WhatsApp Business gives a new lease of life to solopreneurs across India and Bharat

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WhatsApp Business gives a new lease of life to solopreneurs across India and Bharat
WhatsApp Business gives a new lease of life to solopreneurs across India
  • WhatsApp Business has now become a survival tool for solopreneurs who cannot afford to employ staff to take care of customers.
  • Features in WhatsApp Business allow solopreneurs to grow customer networks by spending as little as ₹1,000 to market their goods and services on Meta’s other social platforms.
  • Features like “away” and “auto reply” help solopreneurs handle a larger number of customers with ease.
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Ghosting is rude, but not replying to a customer on time can cost your business a lot of money. Shikha Yadav, a beautician in Lucknow, learned this the hard way when she could not take her regular customer’s call. For solopreneurs – who don’t have full blown customer service teams – WhatsApp Business has come as a lifesaver as it enables them to answer queries when they are busy. In fact, WA Business is now a shortcode for success when it comes to small and even medium businesses as this app has solved many problems of such entities and given them affordable tools to expand their reach and fetched new customers for their offerings.
Automation and bots are not just for the big businesses. Yadav used to service her customers in Lucknow by visiting their homes but started losing her regular customers as she could not take their calls while she was attending to others. Soon one of her customers, in frustration, advised her to download the WhatsApp Business app to prevent customer attrition with the “auto reply” and “away” features. Explains Yadav, “The ‘away message’ feature has made my life simpler. My clients now receive a timely response from me, which has helped me maintain my relationships with them.”

WhatsApp Business gives a new lease of life to solopreneurs across India and Bharat
Shikha Yadav, a beautician in Lucknow is using WhatsApp Business for her salon serviceBI India

The pandemic hurt small and large businesses alike, but for solopreneurs like Yadav, life came to a standstill and connecting with her existing and new customer base was a huge challenge. Many solopreneurs – mainly standalone service providers like beauticians, tuition teachers, tailors, handicraft manufacturers and even small farmers – who lost their existing customer base due to the disruptions and lockdowns during the pandemic, have now started using technology tools to rebuild their customer networks by showcasing their products and services through WhatsApp.

Social commerce is the new kid in town
Over the last few years, even grandparents have taken to social platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. Now, these social platforms are being leveraged by housewives and solopreneurs to create an income from their social networks by selling them unique products and services. The seamless interface between the three social platforms is also helping these small businesses market their products and services.

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Explains beautician Yadav, “I am not very well educated, but I can still use WhatsApp Business App easily.”

Just as chatting with friends and family on WhatsApp is easy, conducting business on it is easier. The social platform has become a tool that many housewives use to resell products they buy from other e-commerce platforms in smaller towns and villages. The seamless access to Facebook and Instagram, where they can boost their posts to help more customers discover their products and services, has also helped solopreneurs immensely.

Says Yadav, “For a small amount, I can boost my post and promote my services on Facebook and Instagram. In fact, I am now able to showcase my services through my own videos and that has really helped me get more clients.”

Technology tools are spawning new businesses

In many cases, the WhatsApp Business app has actually spawned new businesses that did not even exist prior to the pandemic.

Rajeev Khera’s Chakki Peesing is a company that grinds and delivers freshly ground pulses, grains and wheat to consumers in Gurugram. Khera’s family comes from Madhya Pradesh and it was during the pandemic, while providing grains to migrant workers camping in his society, an idea to start his own business was born.
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The best variety of wheat called Sharbati comes from Madhya Pradesh and Khera wanted to bring the flour made from that wheat to his customers across Delhi NCR. In 2020, Khera decided to start a hyperlocal business of supplying freshly-ground flour to customers in Gurugram. Chakki Peesing started with one chakki – Khera insists it is not a flour mill but a traditional way of grinding flour at low intensity to preserve its goodness.

Khera started with 100 customers and now serves 5,000 spread across Delhi NCR. He explains: “Our fundamental proposition is against packaged atta (flour) as preservatives are added to it to increase shelf life. Our promise is to serve freshly-ground flour from the best wheat. When we started in 2020, the challenge was to reach our clientele, who are mostly women as they buy groceries. Having WhatsApp Business helped us connect with our customers.”

The pitch to eat healthy is influencing choices of consumers across categories and Khera has found a sweet spot with his offering. His offering now includes flour of different kinds and even mixes. He offers consultation and customised atta mixes to his clients with different needs.

WhatsApp Business gives a new lease of life to solopreneurs across India and Bharat
Rajiv Khera uses WhatsApp Business app to manage customers in different locationsBI India

How does WhatsApp Business app work?

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The WhatsApp Business app allows entrepreneurs to showcase their offerings through a catalogue and the cart feature enables consumers to choose multiple products and send the order as a single message. Explains Khera, “The messages come to us in the form of a cart. We also used the quick-reply feature to answer frequently-asked questions on the products.” This has helped many solopreneurs like Khera save time and manpower in the form of automated replies.

WhatsApp Business also allows multiple groups to be managed by the same entrepreneur – Khera uses it to manage customers in different locations of NCR. Now Chakki Peesing is looking to go national with its offerings by tying up with smaller entrepreneurs across India.

Making it easy for customers to connect

WhatsApp Business enables users to greet new customers automatically with a customary welcome message, which can be automated. It also allows users to use shortcuts to respond to common questions fast and reply instantly to customers, even when they are not available. The app also helps users to stay organised by keeping business and personal conversations separate.

Marketing their businesses is also easy – the app has simple tools that allow them to promote their posts on Instagram and Facebook. A tuition teacher or a saree seller in Indore can now reach a much wider audience through the WhatApp Business app.

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When the entire world was shut down due to the pandemic, Jeevan Handicrafts in Rajasthan found no takers for its handicrafts that it used to sell to tourists.

Explains Deepak Badaria, who runs the small handicrafts business in Rajasthan: “We were also exploring new things during the pandemic and after the lockdown I heard of the WhatsApp Business App. I quickly organised my products into a catalogue and started sharing it with friends and other groups. Before launching his business on WhatsApp, my company Jeevan Handicrafts used to handle only 2-3 customers per day but today, with this feature, we are able to manage 150-200 customers per day.”

Jeevan Handicrafts has customers even from the UK and the US as he promotes his wares on Facebook and Instagram using his laptop. Most of his customers are wholesalers and they directly get his WhatsApp Business number from Facebook and contact him.

WhatsApp Business gives a new lease of life to solopreneurs across India and Bharat
Jeevan Handicrafts has customers from the UK and the US as he promotes his business using Whatsapp BusinessBI India

Transparency and better pricing

The search for better prices took the founder of Mechanic Guru, Gaurav, to WhatsApp Business after he started his business that sought to connect car owners with garages that could repair and serve all kinds of cars. He tied up with garages across Gurugram to provide car owners the ease of booking slots to repair their cars. However, building a customer network was not easy – even after he hired a team to market his business on digital platforms.
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He switched to the app and brought his existing customers on the app to provide them with live updates. The purpose was to provide transparency in pricing. Says Gaurav, “I spend ₹1,000 a week on promotions and it fetches me 25 queries.” He manages to gain customer leads from social platforms and services them on WhatsApp by sharing his catalogue. Car owners can also book their slots for car services using a QR Code or by simply sending a message on the Mechanic Guru’s WhatsApp business account number.

WhatsApp Business gives a new lease of life to solopreneurs across India and Bharat
The founder of Mechanic Guru, Gaurav, used WhatsApp Business to tie up with garages across GurugramBI India

WhatsApp Business has given a new lease of life to many solopreneurs who had lost their markets and customer bases after the lockdowns began in 2020. Not only have small businesses got a new lease of life, but the suite of services that WhatsApp Business offers is also spawning new ideas like Chakki Peesing. For those who want to spread their wings and go national or even global, WhatsApp Business offers an architecture that allows APIs to plug in and use the existing platform to service customers at a much larger scale.

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