WhatsApp Business on a mission to lure Indian enterprises

WhatsApp Business is among the 30 most downloaded apps in India, beating the likes of Jio Saavn and Wynk.
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Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s total net worth is USD 68 billion. However, when it comes to his sartorial choices, Zuckerberg sticks to wearing only grey t-shirts, day after day. He explains that removing the need to spend time on something as unproductive as choosing an outfit of the day helps him channel his focus on more important things like matters that affect the community.

Someone like me, whose net worth is in no way comparable with that of Zuckerberg, believes in being a little more experimental when it comes to dressing for work. Like a lot of other people, online shopping is the go-to option. But online shopping comes with its own set of challenges. Returning the package and seeking a refund for your package tops that list. 

However, this one time, I shopped with a business that offered complete support via WhatsApp Business chat. No repeated calls to the support team or long waiting hours – my issue was resolved in a fraction of the usual time. Is this what 21st-century dreams are made of?

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In 2018, Meta-owned WhatsApp launched WhatsApp Business in India, sensing a huge market opportunity to facilitate communication between businesses and their customers.

As of 2020, the company stands vindicated as 15 million of the total 50 million WhatsApp Business monthly users were Indians. 

WhatsApp Business is among the 30 most downloaded apps in India, beating the likes of Jio Saavn and Wynk, as per a market study firm Nine Triangles. Globally, the app has crossed the 100 million downloads mark. 

The tech aspect

WhatsApp Business’ USP is its messaging capability – connecting the brand to its audience and the customer base. It enables businesses to send unlimited free messages in multiple formats. Features like WhatsApp Catalog and WhatsApp Cart help companies share product and service listings with customers. Customers can add items to their cart and confirm transactions with the business.

WhatsApp API is particularly useful for larger businesses to automate their support and sales process automation. This API has been adopted by several leading private sector companies working in domains like edtech, eCommerce, financial services, etc. These APIs can be integrated with backend systems like CRM and the marketing platforms. The WhatsApp Business Platform has the following APIs:

  • Business management API: It manages businesses’ WhatsApp account settings and assets and helps in getting quality status updates.
  • On-premise API: This helps in sending and receiving messages to and from customers using businesses’ own servers to host the WhatsApp Business API Client.
  • Cloud API: The Cloud API allows businesses to send and receive messages from and to customers using cloud-based servers owned by Meta to host the WhatsApp Business API. This API also facilitates the easy scaling up of business messaging.

Recently, at its inaugural business messaging conferencing Conversations, Zuckerberg announced multiple updates to WhatsApp Business Messaging offerings. One of the main announcements was Global API, which will allow any business or developer to build directly on top of WhatsApp to customise their experience and reduce response time.

WhatsApp Business and India market

Small businesses often struggle with manpower shortages and broken supply chains – WhatsApp Business has been a very efficient tool to manage their services. 

Image: WhatsApp; Small Business Stories from India

Jaipur-based Craft Trade, a handicraft and handloom business, is a good case in study. 

Founded by Rohit Kedia in 2016, this company deals with products made of pottery, paintings, sculptures, etc., and works in a multimodal model that includes eCommerce, B2B and B2C channels. As per Kedia, WhatsApp Business has helped to keep in touch with clients 24/7, which has in turn translated into a 25 per cent growth in sales.

As per WhatsApp’s report, 70 per cent of SMBs on WhatsApp say that they built their business on the platform; 77 per cent of them were even able to hire more employees as they grew after joining the platform.

One of the primary goals of the much publicised Facebook-Reliance Jio partnership is to onboard several small businesses across the country onto WhatsApp. Zuckerberg said in a meeting, “A big part of the partnership that we have with Jio will be to wire up and get thousands of small businesses across India on-boarded onto WhatsApp, to do commerce there.” Last year, an AI-based customer experience platform, Jio Haptik Technologies, launched Interakt, an app specifically designed for SMBs to manage their business on WhatsApp.

WhatsApp Business is also enabling larger companies and government agencies. For example, 40 per cent of the sales of Major Brands, which runs brands like Bath & Body Works and Charles & Keith, came from WhatsApp.

As per The Ken’s report, WhatsApp is in talks with Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd to become its primary channel of communication for its 85 million user base, replacing the traditional text messaging route. 

Notably, in 2020, BPCL launched an initiative for customers to book gas cylinders through WhatsApp Business.

What about the roadblocks?

The Indian government and WhatsApp have been embroiled in a tussle over privacy.

Last year, WhatsApp introduced a new policy which allows it to share users’ personal data with Facebook or other third parties. The policy mandated that users may either accept this clause or exit the platform altogether. While Facebook said that non-consenting users’ accounts would not be suspended, there was still a lot of confusion about the new policy. The centre said that the new privacy policy was in violation of the Indian Information Technology (IT) law and rules. 

As per the latest update in the case, the Competition Commission of India ordered an investigation into WhatsApp’s privacy policy update, giving a 60-day timeline. Upon WhatsApp’s request, the division bench of the Delhi High Court extended the time for the company to respond to CCI’s notice.

The outcome of this case would also largely define how WhatsApp Business’ business would work in India.

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Shraddha Goled
I am a technology journalist with AIM. I write stories focused on the AI landscape in India and around the world with a special interest in analysing its long term impact on individuals and societies. Reach out to me at shraddha.goled@analyticsindiamag.com.

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