Facebook’s commitment during this pandemic is towards aiding and uplifting SMBs across India.Small businesses, constituting 30% of India’s GDP, have been severely hit by the pandemic, and Facebook has been doing everything it can do to support them by the way of financial help, skilling support, and customized tooling and solutions.
Physical distancing norms have led several small businesses to explore digital, accelerating the online-to-offline journeys not just in metros but also in smaller towns. The State of Small Business Report, a global study by OECD, the World Bank, and Facebook launched recently revealed that 41% of operational SMBs on Facebook India reported that at least a quarter of their sales are made digitally. As small businesses adapt to new businesses models that are built on digital, Facebook is looking for ways to make their offline to online journey seamless as well as supporting them through COVID and beyond.
Archana Vohra, Director, Small and Medium Businesses, Facebook India, speaks to us on this initiative by Facebook, the report and much more.
Recently you announced an offline to online SMB Guide and other resources, tell us more about it?
The accelerated digital adoption as a result of the pandemic has made it critical for small businesses to swiftly pivot from offline to online in order to survive and grow. We understand the support that micro and small businesses need in order to recover from the pandemic, and that is why we have announced a dedicated offline to online SMB Guide as well as other new resources to help make this journey frictionless for them.
The offline to online SMB Guide for India is free and publicly available for all businesses. But we are also proactively reaching out to 9 million small businesses across the country to ensure that it reaches the businesses that need it the most. The Guide has been designed to provide a step-by-step direction on how the smallest of businesses can build a digital presence quickly, and reach potential customers online. It covers Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, and key themes such as building an online presence, mobile storytelling, social media advertising and creative and performance strategies. The Guide is available in Hindi as well as in English in order to support a large number of businesses across distinct geographies.
We have been committed to extending the right skilling support to small businesses through the pandemic. Therefore, we are also rolling out the next leg of ‘Boost with Facebook’, Facebook’s flagship skilling and learning program for scaling young businesses. The program went virtual earlier this year, and is now going vernacular, and will be delivered primarily in Hindi through Facebook Live sessions. One of the key themes discussed during Boost with Facebook will be how small businesses can build for Diwali and the festive season beyond it. To provide comprehensive support during the festive season, we have also launched ‘Season of Support’, a dedicated resource to boost business and build sales for small businesses during this time.
How is Facebook going about uplifting the small business on its platform, what are the methods that you will be employing to get them back on track?
There are 200 million businesses, mostly small businesses that use the Facebook family of apps every month globally. We are deeply committed to their recovery from the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that’s why we have announced various new measures to support them in India.
We recognise that for many small businesses, financial support is key to survival. As part of our commitment to their recovery, in March we announced a global $100 million grant program to support up to 30,000 SMBs in more than 30 countries. And as a part of that grant program, we recently announced a grant of USD 4.3 million for India. We also introduced a way for people to buy digital gift cards for their favorite businesses that gives them new opportunities to grow and reach new consumers. Gift Cards are also a great way for people to show their love and support for small businesses near them.
We also understand that as a result of the pandemic small businesses have felt the urgent needs to pivot to digital to ensure business continuity. In order to support them, we have also taken several of our industry-leading digital skilling programs virtual to ensure seamless learning and support in these times.
For instance our flagship program for skilling young businesses ‘Boost with Facebook’ went virtual in May reaching out to 4x more customers than an off-ground event, and now it’s going vernacular. Our VC Brand Incubator Program that collaborates with venture capital funds to scale young businesses tied-up with VC fund Matrix Partners a few weeks ago. The program has skilled and scaled 150 businesses in one year.
We have also started new initiatives during the pandemic. As part of our VC Brand Incubator initiative we started Campaign Lab that helps direct-to-consumer businesses get creative solutioning support, and go live with mobile friendly creatives and strategy in under 72 hours.
Our FB Advertiser Vintage program focused on skilling young businesses, pivoted to webinars offering custom solutioning, customer acquisition, and test and learns assistance. This program will skill more than 3000 businesses this year.
India-specific findings of the State of Small Business Report, an ongoing research collaboration between Facebook, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the World Bank to survey small and medium-sized businesses around the world, including India, in the context of COVID-19 – can you take us through the findings of this report?
The State of Small Business Report is a global study by OECD, the World Bank, and Facebook to survey small businesses on our platform and this year it was conducted in the context of COVID-19 across 50 countries including India. The survey findings indicated that small businesses are under tremendous financial stress. A third of operational SMBs on Facebook said they expect cash flow to be a challenge in the coming months. We hope that our SMB grant program along with several other programs and sources of financial support can help them tide over the crisis.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital adoption multifold, another key finding showed that 41% of operational SMBs on Facebook have reported that at least a quarter of their sales are now made digitally.
Most of all, small businesses remain resilient even in these challenging times. The survey highlighted that 53% of SMBs on Facebook feel optimistic about the future of their business.
What is the VC Brand Incubator Programme?
Facebook’s VC Brand Incubator Program collaborates with venture capital funds to support early-stage small and medium businesses maximize their digital potential by using best practices to drive scale and ROAS (Return on Advertising Spend). It’s one the most exciting and successful India-first programs for small businesses. In light of the pandemic, we have taken the program online to ensure continued skilling and support for small businesses even in these times. The program started in the summer of 2019 and has so far collaborated with six VC Funds – Sauce.VC, Fireside Ventures, SAIF Partners, Sequoia Capital, DSG Ventures, and Matrix Partners India – and skilled, trained, and mentored more than 150 brands at various stages of their growth journey.
Can you share a few case studies?
Story@Home is a Vadodara-based home furnishing business which operates out of a 80,000 square feet facility, and employs more than 75 craftsmen. In the last few months, they have used Facebook aggressively, and almost 4 times more since the pandemic began. Due to this, they have delivered 1.4X sales compared to what they were clocking pre-COVID.
Okhai is dedicated to creating livelihood opportunities for Indian artisans by enabling them to sell designer handmade apparel. During COVID, Okhai has transformed from a product company to a marketplace with 35 non-Okhai collectives and many other artisans retailing through us. With people spending more time on social media, Facebook and Instagram have played a pivotal role in helping the brand reach new consumers and drive sales through these challenging times. Their July revenue saw 157% growth year-on-year, and Okhai has gone from supporting 2300 artisans to 10,000 artisans during the lockdown. They’re using Facebook three times more since the pandemic began.
These examples show us that the real power of digital is unleashed when small businesses come online and find truly powerful opportunities to grow even bigger.
What will be the other things that Facebook is looking to do Post Covid?
Small businesses are at the heart of what we do. Millions of small businesses set up a Facebook page and an Instagram account or use WhatsApp to communicate with their customers even before they create a website or start offline operations. As a company, we are deeply committed to supporting the recovery of small businesses, which are at the heart of India’s economy. As more small businesses come online in India over the next decade, fuelled by the rapid adoption of digital technologies, Facebook will play a key role in enabling new opportunities for them. What the pandemic has shown us is that digital is no longer just an alternate channel for brands to connect with consumers but a fundamental driver of step change in business outcomes.