Hike, an India-based instant messaging company, recently updated its app to launch a new feature: a digital payments wallet.
According to a report in Reuters, digital payments are surging in India. The country’s Prime Minister removed high-denomination currency from circulation late last year in an effort to combat fraud, and a handful of startups are working to capitalize on that decision. Paytm, an electronic payments and eCommerce company also based in India and backed by Alibaba and SoftBank, has seen its market share surge as more consumers become comfortable with digital payments.
The instant messaging company’s new digital wallet feature marks the first time a messaging platform in India has enabled digital payments, according to Reuters. The report noted that Facebook’s WhatsApp could launch a similar payment feature in 2017.
The new Hike digital wallet will enable an instant money transfer to go between customers and allow transfers to banks using the Indian government–backed United Payments Interface (UPI) system. The new feature closely resembles offerings from China-based internet value services company Tencent Holdings, owner of the WeChat messaging platform, which also enables payments.
“For sure we talk to Tencent quite often, we are inspired by them and it’s great to have them as a partner,” said Kavin Mittal, Hike’s chief executive, in a Reuters interview.
Hike has partnered with Yes Bank, a private-sector lender in India, to enable money transfers to banks. The app will also allow users to send “blue packets,” envelopes that contain digital money, to their connections. WeChat maintains a similar service it calls “red packets.”
In April 2017, reports surfaced that WhatsApp was setting its sights on India. The vision, according to these reports, is that WhatsApp’s India offerings would be somewhat similar to that of WeChat in China. WhatsApp currently serves more than 200 million users in India, and rumors claim the firm is working to launch a person-to-person payment feature in the next six months.
According to WhatsApp’s job posting, the firm is seeking employees with “a technical and financial background who understand India’s UPI and the [Bharat Interface for Money] BHIM payments app that enables money transfers and merchant payments using mobile numbers.”
“India is an important country for WhatsApp, and we’re understanding how we can contribute more to the vision of Digital India,” said a WhatsApp spokesman.
Digital India is a flagship government program that aims to boost the use of internet-based services in the country.