The Twitter turmoil over Paytm CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma’s accusations that WhatsApp was misusing the UPI interface appears to have already had real-world consequences.
WhatsApp Vice President Neeraj Arora has resigned from Paytm’s board, ET reported. The development comes hours after Paytm CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma had tweeted an extraordinary attack on WhatsApp, accusing it of “killing beautiful open UPI system with its custom close garden implementation.” Arora had been a member of Paytm’s board of directors since June 2015.
Yesterday, Vijay Shekhar Sharma had criticized WhatsApp’s payments product, claiming that it did not adhere to UPI guidelines. He’d shared an article from a publication he part-owns, The Ken, which had said that WhatsApp didn’t adequately allow for interoperatibility on its payment solution — while WhatsApp iOS app didn’t have the option to send payments to people outside WhatsApp, the option was hard to find on its Android app. Sharma then said that WhatsApp was using the Embrace, Extend and Extinguish philosophy with UPI, first adhering to its norms, but then making it hard for people to send money outside the WhatsApp ecosystem, thus hurting other players.
Sharma didn’t stop there — he also compared WhatsApp’s UPI approach to the tactics Facebook, its parent company, had used while trying to launch Free Basics in India. “After failing to win war against India’s open internet with cheap tricks of free basics, Facebook is again in play,” he’d said, hinting that WhatsApp was playing dirty while trying to promote its payments product.
All this doesn’t appear to have gone down well with Arora, who’s stepped aside within hours of the tweets being sent. Arora would’ve anyway had to face an obvious conflict of interest had he continued to serve on Paytm’s board — WhatsApp now quite clearly competes with Paytm in India, and judging by Vijay Shekhar Sharma’s recent remarks, the relationship might already have turned fractious.
Neeraj Arora had been one of the stars at WhatsApp, joining the company in 2011 as its first business employee. He’d stayed with the company through its acquisition by Facebook in 2014, and still continues to serve as a Vice President and Global Head of Business. Arora had graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Delhi in 2000, and had finished an MBA from the Indian School of Business in 2005. Before joining WhatsApp, he’d worked with Google where he’d led acquisitions and strategic investments for the company. When he’d joined Paytm’s board in 2015, Vijay Shekhar Sharma had said that he was “one of the best-connected Silicon Valley Indians”, and Paytm could use his help in “in scaling Paytm to become India’s most dominant mobile Internet company.”