WhatsApp-India: Year-In Review: 2021 - the year that was
WhatsApp released its year-end review of 2021, capturing key highlights of how the private messaging app emerged as one of the most dependable ways for millions to stay connected when physical distancing was the norm, during the pandemic. Some key moments include:
- WhatsApp’s Covid response, including partnerships with Governments and civic bodies in India to build WhatsApp chatbots and helplines for citizens to access accurate Covid-related information, and important resources using the WhatsApp Business Platform.
- WhatsApp Business App, the free-of-cost app that enabled small and micro businesses to build a digital storefront helping them scale economic activity and serve their customers better, even during the pandemic.
- Thoughtful product innovations consistently through the year, reiterating WhatsApp’s goal of ensuring a seamless, safe and reliable user experience.
- Unleashing the potential of ‘Payments on WhatsApp’ to help scale financial solutions for every section of the society to accelerate building a financially inclusive and digitally empowered India.
Commenting on the year gone by, Abhijit Bose, Head of India, WhatsApp, said, “During the pandemic, the world over, WhatsApp became one of the most used and dependable ways for people to connect with family and friends, as well as for users to interact with businesses. We’re humbled and pleased that during challenging times of the pandemic we could serve India, by building custom helpline solutions in partnership with the central and several state governments and civic actors to offer Covid relief related solutions that citizens could depend upon.
Offering small businesses the tools through the free of cost WhatsApp Business App helped them build digital-storefronts to service their customers better.
We believe Payments on WhatsApp can be a key partner to NPCI and RBI in achieving the shared objective of scaling the adoption of UPI and enabling financial inclusion for the underserved.
WhatsApp will continue to contribute to building innovative solutions that enable digital access, socio-economic growth, financial inclusion and digital empowerment to help solve some of the toughest challenges in India, and around the world.”
A). WhatsApp chatbot initiatives to support India’s fight against Covid and drive vaccination
Since the start of the pandemic, WhatsApp has been a preferred medium for people to find authoritative information, seek and receive support and stay connected. In 2021, WhatsApp’s role matured as central and state administrations used the WhatsApp Business platform to stay connected with citizens to drive vaccinations across the country as well as offer more efficient governance and citizen-engagement.
- In 2021, 15 different state governments launched dedicated Covid helplines on WhatsApp for a number of Covid related use-cases ranging from access to resources to vaccination appointment bookings. [See list of chatbots below]
- The MyGov Corona Helpdesk which was launched at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, was built with additional use-cases to benefit citizens. Today, the MyGov chatbot on WhatsApp is equipped to manage several different types of requests including vaccine certificate download, appointment bookings, etc. So far over 55 million people have reached out to the bot, over 12 million vaccine certificates have been downloaded just as millions of vaccination appointments are being booked.
B). Product Innovation to improve user experience and safety on the platform
Making continuous and thoughtful investments in product innovations, 2021 was the year where WhatsApp launched several product updates and features, to improve user experience and enhance safety and security on the platform.
- WhatsApp’s new ephemerality features, Disappearing Messages, View Once, and Default Disappearing Mode with multiple durations ensure that users have more control and privacy while connecting with friends and family.
- User safety being a top priority, WhatsApp launched features like Message level reporting where users can report accounts by flagging a specific message, Touch ID and Face ID for iPhone, and Fingerprint lock for Android and encrypted backup, offering additional layers of security for users.
- Other innovative product features like Desktop Calling, Archive 2.0, Joinable calls, Cross platform migration, Elevating important messages, Sticker packs, Media web editor on web, Stickers in status, have all helped bring people closer together privately, while making WhatsApp reliable, simple and convenient to use.
C). Payments on WhatsApp, building for India’s diverse user base
As WhatsApp continues to contribute to India’s socio-economic and digital transformation, 2021 was the year the Company took ‘Payments on WhatsApp’ to more people in India. Payments on WhatsApp has the potential to bring millions of Indians to the digital payments ecosystem and hence drive financial inclusion and digital and financial literacy. 2021 saw the launch of several new features that were tailor made for India with the goal of simplifying digital payments.
- To make payments on WhatsApp more inclusive and intuitive for users to send money, WhatsApp introduced the most iconic and recognizable ‘Rupee’ ₹ symbol within WhatsApp’s Chat Composer.
- WhatsApp also equipped the ‘Camera’ icon to scan QR codes, effectively providing access to over 20 million QR-enabled stores in the country.
- With an aim to make sending money as easy as sending a message, WhatsApp launched culturally relevant stickers and thematic backgrounds borrowing from India’s cultural nuances. These features make sending money on WhatsApp a personalized experience, quite as seamless and natural as everyday conversations on WhatsApp.
- As part of its mission to onboard the next 500 million Indians to the digital payments ecosystem WhatsApp has started a pilot program in 500 villages across Karnataka and Maharashtra to introduce the villagers there to digital payments, reiterating its commitment accelerate financial inclusion in the country,
D). WhatsApp for Businesses of all sizes: WhatsApp Business Platform + WhatsApp Business app for SMEs
WhatsApp offers modern, secure and convenient solutions that allows businesses to build experiences their customers will love. In addition to forging impactful India-first partnerships, there have been traditional sectors like education, healthcare, financial services using the power of WhatsApp Business Platform to provide their services to underserved and marginalized communities, at scale, thereby building an inclusive India.
- Uber’s recent integration on the WhatsApp Business Platform allows people to book an Uber ride via Uber’s official WhatsApp chatbot. The integration is a global-first for Uber and it will make booking an Uber ride as easy as sending a WhatsApp message.
- Utilities: Various utility companies are building customised chatbots for engagement with their customers and grievance redressal. Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited’s AI enabled chatbot on WhatsApp Business platform called ‘Urja’ is designed for various self service experiences for B2C and B2B use-cases. Urja is part of BPCL’s larger goal of building a comprehensive and digitally enabled customer interface. Similarly, IOCL on WhatsApp API platform is enabled with gas bookings, booking status check, checking loyalty points.
- WhatsApp Business App: This free-of-cost WhatsApp Business App is being used by more than 15 million small and micro businesses to scale their digital presence ; democratizing access for them by enabling their reach to a larger customer base.
- The WhatsApp-SEWA partnership enabled women farmers from Kashmir to sell thousands of kgs of apples and cherries to customers in Gujarat, creating an alternate ‘supply-chain’ at a time when the world was closed for business.
- Similarly, WhatsApp’s ongoing partnership with the MannDeshi Foundation facilitated training workshops for women on various aspects of digital and financial literacy along with educating them on using the WhatsApp Business App.
With 2022 around the corner, WhatsApp remains committed to connecting the world privately, enabling businesses to connect with their customers in meaningful ways, supporting governments to drive effective citizen engagement and efficient governance, as well as, continues to endeavour on its mission to drive financial and digital inclusion at scale in India.