WhatsApp, the biggest interpersonal text-messaging platform in India, has started rolling out its ‘verified accounts’ feature with IndusInd Bank as one of its first customers.
For now, verified accounts are limited to businesses, and will be used to assure customers that they are communicating with the official, and authorized, phone number of a business or establishment. Such accounts will have a ‘green tick’ against their numbers.
“The initial test phase will allow the bank to communicate important transaction alerts to the customers on WhatsApp. It also allows two-way communication with replies to customer messages and provides basic banking services like checking balance, mini statement, checking reward points as well as updation of Aadhaar through WhatsApp,” the private sector bank said.
Customers can save the official WhatsApp number of the bank and initiate conversation,” it added. However, the bank did not clarify which of its several hotline numbers have been verified for WhatsApp use.
WhatsApp is likely to use such verified accounts to generate revenue and profit, like its parent Facebook.
Facebook generates nearly all its income by charging businesses who operate brand pages on the platform to promote their posts or advertise their wares.
WhatsApp started out with the promise that it won’t sell users advertising, as doing so would require it to track users’ activities — something its privacy-conscious founders were dead against.
As such, it planned to charge $1 per year from customers as subscription fees after the first year of free use.
However, the platform became far more successful in India than anyone imagined, reaching out into the remotest corners and the lowest income groups.
Realizing that switching to a paid model would result in blocking most of its users in India, the company decided to explore alternate means of making money.
In keeping with this, it recently unveiled its ‘WhatsApp Business’ app, which helps businesses manage customer requests, feedback and communication.
The app is soon likely to get a ‘follow’ button as well, which will allow anyone to subscribe to alerts, messages and promotions from the business account.
In its approach to attracting businesses on to its platform, the platform is likely to follow a freemium model like Facebook. Facebook, for example, allows businesses to disseminate some of their posts free of charge, but charges money for extended reach.