Pranav Malhotra (31), an Amritsar-based entrepreneur, runs Pashtush, a handcrafted shawl and stole business. For decades, Pashtush sold through a wholesale network and saw strong sales only during the winter. But that all changed when they started using Facebook and Instagram to reach customers directly. Today, Pashtush ships to 120 countries, allowing it to maintain a thriving business throughout the year. It also allowed it to grow three to four times a year during the pandemic.
Pashtush represents a new wave of non-metro and small town small businesses that are growing globally using digital and social media, many of them using online media to go direct to consumer (D2C) . According to reports, the estimated size of the Indian D2C market could surpass $100 billion by 2025.
“The growth of this trend is already evident – more than half a million small businesses on Instagram in India list WhatsApp, phone or email details on their profiles, or encourage potential buyers to contact directly,” says Archana Vohra, Director, Small & Medium Enterprises, India at Meta. “It shows how micro businesses are leveraging digital to reach consumers. Overall, over 300 million users have liked or followed an active small business page on Facebook in India,” she adds.
People discover products online
Facebook and Instagram also help people discover products they might be interested in. An online survey commissioned by Meta by GFK showed that 96% of people said they discovered brands and products online. Meta has also found more female entrepreneurs launching their businesses, Vohra reveals. “In India, more than 60% of female-owned Instagram businesses have been established since the start of the pandemic. This is the case for nearly 50% of women-led businesses on Facebook in India. And increasingly, many of them are emerging from small towns.
Here is an example. Shubhika Jain returned to Raipur from Delhi after graduation to join her family business. While managing her farmland, she became interested in essential oils. In 2017, she launched Ras Luxury Oils, a farm-to-face luxury oils and personal care brand, with her mother. During the pandemic, Facebook and Instagram helped them transition to D2C and grow across geographies and overseas. His business has grown almost 20 times in two years.
Helping SMEs grow
As businesses move online, they need skills upgrading and working capital to keep growing, Vohra says. “Meta’s Advertiser Bootcamp program in India provides advanced learning resources to SMBs so they can access vertical best practices. It has made available free business skills modules in English, Hindi, Bengali and Tamil to reach over 16 million small businesses across India.
A few months ago, Meta launched the Small Business Loans Initiative to enable business loans through third-party lenders. Under this program, businesses wholly or partially owned by women can obtain a special reduction of 0.2% of the interest rate from the lender.
Contributing 30% to India’s GDP, SMEs are the backbone of the country’s economy. “Digital puts a diverse set of SMEs from small towns and rural India on the global map,” says Vohra. As more and more businesses go digital, they will not only transform local economies but also create opportunities for scaling Indian-made business models across the world, she adds.