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New Delhi: The Centre is exploring a collaboration between India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) and messaging giant WhatsApp for a range of banking and allied services, people in the know told ET. A tie up with India Post will also be explored in the future, as the government looks to spruce up the world’s largest postal distribution system with a slew of new-age offerings.

An initial tie up between the payment banking arm IPPB — launched in September 2018 — and the Meta-owned platform will offer customers services such as checking account balance and option to request the opening of a new bank account on the messaging platform, the sources said.

The IPPB is a public limited company wholly owned by the central government and set up as a payments bank under the Department of Posts.

“A pilot project will be run over the next 60 days with services of IPPB such as balance enquiry, request for a new account, changing pin and passwords being tested out,” people cited above said.

A limited number of customers will also be allowed to request cash withdrawal and deposit, Aadhaar-to-Aadhaar transfer, update permanent account number (PAN) and Aadhaar number and manage account beneficiaries, the sources added.

Also, in future a possible tieup with India Post for other services such as booking courier packages, opening of salary, savings and current accounts as well as disbursal of salaries at the doorstep following requests made through WhatsApp, will also be explored, according to people aware of the thinking on the matter.

WhatsApp did not respond to ET’s queries on whether the government has approached them for the pilot project.

A senior government official pointing to the challenges in providing such services in rural areas said that an important aspect was to ensure “there is no fraudulent withdrawal by anyone other than the rightful beneficiary of the account”.

At present, banking customers of India Post, as well as of IPPB, access the internet and mobile banking facilities through the website and the mobile app.

“The addition of WhatsApp will provide another avenue, which is easier for everyone to use,” the official said.

At the start of 2022, IPPB said it had crossed the 50 million customer mark, making it among the largest payment banking ventures alongside the likes of Paytm and Airtel Payments Bank.

Technology Integration
At present, enterprises use WhatsApp’s business platform and an application programming interface (API) to launch their services on the instant messaging app, with the API being customisable to specific requirements. Earlier in May, WhatsApp launched its cloud API, which enables businesses to customise the solutions they want to offer their clients.

If the pilot programme between IPPB and the messaging platform is deemed successful and the integration of the WhatsApp API is completed, the postal bank will be able to fulfil requests for cash withdrawal and deposit as well.

This will be fulfilled by banking correspondents of IPPB, in person, who will visit the customer at her doorstep on receiving the request, said the official cited above.

Since its launch, IPPB has focussed on providing banking and other financial services such as life and group insurance, and payment for other third-party services like public provident fund (PPF). It leverages the extensive reach of its 1.55 lakh post office branches to provide services with help of a postman or Gramin Dak Sevak (GDS).

Officials aware of the thinking around the proposed tieup said that eventually, the plan is to add services such as insurance and PPF payments and even loan against recurring deposits on WhatsApp, based on the response during the pilot.

WhatsApp business platform API has also been integrated with other government services such as booking vaccination slots, downloading inoculation certificate, driver’s licence, PAN and Aadhaar card, among others.

ET had in March first reported that the government chatbot, which was launched last year to book vaccination slots, would become a one-stop destination to access a slew of official government documents.


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