WhatsApp means business as monetisation plans take shape

The 46-year-old Meta India chief, who took charge about nine months ago, said that keeping India as a priority market where business messaging will be used to

India is a key market for the monetization of instant messaging platform WhatsApp, with business messaging playing a key role, said Sandhya Devanathan, Media India Head.

The company is also focusing on launching features that will expand its ambitious bet on WhatsApp Pay in India. It will also expand the scope of enabling a direct interface between merchants and customers where they will allow users to avail service delivery and make payments directly to merchants through WhatsApp.

"As a company, we are looking to monetize WhatsApp. We're seeing a pretty big difference in not just people messaging each other, but people messaging businesses. About 90% of people surveyed said they were talking to a business," Devanathan said.

The 46-year-old Meta India chief, who took charge about nine months ago, said that keeping India as a priority market where business messaging will be used to drive the monetization of WhatsApp is a decision that both the global and India leadership team has arrived at.

To further enhance user experience, the company plans to add features on WhatsApp, which will likely be announced during its second annual Conversations business messaging event on Wednesday.

Devanathan said there is a broader company-wide trend towards efficiency, and that job cuts or people leaving their jobs at the company were not limited to India.

In the past 12 months, Meta India has seen several high-profile exits, including the resignation of former India head Ajit Mohan. Other senior executives like Director and Head of Partnerships Manish Chopra, Head of Public Policy Rajeev Agarwal, and WhatsApp India Head Abhijit Bose also resigned in quick succession during this time. These positions have not yet been filled.

However, Devanathan believes that since Meta is what it calls its “year of efficiency,” teams have also become leaner and more nimble.

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"What we have also done is to combine the roles. This has played out globally and in India as well. It is always sad to lose talented colleagues, either because of our moments or because they decide to leave us. The company is still in a very strong position," she added.

Focus on Business Messaging

Meta has expanded WhatsApp with a series of new features including group video calling and it launched Channels last week. Talking about the reason behind the channels, Devanathan said, "With the channels, we want to provide a reliable and safe way for people and big businesses to reach out to their fans, audience, and customers. It is too early for us to comment on monetization." In India, the response has been " pretty phenomenal." She added that the future possibilities are endless.

Talking about Artificial Intelligence (AI), she said that the company has been using AI to better target recommendations across our platforms.

“We said in our Q3 earnings that about 40% of all the content you now see on Instagram are recommendations from our AI engines. This has led to an increase of about 25% in the time spent on Instagram.

“AI is fundamental not only to help businesses target better but also to keep people safe on our platform,” she added.

The key to growing business messaging, she said, was to understand the changing behavior of users who wanted communication to be instant and at the tip of their fingers. She said that since these users spend most of their time on messaging apps, companies will have to meet them on these apps themselves and fulfill their demands there.

“If you think about small businesses and think of setting up a website, it's going to cost you a lot of money and time. But to attract users, you have to meet them where they are. They spend a lot of their time online and on messaging apps like WhatsApp,” Devanathan said, adding that seven out of ten people surveyed by the company prefer communication over any other form of communication.

She said behavioral change was not forced by companies but was coming naturally from users, thus making it pertinent for companies of all sizes to be present on instant communication apps like WhatsApp.

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