, or specifically to apps in the work profile.

“In partnership with their carrier, admins will be able to have wider control over quality of service and security of work data,” Google noted.

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Bitcoin reclaims $1 trillion cap, Indian crypto players cheer

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New Delhi, Oct 8: As Bitcoin once again reclaimed the $1 trillion market cap, crossing $54,000 per digital coin, Indian crypto leaders on Thursday expressed hope that India and its neighbouring countries will continue their dominance because of the large number of active crypto investors in the region.

The Indian cryptocurrency market is expected to reach up to $241 million by 2030 in India and $2.3 billion by 2026 worldwide.

According to a report by IT industry’s apex body Nasscom, there are 15 million retail investors in India investing in the cryptotech space.

“The recent jump in Bitcoin price has a larger message for the world. In the post-pandemic world, Bitcoin has emerged as the best performing asset class of 2021, as a result of which institutional and retail investors are moving from slow/traditional assets to high growth/technology-led assets,” said Shivam Thakral, CEO, BuyUcoin.

There has been a paradigm shift in the investment patterns across the globe which is underlined by the data shared by crypto exchanges from time to time.

“India is home to around 1.5 crore active crypto investors, which amounts to $40 billion in investment in crypto, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. India’s middle-class population is willing to explore digital assets for creating long-term wealth to fulfil their goals, which may not be possible through any other asset class,” Thakral added.

Crypto asset exchange ZebPay has also launched India’s first global Electronic Over-The-Counter (OTC) Desk for large volume traders and institutional investors globally.

Avinash Shekhar, Co-CEO, ZebPay, said that the company aims to create a robust crypto ecosystem and a multi-faceted business where the needs of both the retail and institutional investors are met seamlessly.

“With the ZebPay OTC Desk, we are addressing the growing institutional interest in crypto globally and in India. This will further encourage adoption of crypto in the country and help create a mark for India as a major player in this emerging space,” he added.

Jay Hao, CEO, OKEx.com, said that during the slight dip last month, crypto-related investments witnessed record inflows owing to the growing global acceptance of crypto assets.

“The same momentum is boosting the prices of other popular crypto assets like Ethereum, Dogecoin and Shiba Inu, among others. India and its neighbouring countries are the main growth drivers of the crypto economy in South East Asia and they will continue their dominance because of the large number of active crypto investors in the region,” Hao noted.

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