It’s crunch-time on the home screens of handsets across several major markets as messaging app providers muscle in on finance, and wallet brands launch chat services. With several companies looking to occupy the same space, who can win out?

Although moves are being made around the world, the situation is truly coming to a head in India as a four-way tussle for leadership of the combined messaging and payment space is getting increasingly heated.

International messaging giant WhatsApp is apparently eager to launch its payments feature in the country but is currently besieged by other controversies and reports in Business Standard said it is likely to be delayed even further.

Indications of WhatApp’s impending payments launch was released long before the feature was ready, arguably handing the initiative to rivals. Hike – which is primarily a messaging app – added payments in 2017 and Google provides both services in its Tez platform.

In an apparent response to messaging companies moving in on its territory, payment app Paytm added its own chat feature in November 2017.

Only time will tell if Paytm’s defensive move against the impending WhatsApp threat is justified, however there is strong international precedent of the consolidation of payment and messaging ecosystems.

One of China’s most popular money transfer and mobile payment systems, WeChat Pay operates as part of Tencent’s WeChat stable. Under the brand it provides one of the world’s largest social and messaging apps.

So-called social payments have also been widely available in the US for some time. Snapchat’s cash feature launched way back in 2014 and has been followed by Facebook through Messenger, Google and several other internet giants.

Payment companies haven’t exactly been quiet on this either. Venmo, now part of PayPal, offers cash transfer with an element of social on the side.

Advantage payments
If this type of convergence continues to sweep the globe it is arguably payment companies which are in the best position for sideways expansion.

Obtaining a licence for financial services is tough in many markets and one of the reasons India has become such a battleground is the availability of government-defined protocols for cash transfers easing entry requirements. Launching a messaging service requires much less red tape, though as a result there are also likely a greater number of rivals.

Perhaps one of the most interesting developments was news in April Kenya-based Safaricom – internationally recognised as one of the pioneers of mobile money services for the unbanked – was working on a social media and messaging service.

Given the company’s dominance in both the mobile and payments sector it has potential to be a serious challenger and to add another string to its dominance of communications in Kenya. With Safaricom now part of Vodacom, it will be fascinating to see if its social app with m-Pesa integration is then exported to other markets. If it is, the company could be a serious player.

Convenience is the name of the game and if one company can create the brand, user interface and security required, there’s no reason one company can’t dominate both the finance and messaging sectors, especially where there are high unbanked populations.

However, the jury remains out if it will be the payment players or messaging masters who win out.

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.