Instant messaging app WhatsApp is looking to build on its popularity in Brazil to grow its footprint within the enterprise space.
Brazilian bank Itaú, the 10th largest bank in the world by market value, is the most significant local organization to adopt the Business version of the app, currently being tested with a limited pool of users.
The bank plans to start a trial with premium customers for communication between account holders and branch managers. Notifications and alerts about the account are also possibilities within the pilot, which will be expanded across the entire client base gradually.
Some 50 Itaú staff are involved in the project, from the IT department as well as various business functions including digital customer service, user experience, design and marketing.
According to WhatsApp, a free version of the Business tool will be available to small and medium-sized enterprises, while a paid version will be available to large organizations, with additional message management and customer service functionality.
The company does not disclose the exact number of WhatsApp users in Brazil, but it has said that the country is one of its key markets. Recently, one of its co-founders came to São Paulo to take part in a series of public hearings about integrity of privacy in communications.
Bans have affected WhatsApp four times in Brazil so far as a result of the company's non-compliance with Court orders to provide communication exchanges involving crime suspects - something that WhatsApp claims to be unable to do since all messages are encrypted.
About 1,3 billion people worldwide use WhatsApp to exchange instant voice and text messages as well as videos and photos. Revenue generation is important for the company: in 2014, Facebook acquired it for for $22 billion, but is yet to see the return on the investment.