In India push, WhatsApp CEO swears by privacy, simplicity

Varun Aggarwal Mumbai | Updated on July 24, 2019 Published on July 24, 2019

From plush corporate boardrooms to the crowded bazaars of Mumbai, WhatsApp Global Head Will Cathcart is going all out to woo Indians and to convince them that WhatsApp is safe for business to use as a payments platform.

Cathcart, on Wednesday, met traders in the crowded Crowford market to understand how Indian businesses are using WhatsApp for businesses. Cathcart also reached out to the start-up community in Mumbai through a 30- minute chat at a co-working space in the city where he spoke about how WhatsApp is serious about privacy and his eagerness to launch payments in India.

“As a product, WhatsApp is a digital equivalent of a face-to-face conversation with someone else, which is typically very private where no one else is there. WhatsApp does very well on focussing these types of experiences and we focus a lot on privacy and add things like encryption that give consumers confidence that yes, this is a private conversation and they can share whatever they want knowing that WhatsApp doesn’t know what you’re sharing,” Cathcart said at a fireside chat with start-ups at Innov8 coworking space in Mumbai.

Cathcart also met officials at the Reserve Bank of India and the National Payments Corporation of India to talk about the company’s planned payment service.

“What we are very excited about is payments. We are in beta right now in India, which is the first country we’ve been working to add. We are eager to launch that more broadly when we can. The reason is we are just hearing from businesses that they are doing so much of their business on WhatsApp,” he said.

Pact with ISPP

Cathcart also announced a partnership with Indian School of Public Policy (ISPP) to organise design workskhops for ISPP students, many of whom are public policy advocates for companies such asWhatsApp, Facebook and Uber.

The partnership will bring a series of day-long design workshops or ‘design jams’ as ISPP likes to put it starting with the first workshop on September 17. It will explore the importance and practice of privacy-centric design to help technology make an impact on the society.

“We believe our partnership with ISPP will help future policy makers understand that designing products with privacy as a core tenet helps deliver the fundamental right to privacy people should have in today’s digital world,” said Cathcart.

The workshops will be co-hosted by TTC Labs, founded by Facebook.

“We really do want to find what are the creative ways we can work with organisations, civil society and the government,” Cathcart said.

However, he reiterated that privacy and simplicity of use are the core principles that WhatsApp will consider before adding any new features to the app.

“We are interested in adding more features to WhatsApp. That’s why we’ve added WhatsApp Business and things like payment. I do think our principles around simplicity and privacy will push us to takea different approach in terms of what we add to the product. We really want to make sure we’re sticking to both the things [simplicity and privacy] because we think they’ve been so important to WhatsApp’s success,” he said.

Published on July 24, 2019
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