I started using WhatsApp very late. To be precise, almost 1 year after everyone I know was already an active user- from friends to family to professional connections. There came a point when if anyone called me they would not bother to ask how I was.. Their
question to me was "Why are you not on WhatsApp?". That pressure was enough to compel me to install WhatsApp. As I used WhatsApp I realized the power and value in it. So it is one of the most frequently used mobile apps on my phone today. And many times, it
is almost used as a verb instead of a pronoun.
So it was interesting when I had the below discussion:
Me: So what do you do?
She : I am an entrepreneur
Me: Great. So what business do you run?
She: A WhatsApp business
That's a narrative from conversations I've had with a lot of people in the recent past. Most of them were women (and some were mothers) based in India. Initially, I was surprised as I didn't quite understand what a WhatsApp business was. So I probed a little
In simple words, it is a B2C business model in which the business owner uses the power of WhatsApp to run their business. From Customer Acquisition powered by WhatsApp groups, to product display, order confirmation, spot discounts, delivery status through
WhatsApp messages - The entire business is run on WhatsApp. I guess that qualifies it to be a new business category. Be it a fashion label, home tutors, event managers, jewlery designers, home based florists, hand made crafts, home made choclates, hand crafted
soaps, or artwork - a lot of entrepreneurs are looking at WhatsApp to power their startup ventures. So the entire shopping process from product discovery, to product selection, to order booking, to product feedback, to product reviews, to order tracking -
are all through WhatsApp as a channel for communication
The only thing that happens outside of WhatsApp is PAYMENTS. So as a user I need to pay for the products / services outside of WhatsApp (either cash, or online, or cheque, or through mobile payments / wallets) - which does create some friction in the overall
shopping experience. But for the access, comfort, choice and convenience that it offers to me as a user - I am willing to compromise on that part of the experience. I might not choose to buy everything on WhatsApp - but some things, I am open to try. There
are trade-offs for everything, and it is really a personal choice.
Now, why is WhatsApp so powerful? One, most consumers are active WhatsApp users. So as an entrepreneur who is always short of funds, customer acquisition cost (CAC) tends to be very low if I am able to intelligently create a WhatsApp group with people who
are typically of the "customer persona" that will buy what you will sell. Two, communication is free. If a new business venture had to send SMS or mails or (paid) social media for all their customer communication - the time, effort and cost would be significantly
high. And return on investment (ROI) and return on time invested (ROTI) would be ???. Here, WhatApp provides a channel for direct marketing and communication for consumer outreach. Further, it provides a simple and secure way for one-to-one interactions, so
any buyer - seller interactions can be done easily.
It is fascinating to see how people will find their own use cases for using a platform. When WhatsApp co-founders- Jan Koum and Brian Acton created it, I don't know if they really wanted the platform to be the catalyst which fuels entrepreneurship. But that
is the reality for a segment of people in India.
So coming back to the title of this post Is it Trending in India to run a WhatsApp Business? Is this a trend in other geos too? Leave a comment to let the community know..