Meta held the second edition of its annual global 'Conversations' conference in Mumbai on 20 September, which outlined the company’s plans for leading the shift in 'conversational commerce' and also delved into the next chapter of evolution in business messaging on WhatsApp.
Addressing the gathering virtually, Mark Zuckerberg, founder, chairperson and CEO of Meta discussed why messaging is such a big opportunity for businesses big and small.
Referring to India as ‘a country that's at the forefront across different aspects, he said, “India is leading the world in terms of how people and businesses have embraced messaging as the better way to get things done.”
“We have continued to innovate with our messaging formats, our group chats and broadcast channels. And it's the same focus that we're bringing to how we support businesses, creating simple-to-use and easy-to-scale tools so they can connect with their customers in meaningful ways.”
The Meta CEO also announced a slew of new features for WhatsApp that he termed as ‘game-changing for businesses and really useful for people’.
The first feature, called ‘Whatsapp Flows’, gives businesses the ability to create customised experiences within chat threads, without having to leave the thread. For customers, this adds the convenience of not having to jump between apps or websites.
Meta also discussed its digital payment facilities feature such as UPI within the app to make it easier to do business within a WhatsApp chat. “As you know, we’ve launched our payment solution in Brazil and Singapore, and today I am excited to announce that we are bringing this service to India,” said Zuckerberg in his address.
“With payments in India, we’re going to support other payment methods as well, including all the UPI apps. This is going to make it even easier for people to pay Indian businesses within a WhatsApp chat using whatever method they prefer,” he said.
Zuckerberg also announced that the tech company will be bringing ‘Meta Verified’ to businesses using WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook so the users can know that the businesses they are messaging with, are validated and authentic. Businesses that subscribe will get a verified badge, and other additional features such as impersonation protection to help people find them more easily. The ‘Meta Verified’ feature will be rolled out in the coming months, he added.
Sandhya Devanathan, vice president and head, Meta India, also shared her thoughts on ‘conversations being the future of businesses’ as the world increasingly enters a new era in customer experience powered by messaging.
Meta may be headquartered in Menlo Park in the US, but its products such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook or more recently Threads are ‘truly global’, she remarked. “We are part of a truly global movement–one with ‘connections’ at the core of it all. Today, we connect half the world, to be specific- over 3.8 billion monthly active users across our family of apps, and these are highly engaged people around the world.”
Adding that for Meta, India is ‘special’ in more ways than one, she noted that nearly 80% of Indians today use messaging to communicate with businesses. On how this behaviour is accelerating globally, with India at the forefront, Devanathan shared her own experience of shopping over Instagram and WhatsApp.
She also added that she’s amazed at how universal WhatsApp has become in the last decade and how it has found its way into the Indian lexicon.
“From being the favourite app for personal connections and for keeping in touch with each other, it is now a thriving platform even for business interactions. Indians are using WhatsApp to debut businesses, to discover and interact with businesses.”
“People increasingly seek connections with businesses that are conversational, that are instant and that are in real-time,” she said, adding that it’s no surprise that WhatsApp is at the heart of this massive transformation that we are all witnessing.
Last year with the launch of the WhatsApp Cloud API, the company opened the door for businesses of all sizes to harness the power of WhatsApp, Devanathan said. “We now have 200 million WhatsApp Business app users every month across the globe that rely on WhatsApp to grow and to thrive, and a large number of those businesses are from right here in India.”
The ubiquity and the ease of WhatsApp places it at the centre of India’s transformation fueling compelling ideas and new models of growth, she said.
Talking about what’s ‘unique’ about these conversations, Devanathan cited the example of Bharat Gas where close to 1,50,000 cooking gas cylinder booking orders are done daily, of which 94% take place via the app with almost half the orders in a language other than English.
Meta has committed to upskilling and digitally training 10 million traders in 29 states across the length and breadth of the country, and in 11 Indian languages across a period of three years.
The potential of this opportunity will continue to skyrocket as the platform looks to welcome an estimated 400 mn Indians to the world of online shopping by 2025, according to industry reports she stated, adding that they are seeing the beginnings of this through their partnership with Jiomart.
Devanathan concluded by saying that this will empower Indian businesses to transcend barriers of reach and scale, enabling them to recalibrate new possibilities, and script deeper, more meaningful relationships with their customers.