The WhatsApp Economy

Recently, I was reading a post on WhatsApp its current phenomenal growth sans a revenue model. There was also some banter about why Facebook paid $16 billion to acquire it and then the rags to riches of how its founder Koum lived off food stamps. Coincidentally, soon after that I heard & witnessed stories of how people are using WhatsApp all indicative of a swirling economy that is probably a simple cash pile for Facebook. Of course there is still a need to carry out small experiments that can subtly integrate services for its loyal user base.

WhatsApp for education

Recently, a colleague of mine shared a video with me. The story goes like this. Like every parent she wanted to keep her child away from texting during exams and focus on studying. However, when she found out what was happening, it opened us for an interesting dialog.

Basically, one kid had difficulty grasping a concept, “whatsapped” a friend and the other friend created a full fledged video explaining the concepts and “whatsapped” back. The fact that the video had a visual aid (a skull in this case), included explanation in very practical terms, and a very simple and casual language wrapped up an amazing story.

Now – a “whatsthis” service is probably a few geniuses, artificial intelligence, and one hackathon away for Facebook.

WhatsApp for lifestyle services

Recently, as I was on a call with my family in India and mom was nagging my cousin brother to get off the phone and buy groceries. He simply “Whatsapped” the order to the closest mom and pop store and even before we could hang up the store delivered it home. Amazed at this, I probed more and he went onto say that the practice is prevalent beyond grocery stories. Hawkers and the cart food vendors (e.g. the famous golgappas) also take orders via WhatsApp and now he can even request an auto rickshaw via the same.

Now – a “whatiwant” service is probably a few partners and one hackathon away for Facebook.

WhatsApp for commerce

Now my imagination runs in all direction. What if MPesa is enabled via WhatsApp, what if payments like bitcoins started accepted WhatsApp text, what if the “whatiwant” service is now layered with multiple services like booking services, hotel reservations, airline texting, coupons, advertisements, discounts, and much more. A whole new commerce can revolve around this.

Now – a “whatif” service is a few experiments away.

Whatsup WhatsApp

At this point, the current focus of continuing to build a loyal user base and expanding seems to be the right play. They even launched the WhatsApp for Web.

However, I wonder what is currently going through Mark, Koum, and others who are strategizing the “focus” for WhatsApp. They have whole world of communication in front of them – like enabling phone capabilities, enabling Skype like features, adding in the moment translation services, and a lot more. Then there is a swirling economy that is waiting to be capitalized. Then there is the strength of Facebook. It is simply exciting to even think about the opportunities. This one might simply end up being a game changing tie up in the future.

What do you think about the possibilities of what WhatsApp can be and what it should be?

Image: Credited to Abdul Hussain. Sourced from his Flickr Profile. Click here for the actual image.

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