After appointing a grievance officer for its India operations only a few months ago, WhatsApp, the popular messenger app, has now announced the appointment of Abhijit Bose to lead its India division, according Business Standard.
As Head of WhatsApp India, Bose will establish the messenger app’s first team exclusively dedicated to operations in another country outside the United States. Their office will be in Gurugram.
“WhatsApp is deeply committed to India, and we are excited to keep building products that help people connect and support India’s fast-growing digital economy. As a successful entrepreneur himself, Abhijit knows what it takes to build meaningful partnerships that can serve businesses across India,” said Matt Idema, Chief Operating Officer of WhatsApp, in a statement to the media. With over 200 million out of its 1.5 billion customers in India, it’s little surprise that WhatsApp is opening shop in India.
Here are five things to know about WhatsApp India’s head and the challenges that stand before him:
1) Bose is a graduate of Cornell University and Harvard Business School. He has “seventeen years of experience in product management, product marketing, and business development with expertise in software and mobile markets,” according to his LinkedIn profile.
2) Besides hold executive positions across firms in the online payments game like Intuit, ngpay and Oracle, in 2011 he co-founded Ezetap, a digital payments solutions firm which seeks to assist rural and small-town India by converting smartphones into point of sale (POS) devices.
3) This is precisely he was hired by Facebook-owned WhatsApp to head its India office.
Good move by @WhatsApp. Getting a high quality payments entrepreneur to lead the business. Digital businesses in India will get a big boost once WhatsApp payments rolls out across all 300m users. Will bring about a tectonic plate shift in digital payments adoption – good for ?? ! https://t.co/GBnd5YzUQT
— Kunal Bahl (@1kunalbahl) November 21, 2018
While the likes of Truecaller and Google are making serious headway in the digital payments ecosystem in India, WhatsApp continues to struggle even though the messenger app is the choice for peer-to-peer communication for 96% of all Indians as reported in The Hindu.
Earlier this year, WhatsApp had rolled out a beta version of its payments feature, inbuilt in its app, without too much fanfare, according to Quartz India. Nonetheless, it shook the industry considering the size of their customer base. Unfortunately, Facebook, its parent company, got caught up in a slew of privacy and security-related concerns following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Even though it did address some of the Centre’s concerns, their payments app is only relegated to 1 million users. Bose’s extensive experience in dealing with regulatory issues in the digital payments game is expected to assist the messaging app.
India’s e-payments market will grow to $1 trillion by 2023, according to Credit Suisse. Besides, his team will step up efforts to abide by the Reserve Bank of India’s latest directive ordering payment companies in India to store their data locally.
4) “WhatsApp can positively impact the lives of hundreds of millions of Indians, allowing them to actively engage and benefit from the new digital economy,” said Bose in a recent statement.
Another major bug that has come to bite WhatsApp is the scourge of fake news. With the 2019 general elections on the horizon, this is a major concern for an app with the potential for mass mobilisation. You can read more about the fake news furore surrounding WhatsApp here and here.
5) Privacy is another major concern for the messaging app with the government using legal tools in its disposal to reportedly compel it into breaking its unique end-to-end encryption system. Once the encryption system is broken, the government could easily find ways to read messages exchanged between users.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)