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Customers can now ship cash via WhatsApp in India's huge digital funds market

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The WhatsApp mobile messaging application is displayed on an Apple iPhone

Brent Lewin | Bloomberg | Getty Images

SINGAPORE – Facebook's own messaging service WhatsApp will allow users in India to send money through the app starting Friday, as long as they have a bank account and debit card in India.

With more than 400 million users, India is one of the largest markets for WhatsApp.

WhatsApp said in a blog post that it works with five major banks in India: ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank, State Bank of India – the country's largest public lender – and Jio Payments Bank.

The new feature is available in the latest version of WhatsApp in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. It was developed using the United Payments Interface (UPI), an infrastructure created by the country's leading payment service provider, the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).

Mobile apps based on the UPI infrastructure can securely access multiple bank accounts and merge services such as digital payments and peer-to-peer money transfers in real time.

According to an industry report from last year, UPI is one of the most dominant digital payments methods in a market that is expected to more than double from $ 64.8 billion in 2019 to $ 135.2 billion in 2023. What sets UPI apart from mobile wallets is its interoperability.

Most other mobile wallets require both the user and the merchant to have the same wallet platform in order for a transaction to be processed. This is not required for UPI. Users and merchants can use different platforms based on the framework for the transaction.

India has created something very special with UPI. It opens up a world of opportunity for the micro and small businesses that form the backbone of India's economy.

Mark Zuckerberg

CEO, Facebook

The payment feature is available in 10 versions of WhatsApp in the local Indian language, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a video statement.

"With UPI, India has created something very special. It opens up a world of opportunity for the micro and small businesses that form the backbone of India's economy," he said.

WhatsApp first introduced a peer-to-peer payment service for restricted users in India in early 2018 and spent the following time overcoming regulatory hurdles, as various media reports show.

WhatsApp will face competition from Google Pay, Walmarts PhonePe, and Alibaba-backed Paytm, which also has its own mobile wallet.

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Katherine Clark