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UPDATE 1-Facebook to test relaunched Instagram Lite in India

(Updates to add WhatsApp exec comment)

NEW DELHI, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Facebook Inc said on Wednesday it is testing a new, less data-intensive version of its photo and video-sharing app Instagram in India, a key growth market for the U.S. social media giant.

The app, Instagram Lite, is less that 2MB in size, which will help it run smoothly on low-memory smartphones and broaden its user base, the Menlo Park, California-headquartered company said.

The company is relaunching the Lite app after closing down a previous version, which operated chiefly in emerging markets, earlier this year.

“With the test of Instagram Lite... we’re aiming to democratize expression and creativity for a greater number of people in India,” Instagram vice-president of product Vishal Shah said at Facebook’s first ‘Fuel for India’ event, where the company showcased its products and services.

“We’re also hoping to gain valuable insights before a global rollout of Instagram Lite.”

India is Facebook’s biggest market by users.

Speaking at the event, WhatsApp India head Abhijit Bose said the messaging app, which has 400 million users in the country, will look to sell health insurance via partners such as SBI General Insurance to users by the end of the year.

India’s flagship payments processor last month gave Facebook much-delayed approval to launch WhatsApp payments in India, but capped the rollout of the service at 20 million users.

The approval is a boost for Facebook which is looking to use payments as a way to widen its base in India, one of the world’s fastest-growing internet services markets.

“We want to help grow digital payments across all segments, especially for the underserved users in India,” Bose said.

WhatsApp Pay competes with Alibaba-backed Paytm, Google Pay and Walmart Inc’s PhonePe in India’s burgeoning fintech market. (Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Jan Harvey and Hugh Lawson)

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