WhatsApp has amassed more than 400 million users in India, the instant messaging app confirmed today, reaffirming its gigantic reach in its biggest market.
Amitabh Kant, CEO of highly-influential local think-tank Niti Aayog, revealed the new stat at a press conference held by WhatsApp in New Delhi on Thursday. A WhatsApp spokesperson confirmed that the platform indeed had more than 400 million monthly active users in the country.
The remarkable revelation comes roughly two years after WhatsApp said it had hit 300 million users in India. WhatsApp — or Facebook — did not share any India-specific users count in the period in between.
The public disclosure today should help Facebook reaffirm its dominance in India, where it appears to be used by nearly every smartphone user. According to research firm Counterpoint, India has about 450 million smartphone users. (Some other research firms peg the number to be lower.)
As WhatsApp becomes ubiquitous in the nation, the service is increasingly mutating to serve a number of needs. Businesses such as social-commerce app Meesho have been built on top of WhatsApp. Facebook backed Meesho recently in what was its first investment of this kind in an Indian startup. Then of course, WhatsApp has also come under hot water for its role in spread of false information in the nation.
As ByteDance and others aggressively expand their businesses in India, Facebook’s perceived dominance in the country has come under attack in recent months. ByteDance’s TikTok, which has amassed 120 million users in India, has been heralded as the top competitor of Facebook by many.
A WhatsApp spokesperson also told TechCrunch that India remains WhatsApp’s biggest market. In 2017, Facebook said its marquee service had about 250 million users in India — a figure it has not updated in the years since.
WhatsApp, which has about 1.5 billion monthly active users worldwide, does not really have any major competitor in India. The closest to a competitor it has in the country is Messenger, another platform owned by Facebook, and Hike, which millions of users check everyday. Times Internet — an internet conglomerate in India that operates several news outlets, entertainment services and more — claims to reach 450 million users in the country.
At the press conference, WhatsApp global chief Will Cathcart said WhatsApp also plans to roll out WhatsApp Pay, its payment service, to all WhatsApp users towards the end of the year — something TechCrunch reported earlier.
Its arrival in India’s burgeoning payments space could create serious tension for Google Pay, Flipkart’s PhonePe, and Paytm. For Facebook, WhatsApp Pay’s success is even more crucial as the company currently has no plans to bring cryptocurrency wallet Calibra to the country, it told TechCrunch on the sidelines of Libra and Calibra unveil.
In a series of announcements this week, WhatsApp also unveiled a tie-up with Niti Aayog to promote women’s entrepreneurship. “By launching ‘gateway to a billion opportunities’ and our digital skills training program, we hope to shine a light on the amazing work already happening and build the next generation of entrepreneurs and change makers,” said Cathcart.
On Wednesday at a conference in Mumbai, Cathcart announced a partnership with the Indian School of Public Policy, India’s first program in the theory and practice of public policy, product design and management, to bring a series of privacy design workshops to future policy makers. These workshops will explore “the importance and practice of privacy-centric design to help technology make a positive impact on society,” the Facebook-owned platform said.