WhatsApp Business is finally available in India, but it’s come with a feature that could heavily restrict its usage.
WhatsApp Business requires users to sign in with a dedicated phone number if they want to use its services. “This phone number is currently registered with WhatsApp Messenger and can’t be used with WhatsApp Business at the same time,” says the app if you’re trying to install it on a phone that already uses WhatsApp.
This could be a problem for a lot of Indian users — WhatsApp is the most popular app in the country, and virtually every Indian seems to have a WhatApp account. People who wish to use WhatsApp Business will need to either purchase a separate SIM, or convert one of their existing SIM cards in order to be able to use the app. If they’re using a single-SIM phone, they’d need to keep a separate phone only for WhatsApp Business.
All this seems rather inconvenient, particularly given the market that WhatsApp Business will cater to. WhatsApp Business claims it was “built with the small business owner in mind,” but it’s hard to imagine why your neighbourhood kiranawala or home baker will dedicate a SIM card only to be able to use WhatsApp Business. Many of these small businesses already handle business queries through WhatsApp Messenger — switching to WhatsApp business will require them to purchase a new SIM card, and then ask all their existing customers to update to their new phone number.
And WhatsApp Business currently might not offer enough features to incentivize enough small business owners to make the switch. WhatsApp Business gives businesses a profile, the option to sort messages, and send automated replies. While these features are useful, many small business might not have enough business conversations on WhatsApp need these features — for most small businesses can do just fine with a limited number of queries through WhatsApp.
Where WhatsApp Business could shine is for larger businesses. A select group of Indian companies has already been using the service, and they’ve found some interesting use-cases — Ixigo lets customers pick their seats through WhatsApp, and BookMyshow sends ticket confirmations through its business profile. Large businesses will be glad to find a service that used by almost every Indian, and help them cut back on SMS charges. But for small businesses, it’s unlikely WhatsApp Business will make a dent in its current avatar.