Here's what WhatsApp India head will take on as it sets out to establish its first full country team

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  • WhatsApp has appointed Abhijit Bose as the country head for India.

  • His experience as the co-founder of Ezetap, a local digital payments application, should help work WhatsApp with the launch of its own payments platform.

  • The Facebook-owned messaging platform has also been facing issues of data localisation and widespread fake news that need to be addressed.
The constant pressure from the Indian government over the circulation of misinformation and fake news on Whatsapp seems to have yielded results with the Facebook-owned messaging app appointing Abhijit Bose as the country head for India.

This will be the first WhatsApp team to establish their base outside the US. According to the company’s press statement, “Bose and his team will focus on helping businesses, both large and small, connect with their customers.”

Lobbying for improvement

The appointment of a country head for India comes at a time when WhatsApp is planning a full roll out of their payment platform after its beta version disrupted the sector for local players like PayTM.

As Bose’s previous role was co-founder of Ezetap, a digital payments solution for rural households where smartphones could be turned in to point-of-sale (PoS) devices, his experience should contribute significantly towards pushing Whatsapp own platform forward.

Unfortunately, WhatsApp has faced hurdles with respect to regulatory and bureaucratic red-tape in lieu of Facebook’s problems with privacy and security. Competing players like Google and Truecaller have already launched their digital wallets without any significant issues.

In addition to that, India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), hasn’t been too pleased with the efforts made by the messaging application to adhere to India’s new data localisation norms. According to them, WhatsApp was only mirroring the data from payments in India rather than keeping the data exclusively within India’s geographical boundaries.

Since then, the company has set up the infrastructure for storing data locally and is now compliant with Indian data regulations. As Bose will be based in the country, he will be able to function has the conduit between WhatsApp’s requirements and India’s governments needs to reach amicable solutions that work for both parties.

Even his experience at Intuit’s small and medium (SME) division will likely be useful for the messaging application with their plans of rolling out a business focused platform. WhatsApp Business is already available in PlayStore and the company has plans to launch something for merchants as well.

The issue of fake news

Over the past year, the incidents of lynching propagated by fake news in India have led to widespread conversation about being able to track messages back to their original sender.

WhatsApp has maintained that such a measure is impossible to implement because it would violate user privacy in lieu of their end-to-end encryption. More recent reports of fake news being tailored to favour certain political parties ahead of 2019 general elections is especially troubling. Out of the 1.5 billion monthly active WhatsApp users, 200 million users are from India.

While the company has tried to push for awareness through full-page ads in the newspaper and public service announcements over the radio, the effectiveness of their impetus on digital literacy hasn’t brought about any dramatic changes.

Earlier this year, WhatsApp appointed Komal Lahiri as the grievance officer for India but the government contested that it wasn’t good enough since she was based out of the US. Bose, on the other hand, will be based out of India and available for direct interaction when legal or monetary issues arise.

See also:
Indian government wants to tap into your WhatsApp messages, other social media

WhatsApp 'horrified' by mob lynches in India, will address 'specific issues'

What India needs from WhatsApp might not be so easily attainable

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