Despite the intense competition in the rapidly evolving instant messenger market, Whatsapp continues to be the leader of the pack. It is the most popular app in most countries worldwide and even in developing nations such as India where data consumption is expensive it still continues to take up a large portion of users’ data plans. In fact, India is the biggest market for WhatsApp. Of its over one billion users, about 160 million are here. Other major markets include Latin America and Western Europe.
Recently, their business head in India, Neeraj Arora rolled out their ambitions for 2017. Apart from supporting ten languages and promoting their video calling feature, they plan focus on rolling out commercial messaging next year for businesses as it looks to tap enterprises for monetising its platform; but they’d be surprised to know that those with businesses and access to technology haven’t been waiting around for whatsapp to launch their plans.
We met Vipin at Akola Bassi where he working with his father in their printing and dyeing mill. His father, the old guard had manned the business for over twenty years, and for him it had just been 4 years. While fiddling on his Sony Experia he told us how whatsapp was integral to his business, while his father, a man of few words, beamed at his son. Ask him what apps he uses and pat comes the reply, “Amazon, Gmail and Whatsapp”. Their business involves knitting sarees, quilts, bedsheets, amongst other things and Whatsapp has definitely expedited the process. “Earlier we would wait for designs to come and then for approvals. Now, we can do everything on whatsapp,’ says Vipin as he explains their procedure which begins at sourcing design prototypes and whatsapping them to clients. Then, they make a sample with the approved designs which they whatsapp to the client for approvals; once the approvals come in, the bulk manufacturing is initiated. “I’ve been using a smartphone for 2 years,” says Vipin. “Now I also use google search to find new designs and gmail is also a big help in sending across images.”
As a result of this shift in process, Vipin and his co-workers start production early and even finish their orders early. “We save 15-20 days with this process,” says Vipin. For now, he is content with the time saved and hopes that the volume of the business will increase as a result of this efficiency. Vipin is one of many such business owners who have used Whatsapp to introduce significant changes in their modus operandi, and along our way we also met some people who credit whatsapp and digital technology with an increase in their volume of business.
Krish Kumar Mishra of Bedaghat Jabalpur is one such example. We met him at his marble handicraft store where he spends half a year; the rest of the year he lives in Malaysia, where he runs a garments business. “The internet has really helped me,” he says. “Before buying any machines for manufacturing, we research them on the internet. We use google to find prices, specifications and operation manuals – this helps everybody at the factory because these instructionals are hands-on and we don’t need to wait for the instruction booklet that comes with these machines.” He credits youtube with revolutionising the way he trains his staff with operating heavy machinery.
His garment-business is heavily whatsapp-dependant. He successfully avoids wastage of stock as he uses whatsapp to forward photographs of samples that he gets from his manufacturers to his customers, and is able to deduce the quantity required. His life in Malaysia has given him a fresh perspective on the need for enabling people with digital technology and services. “Nowadays, progress is inextricably linked to technology. To get improve, one has to embrace it,” he says. Whatsapp helps him reach out to the people he