Small and medium-sized businesses: Using digital bridge to reach world


Pranav Malhotra (31), an Amritsar-based entrepreneur runs Pashtush, a handcrafted shawls and stoles business. For decades Pashtush sold through a wholesale network, and saw strong sales only during the winter. But all of this changed when they started using Facebook and Instagram to reach customers directly. Today, Pashtush ships to 120 countries, enabling it to sustain a thriving business round the year. This also allowed it to grow three- to four-fold y-o-y during the pandemic.

Pashtush represents a new wave of small businesses from non-metro cities and small towns that are expanding globally using digital and social media, with many of them using the online medium to go direct-to-consumer (D2C). As per reports, the estimated size of the Indian D2C market could exceed $100 billion by 2025.

“The growth in this trend is already evident – more than half-a-million small businesses on Instagram in India are listing WhatsApp, phone, or email details on their profiles, or encouraging potential buyers to contact them directly,” says Archana Vohra, director, Small and Medium Business, India at Meta. “This shows how micro businesses are leveraging digital to reach consumers. Globally, more than 300 mn users have liked or are following 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. A Meta-commissioned online survey by GFK showed 96% of people saying they had discovered brands and products online. Meta also found more women entrepreneurs kickstarting their ventures, reveals Vohra. “In India, more than 60% of Instagram businesses which are women-owned have been set up since the start of the pandemic. So is the case with nearly 50% of women-led businesses on Facebook in India. And increasingly, many of them are emerging from small towns.”

Here’s an example. Shubhika Jain moved back to Raipur from Delhi after her graduation to join her family business. While managing her farmland, she grew curious about essential oils. In 2017, she launched Ras Luxury Oils, a farm-to-face luxury oil and personal care brand, with her mother. During the pandemic, Facebook and Instagram helped them go D2C and expand across geographies and overseas. Her business has grown almost 20x in two years. 

Helping SMBs to grow

As businesses move online, they need skills upgrade and working capital to continue growing, says Vohra. “Meta’s Advertiser Bootcamp Program in India provides advanced learning resources for SMBs so they can access vertical-based best practices. It has made free business skilling modules available in English, Hindi, Bengali, and Tamil to reach out to more than 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. As part of this programme, wholly or partly women-owned businesses can get a special 0.2% reduction in the interest rate from the lender.

Contributing 30% to India’s GDP, SMBs are the backbone of the country’s economy. “Digital is putting a diverse set of SMBs from small towns and rural India on the global map,” says Vohra. As more businesses go digital, they’ll not only transform local economies but also create opportunities to scale business models created in India across the world, she adds