New Delhi: WhatsApp on Friday said it is rolling out its payments services in India after receiving nod from the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).

In 2018, the Facebook-owned company had started testing its UPI-based payments service in India, which allows users to utilise the messaging platform to send and receive money. The testing was limited to about a million users as it waited for regulatory approvals to come in.

On Thursday, NPCI - which runs the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) used for real-time payments between peers or at merchants' end while making purchases - allowed WhatsApp to start its payments service in the country in a "graded" manner, starting with a maximum registered user base of 20 million in UPI.

"Starting today, people across India will be able to send money through WhatsApp. This secure payments experience makes transferring money just as easy as sending a message. People can safely send money to a family member or share the cost of goods from a distance without having to exchange cash in person or going to a local bank," WhatsApp said in a blogpost.

It added that the payments feature has been designed in partnership with NPCI using UPI, an India-first, real-time payment system that enables transactions with over 160 supported banks.

In June this year, WhatsApp had launched 'WhatsApp Pay' in Brazil - making it the first country where the service was widely rolled out.

In India, WhatsApp - which counts India as its biggest market with over 400 million users - will compete with players like Paytm, Google Pay, Walmart-owned PhonePe and Amazon Pay.

"Payments (service) on WhatsApp is now available for people on the latest version of the iPhone and Android app... We're excited to join India's campaign to increase the ease and use of digital payments, which is helping expand financial inclusion in India," it said adding that users will need to have a bank account and debit card in India to send money through the platform in India.

WhatsApp said it is working with five banks in India - ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank, the State Bank of India, and Jio Payments Bank - and people can send money on WhatsApp to anyone using a UPI supported app.

"In the long run, we believe the combination of WhatsApp and UPI's unique architecture can help local organisations address some of the key challenges of our time, including increasing rural participation in the digital economy and delivering financial services to those who have never had access before," it added.

WhatsApp noted that its payments service is designed with a strong set of security and privacy principles, including entering a personal UPI PIN for each payment.

"There is no fee... because its WhatsApp, you know its secure and private too. With UPI, India has created something truly special and is opening up a world of opportunities for micro and small businesses that's the backbone of the Indian economy," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a video message.

He added that the payments service will be available in 10 Indian language versions of WhatsApp.

Interestingly, the approval for WhatsApp came on the same day as NPCI limited a single third party like WhatsApp or its rivals like Google Pay or Walmart's PhonePe to handle only 30 per cent of overall UPI transaction volumes by putting a cap. This is expected to allay fears of potential monopolisation.

Recently, PhonePe had announced crossing the 250 million registered user milestone and over 100 million monthly active users (MAU), and had 835 million UPI transactions in October with a market leading share of over 40 per cent.

Google had 67 million monthly active users in September last year, and on the merchant side, it had over three million active merchant's data for June 2020. Google Pay has not shared any updated stats since September 2019.

UPI processed over 2.07 billion transactions in October (worth Rs 3.86 lakh crore), up from over 1.8 billion in the previous month, as per data from NPCI.

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Cooch Behar (WB), May 13: West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar was on Thursday shown black flags at Sitalkuchi, where four villagers died after firing by central forces during the elections, while "go back" slogans were raised at Dinhata during his visit to Cooch Behar district to meet people allegedly affected in post poll violence.

Earlier in the day, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar who is on a controversial visit to assess post-poll violence in the district said he was shocked by incidents of attacks following the West Bengal assembly elections.

"The country is facing a COVID crisis, and West Bengal is facing twin challenges of the pandemic and unprecedented post-poll violence only (as) some people decided to vote as per their own choice," he said.

The run up to the visit was marked by a war of words between the Governor and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with the chief minister writing a letter on Wednesday claiming the visit violated established norms as it was being undertaken unilaterally without consultations with the state government.

She also claimed the Governor was by-passing the state council of ministers and dictating directly to state officials, which was violative of the constitution.

An agitated Dhankhar came out of his car at Dinhata and reprimanded police officials for allegedly not acting to prevent slogan-shouting protesters, who numbered around 15 and had assembled with posters saying "BJP's governor go back".

"I am shocked, this is total collapse of rule of law, I could never imagine such a thing could happen," he told reporters.

Police officials chased the protesters away from the spot.

"I have seen fear in the eyes of people and they are afraid to go to the police station to file complaints," Dhankhar said about his interaction with people in post-poll hit villages.

The Governor visited Mathabhanga, Sitalkuchi, Sitai and Dinhata and talked to people who claimed to have suffered attacks at the hands of ruling Trinamool Congress supporters after election results were announced on May 2.

Dhankhar, who visited several households at the four places, said "homes have been looted and even ornaments kept for girl's marriage, utensils and other items for 'shradh' were taken away."

The governor was also shown black flags by some persons at Golokganj when his convoy travelled from Mathabhanga to Sitalkuchi, as a posse of policemen put up human walls to prevent protesters from coming down on to the road.

Posters and placards criticising the visit of the governor were also seen at Jorpatki in Sitalkuchi, the scene of firing by central armed police force personnel that killed four persons on April 10 during the fourth phase of polling in the West Bengal assembly elections.

"History will judge Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister. History will also judge Jagdeep Dhankhar, the governor, and it will judge the bureaucracy and the media," Dhankar said, interacting with the media.

Claiming that he did not get any response from the state government despite efforts being made to get information about the post-poll violence, Dhankhar said the state government must provide him with required information under Article 167 of the Constitution.

The Governor pointed out that "during elections, she (the chief minister) had publicly said the central armed police force will not be there always and she will see after that.

"This kind of challenge and behaviour is not acceptable under the constitution," he added.

BJP MP Nisith Pramanik accompanied the governor during his visit to the areas, where the saffron party has alleged loot and attack on its workers.

Some women wailed and fell to the feet of the governor claiming that all their belongings were looted and that the men of their families had fled their homes to escape attacks.

Reacting to the visit, veteran TMC MP and party spokesperson Sougata Ray said "He (Dhankhar) did not listen to the state government and went to Cooch Behar. He went there in the company of a BJP leader. His conduct is unconstitutional".

"Previously we had written a letter to the president against this governor. If the CM says, we will send another letter against him to the president," Ray said.

The TMC in December last year had written to President Ram Nath Kovind seeking to remove Jagdeep Dhankhar from the post of governor, accusing him of "transgressing constitutional limits" by regularly commenting against the state administration in public.

Terming the Governors conduct as unbecoming, senior TMC leader and minister Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay added "the governor is doing politics over stray post-poll incidents, (to contain) which the state government has taken all necessary steps. He is doing politics when the state is busy fighting the pandemic. We wish that the governor and the state government work together to fight the Covid situation.

The governor said he will on Friday visit camps in Assam where BJP workers, who reportedly fled from West Bengal owing to the post-poll violence, have been staying.