Over the last year, India has seen a mushrooming of chat apps that aimed to connect consumers directly with businesses. Services like LookUp, Haptik and Helpchat all had business models that involved setting up and easy, phone-based communication channel between users and local businesses, and had met with varying levels of success. But the industry is now likely to be upturned. Whatsapp, the global chat behemoth with 70 million Indian users, is looking to enter the space in a big way.
Until recently, Whatsapp had been reticent about letting businesses on its platform, fearing spam and misuse. But it seems to have a different stance now. “Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from. That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight. We all get these messages elsewhere today – through text messages and phone calls – so we want to test new tools to make this easier to do on WhatsApp, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam.”, the company said in a statement.
Indian chat companies have all raised large amounts of funding. Lookup has raised $5.82 million from a clutch of investors that includes Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. Helpchat has completed its Series B and raised $21 million. Haptik has raised $1 million. The sector has had its shares of troubles though – Helpchat recently had let go of 150 employees.
While none of these players can hope to compete with Whatsapp’s sheer reach, it would be interesting to watch how this sector play out in the coming months.