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Trending in India : Running a WhatsApp Business?

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 further.

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..

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Comments: (6)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 03 November, 2015, 11:55Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Thanks for answering the fundamental and pertinent question - 'What's a WhatsApp Business?' Lucid, logical and lively read. Thanks so much, Nishchala ! You might have just sown the seed for a WhatsApp biz idea in me :)

Hitesh Thakkar
Hitesh Thakkar - FIS Payments Software and Services India - India 03 November, 2015, 13:14Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

WhatsApp has been used for various unique purpose in India - I read this article in DQ long back - http://www.dqindia.com/8-innovative-ways-whatsapp-is-being-used-in-india/

Few web developers have started having WhatsApp button on their sites also.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 03 November, 2015, 19:09Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Interesting post ...but....

- Theres no such thing as a Whatsapp business, simply busineses that are using Whatsapp for purpose of soliciting customers, operations etc.

- Suprised you didnt mention Wechat. It is what Whatapp should be and probably working towards. Over 600M users, heavily concentrated in China and SE Asia. Its Whatapp + entire ecosystem for selling and commerce.

Nischala Murthy Kaushik
Nischala Murthy Kaushik - Wipro Ltd. - Noida 04 November, 2015, 06:34Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Shoumit - Thanks for reading, and wonderful if my words inspired a business idea. Hoping to get due credit when you start off.. :) Good luck. Nischala

Nischala Murthy Kaushik
Nischala Murthy Kaushik - Wipro Ltd. - Noida 04 November, 2015, 06:35Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Absolutely Hitesh. You create the platform.. Users will find ways to make the most of it - based on geo, context and need.

Nischala

Nischala Murthy Kaushik
Nischala Murthy Kaushik - Wipro Ltd. - Noida 04 November, 2015, 06:36Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Hi - It is frequently used in many circles, but agreed that there may not be an industry phrase yet.

WeChat in India  - I can't comment, but yes - I do know that in China it is a super cool platform and loved the power of it

Thanks for reading

Nischala