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Paytm takes on WhatsApp, launches ‘Inbox’, in-app messaging feature

Digital wallet Paytm will now let its 200 million users chat with each other and send and request money within the application.

tech Updated: Nov 03, 2017 09:12 IST
Kul Bhushan
Paytm goes after WhatsApp, launches Inbox in-app payment and messaging feature.
Paytm goes after WhatsApp, launches Inbox in-app payment and messaging feature.(Hemant Mishra / Mint photo)

India’s largest digital wallet app Paytm is all set to take on Facebook-owned WhatsApp as it announced the launch of in-app messaging facility on Friday.

Called Inbox, the feature enables users to chat with friends and family as well as send and request money. Inbox is now live for Paytm for Android users and will be available for iOS users too.

Paytm Inbox: Inspired by WhatsApp?

Paytm is using end-to-end encryption on messages, offering the same set of security protections as WhatsApp. It is also offering several other features available in WhatsApp, such as the ability to share live location and recall messages that WhatsApp recently rolled out. You can also exchange photos and videos using Paytm Inbox.

There is a key difference though. Unlike WhatsApp, Paytm is offering users the ability to initiate a private (incognito) conversation. (However, Facebook’s other messaging app, Messenger offers a similar functionality.) Other usual features such as notifications, orders and games are also included in Inbox, the company said.

“Under ‘Notifications’, users can see cashback offers available across all categories; under ‘Orders’, they can view their order and transaction updates; and ‘Games’ will have engaging Cricket and trivia-based games,” the company elaborated.

“We have realized that besides making payments, our users and merchants also like to communicate with each other. There is a need of social messaging, commerce and payments seamlessly blending into one another,” Deepak Abbot, senior vice-president of Paytm said.

A preview of the Paytm Inbox interface. (Paytm)

Stealing WhatsApp’s thunder?

WhatsApp has already expressed its plans to launch peer-to-peer payment service for customers in India. The company plans to launch the service by the end of this year, a person familiar with the development said. References of the feature have already been spotted on WhatsApp’s Android app.

The arrival of Paytm Inbox is set to further intensify competition between messaging apps in India that are increasingly attempting to expand their offerings to the customers.

Earlier this year, popular caller ID and spam detection app Truecaller introduced a payment option. Based on the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), the app allows users to make peer-to-peer payments as well as top up mobile credit and DTH accounts.

India-based messaging platform Hike in June this year rolled out a ‘Hike Wallet feature’ allowing users to transfer money to friends. Also built on UPI platform, it allowed mobile phone bill payments.

Google also recently came out with its own payment service, customised for the Indian users. Named Tez, the app allows users to send and request money. The company is also offering incentive such as cash on some of the transactions through Tez, a sign that gives away company’s ambition to make a dent in India’s increasingly growing online payments market.

WeChat vs Alipay: Lessons from China

Paytm’s decision to foray into the messaging space seems inspired by Alibaba’s experience in China. Alibaba, one of the largest shareholders in Paytm’s parent company One97 Communication, couldn’t capitalise on China’s booming instant messaging industry a couple of years ago.

While Alibaba made attempts to push its Alipay digital payment service by including social elements, it has been completely outshined by WeChat, the most popular messaging platform in China. WeChat also offers peer-to-peer payment facility and is reportedly giving AliPay a hard time.

With WhatsApp’s plans to launch the payment facility, Alibaba faces a similar situation in India. However, it can bet on Paytm, which is synonymous to digital payment in India and has more than 200 million users in the country. The company may extensively push the messaging feature in the coming days to get the edge over WhatsApp.

That said, fighting WhatsApp in its strongest turf will be a herculean task for Paytm. With more than 200 million active users in India, WhatsApp remains the most preferred instant messaging platform. It’ll be interesting to see whether users will abandon WhatsApp to embrace Paytm.