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'We welcome competition', says Paytm's Deepak Abbot on WhatsApp payments feature

Deepak Abbot, Senior Vice President at Paytm, touched upon Paytm's core vision, its renewed focus to smaller towns, the upcoming threat from rival WhatsApp, and the company's future plans for the payment services platform.

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Highlights

  • Paytm has over 200 million monthly active users in India with 50 lakh merchant users.

  • WhatsApp's introduction of payments feature does not both Paytm because P2P payments is just one aspect of its services.

  • Going forward, Paytm's focus is to move towards smaller towns where there is scope for growth.

Ever since demonetization took India by surprise, Indian took to digital transactions in a big way. Paytm has grown to become an epitome of post-demonetization success. Millions of users and transactions later, Paytm continues to don the image of primarily being a payments app. It’s definitely much more than that. In fact, digital transactions form just one pillar of its architecture.

Today, we read reports of a potential rollout of WhatsApp Payments feature, after leaks of a beta rollout. Considering that communications and transactions are such an integral part of our lives, it’s only natural that the two services are getting into each other’s territory.

In an interaction with BGR India, Senior Vice President at Paytm, Deepak Abbot, touched upon Paytm’s core vision, its renewed focus to smaller towns, the upcoming threat from rival WhatsApp, and the company’s future plans for the payment services platform.

Origin as a mobile recharge website

Paytm started as a prepaid mobile recharge website, but has emerged as a one-point destination for services including banking, utility bill payments, e-commerce, flight booking, insurance, loans, and much more. As Abbott tells us, Paytm aims to offer complete financial services to its users. These services need to be tailored to suit customer needs as no two individuals can have the same requirements in wealth management.

Towards this goal, even as Paytm stands unchallenged in the payments segments, rival services such as WhatsApp is emerging as a big roadblock in Paytm’s success story. Post-demonetization Paytm has become India’s leading digital payment services. It is one of the most downloaded apps in India, standing next to WhatsApp, which is essentially a social messaging app.

Additional features in Paytm

Paytm started off as a digital payments platform, but mimicking China’s WeChat, Paytm today offers almost everything for which you or me would have a separate app. The platform has essentially become a hub for all services digital, with the recent inclusion of messaging. It is here where Facebook-owned WhatsApp has an advantage. WhatsApp boasts a total of 1.5 billion monthly active users globally with over 200 million monthly active users in India. The messaging service is gradually inserting newer features to lure business users in India, and as per latest reports, it has already started rolling out payments option to iOS and Android users.

Paytm on competition

While innovative features by competition comes across as a threat to the homegrown Paytm, the company believes otherwise. “We welcome competition,” says Abbot. WhatsApp’s payment option allows for peer to peer transfer (P2P). The company has been reportedly working on integrating UPI to its platform for easing P2P payments. It is also said to be in talks with the State Bank of India (SBI) to allow users to create a VPA.

However, Abbot explains how Paytm has an edge over the newly sprouting payment features. “P2P payments is just one aspect. Paytm offers much more than just P2P which rival services are planning to offer.” He goes on to explain that in order to operate a payments platform, an on-ground presence is required. It is challenging for foreign service WhatsApp as UPI-based transactions need to be audited by the country’s banking regulator, which could spell the end of the promised end-to-end encryption on the messaging service.

Paytm Payments Bank

Paytm, on the other hand, has acquired the license to run the Paytm Payments Bank. It has also integrated with UPI and with as many as 80 million credit/debit card details, the payments platform gains an edge. What also makes Paytm confident of its lead is its impressive merchants’ userbase. The company recently partnered Mumbai’s Dabbawalas to expand its reach and make digital banking services easily accessible.

“On the consumers’ side the competition will prevail, but the real battle is at the merchants’ side,” Abbot says. Paytm’s digital payments arm currently boasts 50 lakh merchant users and the company aims to reach 1 crore merchants in the coming years with its QR scanner-based technology. Other than allowing merchants to sell goods and receive payments through its platform, Paytm recently launched a standalone app for businesses called Paytm for Business.

Meanwhile, WhatsApp only recently opened its gates for business users in India. The messaging service introduced its WhatsApp Business app for enterprise users. It also introduced the ‘blue tick’ feature for business numbers for identification by casual users. Initial partners include MakeMyTrip and BookMyShow.

As for the competition among WhatsApp and Paytm, the two services have different cores; WhatsApp has messaging and Paytm has payments, but both aim to ride on the ‘Digital India’ initiative by offering a cluster of services to users within the convenience of a single app.

“Indians are still uncomfortable with the idea of digital payments. They are afraid of having their money transacted digitally and they don’t know what to do if the money is stuck,” Abbot says. “Going forward, the focus is to move towards smaller towns where there is scope for growth. If compared, the number of transactions per user has gone up in smaller towns as compared to metros,” he adds.

Asked if Paytm plans to venture into new verticals since everything else is already being offered under the umbrella, Abbot refutes saying, “No, Paytm has no plans to enter telecom or food delivery business. We plan to continue supporting digital delivery partners and under-represented services.”

  • Published Date: February 8, 2018 5:06 PM IST