WhatsApp, the messenger service firm acquired by Facebook, is not enforcing its $1 a year fee in India. Normally, the service is free for a year and the US-based firm charges users a dollar a year after that.

Neeraj Arora, Vice-President of WhatsApp, said that it is not enforcing the fee here as there were several ecosystem issues such as low penetration of credit cards.

An alumnus of the Indian School of Business (ISB), Arora spent a day with the students of the school. In the evening, he had an informal chat with the students where he related his journey with start-ups, Google and then WhatsApp four years ago. Arora joined WhatsApp when it was a start-up with a small team and had only 40 million users. Today, it has 600 million users.

He played a key role in closing the $19-billion acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook earlier this year.

On cutting into the SMS business of telecom operators, he said the company has asked them to tie up with WhatsApp as they could sell more data with more and more people getting onto WhatsApp.

“They understood the point. We have tied up with five telcos in India,” he said.

WhatsApp does not have advertising tie-ups. “We believe in the subscription model and not in advertising as people do not like to have ads as they converse,” he explained.

Asked to comment on user preferences in countries such as Japan and China, Arora said the company didn’t believe in developing products tailored to a few countries.

“If it doesn’t apply to the majority of our users, we don’t do it. We believe in building a product that works for everyone,” he said.

India’s time He said the India story has come of age and start-ups can build products targeting the domestic market. Five years ago, it was a different story.

Arora said the reason start-ups sprout in Silicon Valley is because it has a very vibrant ecosystem. “You throw a stone there and it hits an entrepreneur. You need to have people to back (fund) your ideas because nine out of 10 ideas do not work. You need to have Stanford-like institutes, too,” he said.

“Indians have it in their DNA to build the next WhatsApp for the world,” he added.