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WhatsApp for Business will definitely kill whatever’s left of SMS

With businesses and organisations moving to WhatsApp, the end of the good old text message as we know it today, is inevitable.

There was a time not too long ago when WhatsApp was just your next door instant messaging service and had nothing to do with businesses. All you could do was send simple text and eventually, multimedia to your contacts. Fast forward to 2017, a Facebook acquisition later, currently WhatsApp is planning to release a WhatsApp for Businesses. And with that, you might as well bid goodbye to text messaging from your smartphones.

WhatsApp for Business

WhatsApp for Business is officially intended for companies intending to use the platform for communicating information with their customers. According to WhatsApp, the service will be free for small to medium businesses and they’ll only charge big organisations like airlines or ticket booking services for using the platform. This could mean that multiple executives would be able to use the same account for communication, along with the possibility of a chatbot powered experience.

With these numbers, WhatsApp for Business could prove to be bigger than what Facebook initially bet on
With these numbers, WhatsApp for Business could prove to be bigger than what Facebook initially bet on

About a week ago, WhatsApp started testing verified business accounts on the app. As of now, BookMyShow seems to be onboard. According to WhatsApp, conversations with a business account will be encrypted and cannot be deleted. And unless you have their numbers saved by another name, the contact would show up as whatever the company has registered themselves as. This could lead to possibilities of companies messaging users with promos (although it has been confirmed that business will have to be contacted by the user first), or paying for getting their business listed higher on some kind of a business search engine.

R.I.P SMS?

WhatsApp is currently ubiquitous in India. Our country now consists of one-fifth of the entire user base on the platform. And with businesses moving to WhatsApp we could see the death of one particular part of your current smartphone experience – the SMS/Text message. While some people might still be communicating via SMS messages, they are mostly used for sending OTPs, Promos, Booking confirmations, more promos etc. in today’s day and age. If all of this information can be communicated via WhatsApp, possibly with a lower expenditure at scale, SMS could lose the last bit of relevance that it has as of now.

A typical SMS inbox today comprises almost entirely of business messages

For instance, a provider like textlocal can provide messages for as low as 9 paise per message for volumes larger than 250k. Going for a number like 500k, this leads to an expense of Rs.45,000. On the other hand, Airtel recently announced 4GB internet for 7 days for Rs.5/-. Going by the assumption that enterprise internet will be cheaper than this, and that a WhatsApp message can be as light as 2-20kB, the cost per message for WhatsApp comes down to 1p per 500 messages. Although these calculations are based on a mixture of assumptions and specific data from an individual phone and do not include any secondary costs, the actual numbers couldn’t be far off.

The data that we based our calculation on

We’re not saying that text messaging will become entirely obsolete… (just yet). They will still be relevant in situations with poor mobile connectivity. For instance, suppose a farmer in a remote village gets information about government schemes (like the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana) and updates about seed availability at a state certified seed provider via SMS. He or she will probably continue to do so until connectivity is resolved. With smartphone prices as well as data rates going down every day, affordability will soon no longer be an issue for smartphones. If the connectivity aspect is resolved, even this section of SMS users could eventually end-up getting their information from WhatsApp. That brings us to the most critical SMS type of them all – OTP.

The last straw

One-time passwords are generated to authorise (mostly online) transactions – which makes it one of the most critical types of messages that we receive on our phone. But most situations that require an OTP also mostly involve a wired/fixed internet connection as well. In such a situation, opting for an email based confirmation could do that job. And just in case it is absolutely required, just the manual option to go for a text message based confirmation could solve the issue. Nonetheless, this could make the SMS a lot less significant than it is today.

Overall, it is no secret that SMS use has been declining. But thanks to WhatsApp for Business, it might soon become irrelevant. If the day comes when the SMS is entirely obsolete and is dropped from smartphones as a feature, how would you feel? Let us know in the comments below.

Arnab Mukherjee

Arnab Mukherjee

A former tech-support desk jockey, you can find this individual delving deep into all things tech, fiction and food. Calling his sense of humour merely terrible would be a much better joke than what he usually makes.