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WhatsApp may hire outgoing Amazon exec Jagannathan for India payments biz

WhatsApp may hire outgoing Amazon exec Jagannathan for India payments biz
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Sriraman Jagannathan, who recently resigned from the post of Amazon India’s fin-tech vice-president, may lead WhatsApp Pay in India, Entrackr reported, citing people in the know.

WhatsApp has been in talks with Jagannathan to head its Unified Payments Interface (UPI)-based service, which is yet to be launched, the people said.

An email to WhatsApp and a LinkedIn message to Jagannathan did not get any response till the publication of this story.

A spokesperson for Amazon India confirmed that Jagannathan had quit. “Sriram Jagannathan has decided to move on from Amazon for personal/ family reasons... The financial services portfolio, currently being managed by Sriram, will now be managed by Mahendra Nerurkar,” the spokesperson said.

A former Citibank executive, Jagannathan joined Amazon India in February 2016 to head its payments business and was based out of Bengaluru. 

Before that, he had set up and launched Airtel Money as the head of Airtel’s mobile commerce venture.

An alumnus of IIT-Delhi and IIM-Ahmedabad, Jagannathan is a Citibank veteran who also served as chief digital and data officer at IDFC Bank.

The resignation of Jagannathan comes at a time when Amazon's India arm is integrating UPI into its mobile interface. 

UPI, a governmental payment system, allows money transfer between any two bank accounts through use of a smartphone, desktop or any other supporting device.

Amazon has been strengthening its payments arm.

In January, Amazon India launched doorstep services allowing customers to top up their Amazon Pay wallets by giving out hard cash to delivery agents arriving at their homes.

Last year, VCCircle had reported that Amazon India was preparing to inject fresh funds into its payments arm. Earlier, Amazon Pay had received two infusions, of $20 million and $10.67 million, from its US-based parent Amazon.com, Inc. and Singapore-based arm Amazon Corporate Holdings Pvt. Ltd.

Facebook-owned WhatsApp, on the other hand, has partnered with private sector lenders, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank, to launch its payment service.

But The Economic Times on Friday reported, citing people, that WhatsApp is looking at other countries to launch payment services, with the messaging app finding Google and others getting unfair advantage.

Also, on Tuesday, the government had told WhatsApp it must store data in India as a pre-condition to starting its digital payments service.

In June, the electronics and infotech ministry had sent a letter to the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) — the government body for retail payments — seeking details about how WhatsApp plans to store data for its payments feature. The letter was written just after WhatsApp's parent Facebook got embroiled in the Cambridge Analytica scam.

WhatsApp had triggered a controversy when it launched the beta version of the payments service in February. 

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder and chief executive of One97 Communications Ltd, which runs digital wallet Paytm, suggested that NPCI had bent the rules to suit WhatsApp.

“Facebook is openly colonising our payment system and is customising Unified Payments Interface (UPI) to its benefit,” Sharma had been quoted as saying by The Economic Times

In response, NPCI had said WhatsApp would have to abide by all guidelines before the final version of its payments feature rolls out. 

WhatsApp has a user base in India of more than 200 million. Its payments feature, when and if it rolls out, would offer direct competition to Paytm's wallet and Google's Tez service.

*This article has been updated to add a comment from an Amazon India spokesperson.

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