From being an instant messaging application, WhatsApp has evolved into other services, including payments and e-commerce, as part of its strategy to leverage its massive user base. India, with over 500 million users is at the centre of the company’s growth strategy, as daily conversations between people and businesses more than doubled in India since last year. On Wednesday, WhatsApp held one of its major global event in Mumbai, further underlining the growing importance of India. businessline met Nikila Srinivasan, Vice-President of Product Management for Business Messaging at Meta, to understand the company’s long-term strategy in bringing businesses into the messaging fold. Excerpts:


As you roll out even more capabilities on WhatsApp, should we continue to see it as a messaging app?

Totally. I think, at its core, what makes WhatsApp so magical is because it’s the best app for you to do your day-to-day communications. So, really, what I want to continue to lean into, is that magic that WhatsApp has already. It’s a simple app. It’s personal, it’s private. It’s where you have the most meaningful conversations in your everyday life. And, if we’re able to translate that into how you also engage with your local businesses and businesses around you, that feels like a natural extension of what you use WhatsApp for everyday. So, that’s really the angle that we are taking for what it means to evolve WhatsApp. So, it’s really thinking about how you continue to make WhatsApp a place where people can get stuff done, including with businesses. 

It’s a gradual expansion to make sure that when you are having that interaction in a thread with a business, that it’s valuable for you as a user, and it’s valuable for business and it’s going to drive better results for them. The end goal is that we make everything possible and you can actually have an end-to-end transaction and buy that dress and pay for it on WhatsApp itself. 


We know that the India market plays a major role for Meta, as far as business messaging goes. Can you expand on its significance?

Yes, India is one of our priority markets, top priority markets, and it is growing really fast. I mean, in general for Meta, but especially for business messaging. The fact that we’re doing this ‘Conversations’ event here, for example, it’s a big testament to that because it’s a global event. And we’re doing the tentpole event for business messaging in India, because it’s such a key important market for us and for growth, both in terms of small businesses, but also in terms of businesses that are using other products like click to message ads.  


How do you see generative AI transforming the business messaging landscape?

I think generative AI will be transformative for the world of  business messaging. I think it’s uniquely applicable to the context of business messaging, because it can really turbocharge some traditional use cases that have not really been that engaging like customer support. I think with Gen AI you can actually really make some of those use cases come to life a lot more. On the 27th, we have our conference called Connect, where Mark [Zuckerberg] will make some really interesting announcements. He’s been super interested in bringing generative AI and doing more with this industry.


Business messaging is the newest vertical for Meta, how do you see it shaping up?

It’s a huge priority for meta. We’ve continued to invest in it. The fact that I was hired back into the company to do this is also a testament to the fact that the company is very invested in it as like my teams are incredibly excited and running as well. And in terms of the traction that we’re already seeing, the click to message business that I was talking about, which is $10 billion. It’s the fastest growing ad format for Meta


India and Brazil will remain markets for Meta, as far as business messaging goes, but do you see it taking off globally?

I think there are certain markets (India,Brazil) where it’s just so pronounced you can’t ignore it because business messaging is like a way of life. But even in South-East Asia, for example, actually really had this huge traction for business messaging. Even in Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines. And, in Latin America, Mexico is really big for us. The UK and the US, I think, are picking up now. One interesting observation is that in the US, Thailand, and a few other places, some of the advertisers that are using click to message ads are coming online for the first time and setting things up. Because they have access now to messaging. So, that’s a really interesting new dimension as well.. But I think with countries such as India, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, it’s where we are the most strong. 


Your initial partnership for business messaging was with JioMart. What are the lessons there? 

So, the reason we did that is it’s a strategic partnership, right. There’s a lot of alignment in terms of how  Jio and us – what they want to do for digital transformation. We actually think that partnership was a good first use case example of the end to end vision that we want to bring to life. It’s like you’re able to do so much from just within a thread, and you can actually finish your shopping right there. So we’ve seen good traction from that. We’re taking a lot of learnings from that partnership for ‘Flows’ for example, right?