MUMBAI (Reuters) – Facebook-owned WhatsApp said on Wednesday it had hired Abhijit Bose, the co-founder and chief executive of Indian mobile payments firm Ezetap, to be the head of its operations in India, its biggest market by users.
The Indian government has pressured the messaging service to build a local team and Bose’s appointment comes as WhatsApp tries to curb the spread of misinformation on its service in India where it has more than 200 million users.
Bose’s appointment is the first time WhatsApp has created a country head role anywhere in the world, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
The Indian government has previously told the U.S. company to take steps to prevent the circulation of false texts and provocative content that had led to a series of lynchings and mob beatings across India.
WhatsApp has since launched a media advertising blitz, done roadshows, and held workshops with community leaders and police officials to curb the spread of misinformation through its platform.
The appointment of Ezetap’s Bose highlights California-based WhatsApp’s ambitions in the payments space.
It has been testing a payments service in India and is awaiting a final nod from India’s central bank for a full launch of the service.
Credit Suisse estimates the value of transactions in India’s digital payments space will grow five-fold to $1 trillion by 2023.
“As a successful entrepreneur himself, Abhijit knows what it takes to build meaningful partnerships that can serve businesses across India,” WhatsApp Chief Operating Officer Matt Idema said in the statement.
Bose will begin his new role at WhatsApp in early 2019 and will report to Idema.
Bose’s appointment comes just two months after parent Facebook named streaming service Hotstar’s chief Ajit Mohan as its first India head.
The two appointments are crucial: India is the biggest market by users for both Facebook and WhatsApp and both firms are trying to get their social media strategies in place ahead of India’s general election next year.