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Web of digitisation catches up with India's nomads


New Delhi, June 28 2020 - It is not just the small and medium-sized businesses that have scaled up their digital presence in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The nomads selling bohemian furniture and vintage home decor items at the aptly named Banjara Market in Sector 56 of Gurugram could soon be selling their products online, thanks to the unprecedented changes brought about by the COVID-19 restrictions.

Be it the 'distressed' wooden furniture, or the metal containers for your home plants or the wire baskets -- people will be able to buy online almost everything that the nomads sell, according to the Instagram account of the market.

While the exact date for going live has not yet been disclosed, the stores will open on Amazon and, according to the account.

And it is not just the Banjara Market which is making an effort to go online. Even mom-and-pop stores and other small businesses are today finding ways to sell their products online -- either through the use of social media or setting up their own website, or by using both, as most online businesses now do.

Bikash Agarwal, who started Apni Roti, a mobile van that dishes out hot freshly made rotis to people in need across West Bengal, is now a big fan of the WhatsApp Business app which has helped him streamline operations even during the pandemic.

"This year has seen a lot of setbacks. The pandemic has crippled our economy and has left so many people struggling. As we continue to reach out to our community and provide meals to people in need, we have relied on WhatsApp for all aspects of coordination and delivery," said Agarwal, who also leads a successful construction company.

"We have a team of over 1,500 volunteers, so the live location feature is one that we use extensively. Since March we have provided four lakh meals to people across West Bengal. We plan to continue using this platform and aid people with our services," he said.

Digital presence in the current situation has also become all the more important as the influence of digital mediums have gone up significantly in the consumer's path to purchase, according to a recent report from Facebook India and the Boston Consulting Group.

Especially in urban consumers, digital influence in the path to purchase has increased by up to 70 per cent for mobiles, 55-60 per cent for apparel, and up to 20-25 per cent for the non-food consumer packaged goods categories, said the reports.

And these online tools are now helping our farmers too. Jaipur-based Freshokartz Agri which provides soil data based crop and fertilisers to farmers has found that WhatsApp can help it cut costs associated with farm visits.

"At the time of the lockdown, we were unable to do our field visits which was an extremely crucial part of our business. When we started using WhatsApp more extensively, we realised it can be a permanent solution moving forward and can help break communication barriers between advisors like us and farmers," said Rajendra Lora, Founder & CEO at Freshokartz Agri.

"Our farmers also tell us that this is a far more effective means of communication, primarily because it is simple and most farmers already use it. It has also minimized our costs and travel time to the farms."

WhatsApp's India head, Abhijit Bose, said that the platform remains "deeply committed" to driving lasting economic value for small businesses across the country.

"The recent nationwide lockdown has magnified the need for businesses and organisations to have a digital presence with reliable tools to stay connected in a personal way," he said.


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