Just a few days into the new year, early indications are that 2019 could shape up to be a “more is more” kind of a year. Here are a few notable stories that have left us with that impression.
WhatsApp Looks To Bring Mobile Payments To 210 Million
Facebook’s WhatsApp seems to be working overtime to get its mobile payment services up and running nationwide in India.
Reports began to emerge nearly six months ago that WhatsApp was on the verge of a big mobile payments upgrade in the world’s most sought-after mobile payments greenfield, India, with a system set to run on the Indian government’s UPI payments system.
WhatsApp Pay began testing its service in that country earlier this year with reports of roughly one million users, processing roughly one million transactions per month, according to people close to the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).
But the system has not yet managed its long-touted national expansion — and the issue at hand seems to be data processing. Indian regulation requires all payments data be processed in-nation — instead of on Facebook’s servers. Despite ongoing meetings throughout 2018 between WhatsApp’s chief executive and India’s central bank governor, the two have not been able to come to an agreement.
“I think it’s safe to say it’s pretty important for us to launch payments in India,” said one person close to the company of the current stalemate of WhatsApp’s delayed entry into the market.
Analysts believe WhatsApp’s entrance could be a major disruptor in the up-and-coming market and a major problem for India-based Paytm.
“Based on my knowledge of the payments system in India over the last 10 years, WhatsApp Pay will be viral,” said Ram Rastogi, an architect of the UPI system in India, and former employee of the NPCI. “Indians want something they are used to, in a language they can read and write in. WhatsApp’s willingness to provide services in 13 major languages in India can play a vital role in taking digitization of payments even to villages.”
Rastogi added that “within six months of full launch, WhatsApp can easily reach 100m to 150m monthly transactions, which is a similar rate to what Google has seen here.”
Currently, there are more than one billion mobile phone users in India, and the digital payments market is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2023.
Warby Parker Sees Hackers
Warby Parker reported last week that it was hit by a cybersecurity attack between September and November of 2018 that affected about 198,000 of its customers.
The attackers managed to make off with user names and passwords. Some attempts were made to illegally access accounts. The hackers reportedly used info obtained from the unrelated hacking of other companies to gain access to the Warby Parker data. Warby Parker contacted law enforcement when it found out about the breach.
The company has also reported that, at least thus far, there is no indication that the attacks were successful in stealing any credit card information — though they have contacted users affected and advised them to change their passwords. The firm also advises customers not use the same password over many sites, as it seems the attackers, in this case, managed to turn that common user practice into illicit access to account information.
Warby Parker additionally reported it will continue investing in technology that will continue to protect customers’ privacy and security when using the site.
Whole Foods’ Expanding Footprint
It seems that Amazon will be building out Whole Foods’ physical footprint, with reports suggesting that more Whole Foods are coming to suburban markets. Whole Foods has been boosting its suburban numbers since Amazon purchased it. Prior to the acquisition, Whole Foods had slowed construction of new facilities and begun downsizing its workforce with layoffs.
One person familiar with the plans told The Wall Street Journal that in the Rocky Mountain region Whole Foods employees have visited retail spaces in Idaho, the southern part of Utah and Wyoming — areas where Whole Foods doesn’t have a presence currently.
“Strategic investments to improve Whole Foods will only increase the already intense competitiveness in the grocery space,” Bob Goldin, co-founder of consulting group Pentallect, told The Wall Street Journal in the report.
Among the reasons for the proposed expansion is a desire to push its Prime Now delivery services and online grocery pickup services through Whole Foods to as wide a base of consumers as possible. It is already gearing up to expand the services to close to all of its 475 Whole Foods stores around the country, another person familiar with the plans told The Wall Street Journal.
So what did we learned this week?
In a world where the two primary choices are between going big and going home, it seems not a lot of players are thinking about going home any time soon.
Have a good week!
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